Lush showcases the impact of direct ingredient sourcing on suppliers and their environment by pursuing sustainable approaches along Lush products’ manufacturing and shipping cycles.
These approaches seek to significantly reduce carbon emissions and now include the use of a traditional sailing ship to deliver cork pots on a four-week journey from Portugal to Poole, Dorset in the UK.
Their new cork pot is sourced from Portugal and can be used to store a packaging-free shampoo bar. The solid shampoo bar is equivalent to three 250ml plastic bottles of liquid shampoo and represents a zero-waste option in each one daily hair care routine.
With around 25,000 species, the cork oak biotopes in the Mediterranean area are one of the most diverse in Europe.
In Portugal, cork trees absorb up to 5 percent of the country’s CO2 emissions. The bark can be harvested by hand every nine years after a thirty-year growth period.
No machine is able to handle this job, and it is therefore an important source of traditional employment to 100,000 people in the region. The number one export bestseller around the world is the traditional cork used for bottles. A short video about the harvesting and production process can be found here.
In 2016, Lush’s buying team was searching for a regenerative solution to store its shampoo bars and contacted the non-profit group Eco Intervention. The group teaches locals how to preserve these native forests.
Eco Intervention created the company Cork Connections and began to supply Lush with Cork Pots from Portugal's Alentejo region. Lush pays five Euros for each sold cork pot to support local suppliers in preserving local wildlife.
After selecting the cork supplier in Portugal, Lush wanted to go a step further and also reduce the product’s carbon footprint along its entire production cycle and especially during its shipping phase.
Lush commissioned a sailing boat in 2018, which brought one tonne of salt from Portugal to Dorset after a four-week journey. This traditional shipping method is still one of the most sustainable, which encouraged Lush to use it for the second time in 2019.
Agnes Gendry from the Lush Ethical Buying Team worked closely with her colleague Nick Gumery, Creative Buyer for Lush Packaging, on the project.
Agnes has more than 20 years of experience in various fields of international Buying. She said: "The message is quite simple: there is no time to waste, we absolutely all have to address the current environmental situation. We all have to be conscious, determined and imaginative and constantly looking for ways to reduce our impact."
Two years ago she came across an experimental business involved in reviving sailing as a means to transport goods. From this, she then contacted a Dutch ship and organised the transport of one tonne of salt from Portugal to the UK in 2018.
Agnes continued: "Obviously it is faster and much easier logistically to use a conventional ship rather than a sailboat. However, in an era of increasing environmental degradation it is crucial to look at all possible solutions to reduce our environmental footprint.
"More than simply being a beautiful and nostalgic way to transport goods, sailing could be an emission-free alternative well worth revisiting. We hope to be able to have more sail ship deliveries over the next twelve months, and to start integrating this positive handling of freight into our regular practices."
Nick Gumery, has worked for seven years as a creative buyer, specialising in 100 percent Recycled Plastic, Glass, Aluminium and Cork. He believes in Cork as one of the best regenerative materials: "The Cork Pot is a great working example of Regenerative Packaging. A piece of worry free packaging for our customers, who can use it again and again and at the end of its life, place it in their garden or compost heap and nature will recycle it and in doing so add nourishment back into the soil.
"The message I would most like to convey with this action is the Carbon Message - making our customers aware of the importance of a product's Carbon Status and Life Cycle Assessment."
Lush engages on many fronts in its efforts to boost greater environmental awareness. Since 2016, the yearly Lush Spring Prize supports regenerative projects, awarding over £200,000 to grassroots projects.
A winning project of the latest Spring Prize (May 2019) is also located in Portugal. Verdegaia is based in Vigo, Galicia’s largest city. In late 2017, a catastrophic wave of forest fires desolated Galicia and Portugal, killing over 120 people and burning over half a million hectares.
The Brigadas deseucaliptizadoras (or ‘De-eucalyptization Brigades’) is a grass-roots, environmental activism project that emerged after this.
Eucalyptus is a highly invasive and pyrophile species that has been encouraged for decades by the pulp industry. Eucalyptus monocultures create a ‘green desert’ with extremely reduced biodiversity, pushing back native forests to small fragmented patches.
After the fires it was clear that direct action needed to be taken instead of waiting for the government to lead change. Over 400 volunteers have signed up as brigade members, participating in more than 25 interventions since April 2018.
The Brigadas show how people working together can bring about change in restoring landscapes and natural habitats and have transformed general pessimism regarding change into engaged participation.
Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from Lush.