I laughed the other day when somebody showed me Mark Constantine commenting on facebook about how awful it is when people use their blogs to criticise Lush. I laughed even more when I read this. He just has no idea what a hypocrite he is, does he?
After school, he went to work as an apprentice hairdresser. His real passion was for theatrical make-up, but a common route to enter the profession is via hair, he explains. “I was never that interested in hair, but it means I understand hair and I understand skin, which is a very good basis for the businesses we started later.” … Mark’s career as a trichologist was going great guns. He and friend Liz Weir, now retail director at Lush, set up a clinic called Constantine and Weir, with Mark providing the hair and scalp treatments and consultations, and Weir running the beauty side of the business. But in his spare time, Mark began creating hair products from scratch, using the vast amount of knowledge he’d accumulated during his training and years in practice.
Since when has trainee hairdresser equalled trichologist? The Institute of Trichologists has no record of Mark Constantine. Why would anyone train as a trichologist if they had no interest in hair? What trichology training did he undertake? You’d expect the article to say, wouldn’t you? Was he, in fact, never a trichologist at all? Who knows? And even if he is a qualified, experienced, competent trichologist, what does that have to do with understanding skin? Fair enough, scalps are skin, but trichologists don’t deal with skin anywhere else, such as the face or the rest of the body. (Also – theatrical makeup? That explains the B and Lush makeup ranges).
“The truth of the ethics of where we are today is it’s something we’ve always done by default – to use fresh ingredients, natural ingredients, we like not to have animal-tested things. Mark has been instrumental in addressing that for decades. When he and Anita began working together, he had the basis of it and she had the platform.”
Still not addressing how Lush is dealing with REACH, is she?
While The Body Shop got swallowed into the huge conglomerate, Lush has continued to grow and expand, all the time staying true to its staunch ethical approach to doing business. “Everyone lives in the real world and everyone makes their contribution accordingly,” explains Mark. “I’m not very keen on the term ‘ethical business’, but I do think we’re ethical buyers, I really think we get that right.”
Still not addressing the difference between certified Fairtrade and Lush’s own “fair trade,” are they? Still not addressing the fact that the “real world” includes employment law Lush have to follow, are they? And of course, it has to be said that maybe the reason Mark doesn’t like the term “ethical business” is because he doesn’t have one.
It has certainly become easier to put pressure on suppliers now Lush is a bigger business. “Most of the time it’s to do with dough, isn’t it? In the beginning, you can’t afford to do anything, and you have to take what you’re given, to a certain extent. Now I absolutely say, ‘I want the real thing, thank you,’” says Mark. “We had a huge problem with the adulteration of essential oils. I wrote everyone a letter saying if it says it on the invoice, it says it on the label, and I find out that doesn’t correlate with the contents, I will prosecute you.”
The biggest challenge for the business is getting its people processes right, says Mark. “I make this joke that if we are in The Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For, then god help the rest of them,” he laughs.
Yeah, hilarious. Hilarious that there is comment after comment from Lush employee after Lush employee spelling out exactly how badly your company treats people, on here and on several other sites. And really hilarious that there might be companies out there even worse than yours. I don’t know anyone else, apart from a few former Bullingdon Club members, who find the ill-treatment of ordinary working people so downright amusing.
“The problem is that if someone has to leave, they might hold a grudge for five or six years. They’ll go on social media and talk about the company. The challenge is trying to make the process as ethical as possible.”
Seriously, call the roflcopter to airlift me to loltown. Mark held a grudge against Anita for far longer than 6 years, and talked about it quite openly on the forum, gloating when TBS did badly, even though he’s a bazillionaire. But let’s look a bit more closely at this statement. What does he mean by “has to leave”? Does he mean sacked? Does he mean constructive dismissal as a result of being treated badly? Does he mean choosing to leave after realising just how bad things really are at Lush? “They’ll go on social media and talk about the company”? Only if they’ve got something to say Mark, only if they’ve got something to say. And which process is he talking about making ethical here? Zero hours contracts? Trying to avoid responsibilities under employment law? Putting staff into sexual harassment situations? Ignoring health and safety law? Trying to paint ex-employees as bitter and vengeful is as tasteful and classy as describing customers as fat nutters.
When the personnel team at Lush can’t figure it out, they consult the services of alternative consumer organisation Ethical Consumer (think a lefter-leaning Which?). “We’re trying to get them to do a survey of the staff to find out what they really think. We have the Best Companies accolade and that’s great but we want to work on a programme with the staff worldwide to give them something a little better.”
What personnel team? Lush doesn’t have an HR department. Why not encourage staff to join an appropriate union and let them get help and advice themselves? Why not use ACAS? If you want to know how to deal with a workforce, use organisations which specialise in workforce matters, for fuck’s sake.
However, Mark says the real breakthrough with the company’s international expansion came when Mark Wolverton wanted to open Lush in the US. The Constantines were reluctant. The secret to Lush’s success is that its products are made with natural ingredients; they have a 14-month shelf-life. If they were made in England and then shipped to the US, the time that shops would have to sell the product, and the time consumers have to use them, would significantly decrease. “He [Wolverton] said, ‘Teach us how to make it then’,” recalls Mark.
That’s how the first overseas factory came about. Not that it was entirely smooth sailing. “Mark’s partner back then, Andre, was a bit cavalier,” says Mo. “We had given them a series of instructions about the factory, one of which was no animals were allowed. As soon as I left, Andre rode his horse through the factory smoking a cigar.”
The company has since grown rapidly through partnering with global firms. Lush is sold in 50 countries, and has five factories outside of the UK including two in Canada, one in Japan and another in Australia.
No mention of the MD’s link to the tar sands companies there. No mention of the fact that the majority of the other countries don’t have their own factories and the “fresh” products are shipped in months in advance. No mention of the fact that Lush products are not all natural; in fact Lush used to talk quite a lot about their safe synthetics, and get quite pissed off when people question their use of SLS, saying “we say fresh handmade, not natural.”
Elite Business magazine? Lush are about as elite as they are ethical, and the most remarkable thing about that article is the stench of greenwash wafting from it.