Our business critically depends on water, whether it is in the production of ingredients, the manufacturing of products or the final use by customers. Everyone needs clean water, yet through overuse and pollution it is becoming unavailable for large areas of the planet. Unlike carbon emissions however, the effects of water related problems are much more local and have to be tackled at the catchment level. What is needed is a collaborative multi-tiered response that seeks to address these challenges at all levels, from the specific catchments to the international level.
To respond to the water crisis, we are embarking on a journey to become great water stewards. By taking this path, we want to be able to guarantee that our dependence on water is socially just, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial for all. We must start by comprehensively understanding our water use in its context, raising awareness of water related issues and overcoming water risks across the Lush community.
In order to be good water stewards we have identified the following critical steps:
Everything we do happens in this precious place in the Cosmos: Earth, Terra, Gaia, Home. The pale blue dot that supports the only known existence of life in the universe. Everything we do is shaped by the world around us; the availability or scarcity of resources, the climates we live in, the cultures we encounter, the species we depend on and the web of people that make our communities and families. Everything we do has been influenced by and will have an impact on the rest of life; therefore we must ensure that what we do is always in the service of life.
Water is the foundation of life. This incredibly important resource is finite and increasingly under threat. Of all the water on the planet, only 3% is fresh water, mostly unavailable to us. Humans, animals, plants and the rest of life on land have to survive on just 1% of the water available. Despite this scarcity, water use has been growing globally at more than twice the rate of population growth in the last century, in the next 20 years demand is projected to exceed supply by 40%.
Yet the issues are not limited to the quantity of water that is available but also the quality. In spite of major advances in medical sciences and engineering technology, approximately 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged, largely untreated, back into the environment, polluting rivers, lakes, oceans and people’s supply of drinking water. Today, unsafe water kills more people than war and all other violence.
The water crisis will be the greatest challenge our civilisation will face and collectively address. The threats to global water security are exceptionally complex, highly interconnected and incredibly diverse; no single person, organisation or government can solve the global water crisis alone. We need a collaborative effort that transcends boundaries of all kinds. It is time to act.The role of cosmetics
Water plays a vital role in cosmetics; it is the most commonly used commodity. It can be found in every stage of a product’s life cycle from the formulation, to the production of ingredients and ultimately to its end use by customers. The average cosmetic product is between 60 and 95% water and once used almost 100% of the ingredients end up in water and eventually the environment in one form or another.
As the water crisis intensifies, more and more pressure will be placed on each link in the value chain. Consumers will be forced to change their habits, manufacturers must find more efficient production methods, product inventors must innovate to find better ways of using this precious resource; and suppliers will need to start mitigating water risks to protect their materials and ensure production into the future.
From The Lush Labs to The #LushCommunity
To understand the full extent of our impacts, it is essential to use a lifecycle approach.
This means looking at all of the different stages and layers that go from invention, to production, and then to use and disposal of a product – from cradle to grave. How it all fits together and the global, regional and local contexts that they happen in. By focusing on a defined set of indicators it is possible to develop a scientific model for the impact of a product and where the biggest impacts happen.
In the Lush labs, this is where the ingredients are decided and the innovations are made; a constant quest for new and better ways of meeting customers’ needs. The birthplace for many pioneering products that have influenced the whole industry. It is here that we can have the most impact, by choosing the best ingredients in the most effective formulation and inspiring the rest of the industry to change.
In 2018 to 2019 we had 1402 individual products (this includes variations in formula, packaging and size). Of these:
50% Contained Water in formula: Known as the “universal solvent of life” because it is capable of dissolving more substances than any other liquid. Water is used in cosmetic products to carry ingredients, this allows them to be applied more easily and has the benefit of hydrating the skin. Around half of our products contain water – our shower jellies contain the most water per product, closely followed by our conditioners and then soaps.
82% Self preserving: The vast majority of our products are self-preserving. By balancing the levels of water, butters and oils, and adding more naturally preserving ingredients like salt, clay, glycerin and honey, we are able to use less water in the ingredients and avoid using ecotoxic preservatives such as parabens.
47% Naked: Nearly half our products were unpackaged. This has many benefits, for one naked formulae contain a fraction of water compared to their packaged counterparts which also means we do not need to use preservatives, additionally we save water by not using any packaging which can be water intensive to produce.
94% Vegan: Almost all of our products are vegan and the remaining 6% are vegetarian. During the last 2 years we have stopped using eggs & dairy in our product formulations, instead opting for much less water intensive ingredients in their place. For every kilogram of eggs avoided we have conserved roughly 3,300 litres of water and for every litre of milk we saved 1,000 litres of water.
The next step along the chain is the sourcing of the ingredients and packaging that make our products. Our supply chain represents our biggest impact on the environment and water. We are heavily dependent on farmers and manufacturers across the planet and how they treat their communities, resources and environment. That is why we work hard to find the best possible suppliers that give us the greatest transparency. When the supply is limited, we work with our suppliers to help them reduce their impacts on the planet and leave the world lusher than we found it.
Between 2018 and 2019:
For ingredients only:
To ensure the resilience of our suppliers and the materials we source, it is imperative that we understand how their businesses operate, how they manage resources and what they are doing to minimise their impacts and mitigate risks. By understanding our supply chain we can manage and mitigate supplier risk and work with them to make improvements.
During 2018 – 2019 we conducted our largest assessment of suppliers so far, to identify best practices and assess how in-line with our ethics they are. We had an amazing response rate, providing us insights into more than 225 suppliers, representing more than 91% of our supply chain spend. The assessments covered all areas of the Buying Policy which sets out our commitments to best practice in People Care, Earth Care and Fair Share.
Through this we discovered that 63% of suppliers rate their use of water as low/negligible compared to 7% who believe they are a major user of water. Almost 90% rated their effluent as having a low environmental impact and only 2.3% would consider theirs to have major impacts. The majority of our suppliers either did not have measures or targets or did not believe that having these is applicable for them. Whilst this may be the case for some of them, we can only be sure by understanding how they fit into their local context.
Whilst we had a great response, there were limitations to the level of visibility we could achieve. Primarily, we are limited to asking our direct suppliers and not getting any data on the suppliers of our suppliers. Therefore in 2020 we will be utilising the Supplyshift platform. This is an innovative software that seeks to maximise supply chain transparency and responsibility. The implementation of Supplyshift will provide better insights and enable us to start improving the resiliency of more ingredients and packaging.
This is where we transform our ethically sourced ingredients into the fresh handmade cosmetics designed in the labs. How efficiently we do this determines the level of impact we have. This depends on the efficiency of our manufacturing processes, the amount of water needed and the quality + quantity of waste water generated.
Whilst a proportion of water is incorporated into the products, a significant volume is used for washing production vessels and ingredient packaging as well as staff WASH needs. The water leaving our sites has the potential to cause significant impacts on downstream water infrastructure and waterbodies.
The UK manufacturing site is situated within the catchment of Poole Harbour. Europe’s largest natural harbour, and internationally recognised for its importance as a biodiversity hotspot. Despite being such a unique setting, the harbour faces many challenges:
In the UK we have high visibility of water use from our manufacturing sites. This is because the meters are read monthly by our water supplier. This allows us to quickly identify sites with abnormal spikes in use that could indicate a leak. In one instance a leak that would have gone unnoticed for a further 5 months was caught early, saving 1,350,000 litres of potentially wasted water. The regular report also allows us to see the impact of process improvements, for example by upgrading the technology used to cool down our soaps to a close-loop vessel chiller.
Our Soap factory water saving
2018 Calendar Year
Total Used: 17,364m3
Production Efficiency: 2.6 litres/kg of product
2019 Calendar Year
Total Used: 12,683m3
Production Efficiency: 2 litres/kg of product
Water incorporated in Products: 740m3
This shows us that the majority of our water in manufacturing is actually used for cleaning down production areas as well as our staff for WASH.
Many of the products we make require high volumes of potentially hazardous materials. For example the organic ethanol used in our perfumes, the bright colours in our bath bombs or the silky butters in our moisturisers and shower creams. Therefore, to ensure that none of these can cause any damage to the environment if accidents occur, we have numerous measures in place to protect water quality:
The next link in the chain is retail – the point at which our customers connect with our products, the place where they go to learn and discover the stories and values behind all of those wonderful ingredients. We have 940 stores worldwide across 47 countries. Each store is a microcosm of the wider business; how our shop staff manage their water resources reflects how the wider business relates to water. Here the direct use of water is limited to product demonstrations and our staff needs.
170 of our stores are in 19 of the top 50 most water stressed countries and accounts for 13% of global sales.
In the top 50 water stressed countries:
We currently have 106 stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland; in FY18/19 we had water usage data for 60% of these. Out of the shops that currently have usage data, only 49% of the data came from actual water meter readings. For the majority of our stores, we have no reliable water use data. This is because unlike the energy industry which has made live meter readings a priority, the water industry is lagging far behind.
Based on the data that we do have, our annual water use is 25,176,000 litres, enough to fill 67 25m swimming pools.
The main use of water in our stores is for demonstrating our products; this is an exciting technique that allows customers to learn about the products and find the ones that work best for them. Bath bombs and bubble bars are the most commonly demoed products in stores making up around 84% of the total.
These demos are having an impact on our store infrastructure as all the product that goes down the drains blocks the pipes and pumps. In fy18/19 we spent more on fixing our plumbing infrastructure than we did on the water we used and on disposing of the wastewater with the local water companies.
Litres per water used in stores
In spring 2019 we launched the Lush Lens app. An innovative augmented reality app that customers and staff can use to identify products, find information about them and see a virtual demonstration of it. This has proven to be very popular with our staff as it reduces the amount of times they need to physically demo a product, which involves emptying and filling demo bowls/sinks, wasting off products, and using lots of paper towels to dry hands and clean any spills.
The Lush Lens app was first unveiled in the Harajuku store in Japan – a first-of-its-kind concept shop selling only bath bombs and does not use water based demos at all. Before becoming the concept store, Harajuku was doing a lot of water demos with a bathtub, using upwards of 4000 cubic meters of water per year. This figure has dropped to just 140m3 per year.
One of the exciting things about Lush is the fact that we can lend our support to grassroots groups around the world that need help to make a difference. Through our various campaigns, prizes and charity giving, we have been able to fund an array of groups fighting the global water crisis. Whether they are directly fighting water pollution, or working with farmers to regenerate land and store water in their soils; the groups we have supported offer a shimmer of hope in a world that’s collapsing all around us.
Some notable campaigns raising awareness:
Started in 2007
100% of the retail price paid by customers buying the product (minus the VAT, which has to go to the Government) is given away to fund grassroots organisations working on animal protection, human rights and environmental issues around the world.
In 2019 almost £10 million was donated.
Some notable projects having an impact on water:
Started in 2018
Driven by the belief that we need to work with nature based solutions that are embedded in whole-systems thinking, we launched the Lush Re:Fund to support regenerative design in the areas of disaster & displacement, permaculture & agroecology, and rewilding & biodiversity.
Some notable projects having an impact on water:
Started in 2017
A biennial £200,000 prize fund and other supporting activities, to build capacity for those repairing the earth’s damaged systems.
33 organisations from around the world have been awarded Spring Prizes and more than 150 regenerative projects have been shortlisted for awards.
Some notable projects having an impact on water:
In 2020 Lush joined forces with City to Sea who are the creators of the Refill app. A powerful tool that shows you all of the places you can refill your water bottles wherever you are in the world. A forward thinking approach to tackling the waste from plastic water bottles and avoiding the large water footprint associated with them.