The Smell of Bullshit, part 71: Mica Morals Missing

Two years ago, this blog reported on a Guardian investigation into the use of child labour to produce mica for cosmetics companies. The Grauniad reported that Lush had committed themselves to removing all mica from their products as they were unable to guarantee it was produced without child labour.

Two years on, how are they getting on with that pledge?

Surprise surprise! The Guardian says “the company has been unable to eradicate the mineral from its supply chain.” Lush say they haven’t knowingly bought any materials containing natural mica since 2014, but they also say “as a direct ingredient it would be easy to identify, but unfortunately mica remains as part of a complex mix of materials that are used to make colour pigments and lustres.” The article also says that Lush say they don’t have the local knowledge or purchasing power to stay and make a difference, but given that several other companies are working in the area to get children to school instead of mines, you’d think they could join in. Several companies, according to the article, have committed to only buying mica from legal and fenced mines, where child labour is less likely to be involved, as well as ending relationships with mines where audits showed child labour was used. But they all acknowledge it’s impossible to be 100% sure child labour was not involved. But, here’s the thing.

Which is more moral? Continuing to produce products even though you’re not 100% sure they didn’t involve child labour? Or discontinuing the products until you can be sure you have a child labour-free option?

 

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They’re happy to crow about their ethics though.

BIG thank you to the reader who let me know about the articles.

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2 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 71: Mica Morals Missing

  1. There is an article on the Lush website about their use of mica, which says that Lush don’t use mined mica any more in any of their products. They say that Indian mica has been preferred in the cosmetic industry, but other types are available from other countries, which don’t rely on child labour and which are properly regulated. So why did Lush ever use child mined mica in the first place? And why is the spokeswoman telling the Guardian that they haven’t been able to totally eradicate it?

    ‘Lush made the commitment not to use any natural mica based pigments in products. This involved removing natural mica where it occurred as a sole ingredient, as well as in those cases where it was a component of a pigment […] Of all the glitter and lustre that flows out through your bathroom, some of which may make its way back to the ocean, it will all be harmless for the environment, and stand against child labour.’ https://uk.lush.com/article/all-glitters

    ‘Even natural cosmetics company Lush, which prides itself on its ethical credentials, has struggled to clean up its mica supply chain.
    Two years after committing to remove all traces of natural mica from its products, following a Guardian article about child labour, the company has been unable to eradicate the mineral from its supply chain.
    “We had no idea just how difficult that would be,” says Stephanie Boyd, the company’s PR manager. “As a direct ingredient it would be easy to identify, but unfortunately mica remains as part of a complex mix of materials that are used to make colour pigments and lustres.”’ https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jul/28/cosmetics-companies-mica-child-labour-beauty-industry-india-

    It’s Shrodinger’s glitter. But isn’t that Lush all over? Mighty cosmetic warriors with an international empire of 900+ shops and £30m+ profits a year, who are too small to have ‘the purchasing power or local knowledge’ to stop children from being exploited.

    • The reader who gave me the link to the articles pointed out that when Lush are addressing an issue, they’re all gung-ho warriors, but when they don’t, they’re all “poor little me.”
      Sometimes it seems to me that they’re only interested in an issue if nobody else is shouting about it at the time. Everybody knows child labour is bad, but they’re not going to shout about it because a) it won’t make them look like morality pioneers and b) unless they can guarantee all their products are child labour-free, they’d look like hypocrites.

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