Hello gorgeous… welcome to the wonderful world of Lush
In the beginning…
Lush was founded in 1995 by six co-founders; Mo Constantine, Mark Constantine, Rowena Bird, Helen Ambrosen, Liz Bennett and Paul Greeves.
Emerging from the demise of a previous mail order business called Cosmetics To Go – a massive success that collapsed through a combination of over-trading and flooding – it was the same team that created and inspired this new venture called Lush.
Lush is 10% Employee Owned and our people are the heart and soul of our business…
Meet the Founders1 / 6
Co-founder and inventor
Mark Constantine co founded Lush with five friends and creative confidants in 1995 after the collapse of previous mail order business Cosmetics To Go. Mark has been a key driving force behind the business for 25 years and also works as part of the product development team creating hair, skincare and body creams as well as decadent Lush spa treatments.
Challenging the business to create fresh, innovative and anarchic cosmetic products, it is some of Mark’s beliefs that Lush is based on and that have become the backbone of the company. Lush’s stringent and pioneering ‘against animal testing policy’ is just one example of how his strong beliefs have transformed the cosmetics industry – he introduced a Supplier Specific Boycott Policy, which means that Lush will not buy any ingredient from any supplier that tests any of its materials on animals for any purpose. This policy is unique in its field and is different and distinct from the Fixed Cut-Off Date policy employed by the Humane Cosmetics Standard.
Mark’s plight against over packaging in the cosmetic industry is another. In the Channel 4 documentary ‘The Insider: Packaging is Rubbish,’ Mark highlighted just how much waste the average British citizen goes through in a lifetime and exactly where it ends up – in landfill. This is why the majority of Lush products are designed to be solid and can be sold without packaging.
In the 2010 Queen’s New Years Honours list Mark and his wife Mo Constantine both received OBEs for their services to the beauty industry. Mark has been named five times since 2010 as one of London’s 1000 Most Influential People in the Environment and Business Brains categories by The Evening Standard newspaper. In 2015 Mark was named in BBC Wildlife magazine as one of the 50 most influential people in British wildlife.
Mark’s enduring love and enthusiasm for his work, as well as the beauty and retail industries, remain at the heart of his determination to make Lush the company we all want it to be.
Co founder and inventor
Mo Constantine: Co Founder, product inventor, manufacturing director and the mastermind behind the Bath Bomb and Shampoo Bar!
Having started her professional life as a legal secretary, Mo’s career (and our bathroom shelves) took a turn for the brighter when she embraced her interest in new natural cosmetics. By the late eighties Mo was inventing exciting new concepts for the mail order company, Cosmetics to Go. Here, with training from the renowned cosmetic scientist Stan Kryztal, Mo started to specialise in inventing solid, unpreserved and unpackaged products. In 1999 her first patent was granted for the invention of the resoundingly popular solid Shampoo Bar. Since then, Mo has created some of the most memorable and creative products, the most famous being the world’s first Bath Bomb. Mo also invented the first pourable soap base together with chemist Stan, and then took it one step further and reformulated a palm oil free soap base.
Now Mo can often be found in the lab at 29 High Street or (during lockdown) the shed at the side of the family home, rustling up vats of steaming soap ideas or dusty bowls of brightly coloured bath mixes, alongside Claire and Jack. If Mo isn’t there, then most likely she is visiting one of the seven international production units that she insists produce handmade products whilst ensuring excellent freshness and quality.
Co founder and inventor
Photo by Zelda de Hollander
Meet Rowena Bird, one of Lush’s Co founders and a lady of many passions. “I work in the buying team, a new Customer Service team and mystery shopping, sit on the board, help create windows, poke my nose into ethical/environmental meetings, Black Lives Matters meetings, invent product, sit on the edge of the make up team, have a passion for the success of our partners and have an opinion on pretty much everything Lush related because I love our company with a passion.”
And it’s no wonder that Rowena feels like that, as she’s been with Lush since day one, and in fact even before that! “I joined Mark, Mo & Liz on September 7th 1981, closely followed by Helen then Karl and Paul, so I have been working with them all for 39 years!”
Starting her professional career as a Beauty Therapist, Rowena moved down to Poole from Northamptonshire having always wanted to live by the sea. In these early days, pre Lush as we know it, Rowena supported the business in any way she could – mixing henna, typing invoices, washing hair in Mark’s trichology clinic were all on the to do list. “Being adaptable was one of my key skills and throughout the 39 years I have flowed through the company looking for opportunities, creating catalogues, inventing packaging, writing copy, doing whatever has needed to be done.”
This attitude to work has meant Rowena has embraced many opportunities including (but too many to list here!) the launch of a makeup brand B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful, opening key shops for Lush, visiting nearly all of our Partner markets, and creating business direction with her fellow board members.
“Don’t limit yourself with a job title, be a part of everything you can be, be adaptable, say YES a lot and see what happens,” she advises. “Work hard, play hard and be kind”.
Co founder and inventor
As Product Inventor for Lush, Helen Ambrosen enjoys exploiting the link between food and cosmetics – for which her specialist knowledge of raw ingredients has proved invaluable. Helen is responsible for the company’s highly innovative range of ultra fresh products, which are made daily using fresh, organic produce and sold in-store where they are kept on ice. Helen also has two patented product categories to her credit – solid bath oils and bath melts.
Paul Greeves is our International Man of Mystery. Little is known about Paul, one of Lush’s original Co Founders but we take it on excellent authority from people in the know that he has worked in many departments in Lush, showcasing his talent, over the years.
Legend has it Paul joined Lush as a bio-chemist, to run the Lush labs and since then has headed up mail order, data security and even the Lush Times.
A Tribute To Liz Bennett “Liz Bennett and I worked together all of her working life except for one month. She believed in teaching and nurturing and I believed in natural talent. As a consequence I learnt so much from her and she had to suffer me. Because we were both obsessed with beauty and hair and couldn’t find effective enough products that matched our customers’ needs we worked and worked on our formulas. Everyone who visited our herbal hair and beauty salon in those early days was experimented on without knowing it. If we travelled together on the train and an unsuspecting passenger fell asleep facing us we would discuss their hair and skin in muted tones.
We gave hundreds of talks together before we even started working alongside The Body Shop. She could give advice on my stuff, and me on hers as we worked together so well.
When I think back our dreams in those days have been surpassed so many times over but her standards have not. She was an example for anyone wanting to start and run a company run by and predominantly staffed by women. Today I see her influence everywhere even though she will never again take someone to one side to discuss their personal hygiene. She was kind and unassuming, balanced and considerate, outspoken to the point that I would think something and hear her say it. I hated it when she retired and miss her now she has gone. It’s the stupid things… She worried so much about a pension when we were twenty not knowing that with her talent we would do so well that her future would be much brighter and more secure than she could have imagined. I find it hard to believe that we will get together in the lab this Christmas Eve and she won’t be there. We will lift a glass of grog to her and miss her dreadfully.” ~ Mark Constantine
By Mark Constantine
All companies need a vision. Although we didn’t really understand it, the Lush founders did have a vision. We believed you wanted effective products. Natural (although who knew exactly what that meant), fresh (and by that we were throwing shade at our competitors who were selling sterile, stale chemical concoctions that were three years old), and we didn’t want to spend more money on the packaging than on the contents. So, above all, we believed you wanted good value products, not cheap, but loads of hair and body goodness for your money.
Hindsight is great and it’s only looking back now that we realise our vision was just a dissatisfied reaction to our competitors’ products: a wish for something more wholesome and more in tune with the flowers and the bees than air-conditioned skyscrapers and a morning that starts with a pumpkin spice latte.
When faced with life’s challenges, we often discover that while we may want a lot of things, what we need is very simple. We thought that while our products weren’t everything you, the customer, wanted – age-reducing, silicone, shiny, botoxy sort of stuff – we can now see that what we make is all you need.
So, where are we now? Let’s reassess.
Natural – have we got there yet? No, but we’re not far off. In the financial year of 2017 to 2018, natural ingredients represented 65% of our global raw material spend compared to 35% spent on safe synthetic materials. When I first sold my products with Liz Weir in 1977, I used to get told off for them being too natural, yet they were miles off from where they are today…
years of Lush
How we’ve grown
How many of you have unused products sitting in your bathrooms? Because when you got home you found that product isn’t what you hoped for, or it doesn’t suit your skin, hair or lifestyle. You end up with bathroom cabinets, window sills and shelves full of unwanted stuff, on its way to landfill. When we make products for every need, everyone is able to buy exactly what’s required and ultimately reduce waste.
Providing personal service is the best environmental practice. If we can get you connected to the appropriate product for your needs, you get really good value for money, we get a regular customer, the consumption of unneeded product falls and money is no longer wasted. When you think about the product people really want, they want products to be made from rainbows, unicorns and waterfalls and we’ve got it!
Our raw materials are the best they can be. As just one example, we’re using salt in our products with genuine benefits, and we’re sourcing it from the flight paths of birds. One of our suppliers, Antonio, both harvests our saltworks and works to protect and sustain the salt marshes of the western Algarve in Portugal. Birds including greater flamingos, spoonbills, black-winged stilts and many species of ducks use the salt marshes as wintering grounds while whimbrels and curlews rely on the site as a resting place on their migratory journeys.
Preserving this beautiful and important coastline is essential to the wildlife flourishing here and the generations of salt shepherds to come, so we’re protecting those birds and the salt shepherds. Just in the UK alone, 67% of our supply chain is from direct relationships with manufacturers and growers like Antonio. Now if that isn’t unicorns, rainbows and waterfalls then I don’t know what is.
ingredients sourced directly
What we do is not rocket science; humans have been preening and grooming forever. But in recent years many formulae have become synthetic, complicated, over emulsified and most of all over preserved. All of our lives we’ve been working hard to remove preservatives from your products, without compromising on effect. We’ve worked on it and worked on it until we’re experts and still a few people complain about parabens. When we can’t remove the preservatives, we have to look for the safest and most researched option. We use parabens because all of the other preservatives available don’t have the research parabens have.
Preservatives have to be poison, it’s their nature, but we have learnt that we don’t need to preserve anything AT ALL. That’s where we’re going.
From 2015 to 2017, our purchase of parabens has dropped from 11.7 tonnes annually to 7.7 tonnes, even though our sales have increased in the same time period. Why are our sales increasing while our use of preservatives decreases? Because our customers are kind enough to buy the naked, or self-preserving version.
None of these amazing ingredients are tested on animals. Since the beginning, we have continuously proved that a brand doesn’t need to test on animals. The Lush Prize launched in 2011 and we’ve had 93 winners and awarded £1.86 million towards alternatives to animal testing. So far, the USA has had the highest number of Lush Prize winners.
If Lush can do it, why can’t everybody else? When I think back to animal testing, what seemed like a sensible idea in my bedroom all those years ago [banning it], has turned into legislation banning animal tests for cosmetics in 40 countries. We have fought for an end to animal testing for years, from trying to deposit two tonnes of animal manure on the doorstep of the EU to losing our Regent Street shop expressly because the landlords didn’t like three million viewers watching the people-testing video filmed in that shop window. We continue to fight animal testing now.
Then there is the giving. You soon got the hang of Knot Wrap. Since 2009, we have sold (and consequently upcycled) 47 tonnes of beautiful scarves. That’s not even taking into account the 124 women who have found employment with re-wrap making our canvas bags.
In the last five years, we have raised and given £50 million and last year alone we funded 3,500 groups.
So, what’s next?
Working on your aspirations is a challenge. Lush has been working hard for a long time, so it can be tricky to think about what we can do next. This has been playing on my mind ever since a journalist recently asked me just how much more creativity we can have left after 25 years. The answer is: it’s everywhere. Lush is oozing with creativity, sometimes I even find it hard to contain; it’s fantastic.
For many years I haven’t written a plan for Lush. I think the last time we had a cohesive plan was back in 2013; it was a good plan and it lasted us quite a long time. Each year we kept trying to renew it, but we never did. This year, I wanted to write a new plan. So here it is, on the internet for all to see.
The Secret Lush Cosmetics Master Plan
1. Make products for every need. It’s not what customers want, it’s what they need.
2. Be number one in every category. Do not accept the status quo: invent new products that fulfil all of the vision.
3. Create a cosmetic revolution to save the planet. We’re running out of time – we need a revolution.
In the latest WWD Beauty top 100, L’Oréal is number 1 and we are number 33. That means we’re 3.8% of L’Oréal. For 25 years, we have made great products, with beautiful ingredients, we’re transparent with our customers and we don’t sell them fake benefits. It’s a real puzzler why we’re not the number one cosmetics company. For the sake of the environment, we NEED to be number one.
The thing is, there is a group of us reaching the pinnacle of our careers and we’re in sight of what we wanted to do all our lives. We wanted no preservatives, we wanted no packaging, and bit by bit we’ve worked towards doing it.
We should be the gleaming example that every other cosmetics company wants to be, it shouldn’t be Proctor and Gamble or L’Oréal, because Lush is doing the right things over and over again. Fiercely, bravely, sometimes foolishly, and with courage.
Further reading →