In our ninth episode of season two of 15 Minutes With we’re talking to Eloise Flinter. Eloise is the Business Development Manager for the Lush Green Hub.

Lush was founded in Britain and is a global manufacturer and retailer of fresh handmade cosmetics, who from the very beginning set out to do things differently. 95% of Lush’s all year around product range is vegan. Sustainability and non-animal tested practices have been at their heart since the very beginning. The Co-founders have been influential in the push against animal testing since the 1970s and 80s, leading to the launching of a new policy in 1993, the non-animal tested policy, which is still in use today. The Green Hub is the nerve centre for the work towards a circular economy.

We talk to Eloise about the circular economy, Lush’s purpose and mission and how it has affected the way they make decisions, develop products and create a customer experience that keeps their customers coming back. 

If you’re in or visiting the UK and would like to take a tour of the Green Hub, you can arrange a booking either by emailing greenhubtours@lush.co.uk or by calling the Customer Care Team on 01202 930051. And for those a little further away, there is a virtual tour on the Homepage of the Green Hub Website.

 

Ways to Listen

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Transcript

Graham  00:13

On this episode of 15 minutes with we’re joined by Eloise Flinter, Business Development Manager for the Lush Green Hub. Lush was founded in Britain and is a global manufacturer and retailer of fresh handmade cosmetics, who from the very beginning set out to do things differently. 95% of Lush’s all year around product range is vegan. Sustainability and non-animal tested practices have been at their heart since the very beginning. The Co-founders have been influential in the push against animal testing since the 1970s and 80s, leading to the launching a new policy in 1993, the non-animal tested policy, which is still in use today. The Green Hub is the nerve centre for the work towards a circular economy. We talk to Eloise about the circular economy, Lush’s purpose and mission and how it has affected the way they make decisions, develop products and create a customer experience that keeps their customers coming back.

Graham  00:50

Hi, Eloise, welcome to the podcast.

Eloise  00:52

Hello, thank you so much for having me on today.

Graham  00:55

Yeah, no worries. It’s great to have you on board. So you’re from Lush and Lush has kind of a synonymous alignment to sustainability. And I suspect or I suppose it leans into the philosophy, but what really sits behind that philosophy and kind of the drive for Lush to be part of the circular economy.

Eloise  01:13

Yeah, Lush is, I think just completely iconic in the way they plan how they’re going to reach their customers, we have a cosmetic master plan. And part of that master plan is to create a cosmetic revolution. And what we want is to ensure that we are leaving the world lusher than we found. It’s about a to do list for climate and nature, regenerative practices. And where I’m based right now is our new green hub, which is a commitment into the circular economy. So we’ve created our own Lush, circular economy in this building. And we’ve brought six departments here that are all focusing on those key elements of the circularity. So repurposing, repairing, reusing and then recycling as well. So it’s a real drive for Lush as a whole, that we are focusing towards those regenerative practices beyond sustainability. So going further and regenerative is all about if you’re taking one from the planet we’re giving two back so that’s, you know, beyond sustainability, and that’s our absolute key focus in every aspect of our business, which is, I think, really iconic.

Shelley  02:26

Eloise, I love that regenerative aspect, I have to admit, I didn’t know that like Graham said Lush is very synonymous with sustainability. But that’s not the same thing as being regenerative. Like you said, you take one you give two back also about the philosophy of Lush is that you were really before your time. And for a lot of customers probably before they realised they even wanted something that was sustainable or regenerative. So how does this philosophy that you’ve now made your customers really really comfortable with? How has that influenced the customer experience? Is that now something that they expect or demand elsewhere? Is it helping this philosophy grow across the economy more widely?

Eloise  03:05

Yeah, absolutely. At Lush from the beginning, our design was with waste in mind, our first products being the shampoo bar and the bath bomb that was in the 1980s. And we wanted those to be naked, which I absolutely love thing that are naked products. And we’re very proud of those and they’re naked because they have no packaging, their solid shampoo bar was invented by our founders in the 1980s. And it was like opening the shop to sort of a fruit and veg market you know, everything was completely naked and the customer could come in smell those amazing raw ingredients, those oils, those perfumes and not have their money go into expensive packaging, it was too into those raw ingredients. So yes, we’ve done that right from get go. And I think a lot of our consumers come particularly for those reasons because we do care about the environment. We put that in our stories all the time. We’re very transparent in how we’re trying to look after the environment as well. And I think for businesses that’s absolutely key and I think to to contribute even more to the customer experience, I don’t know if you guys know but we’ve got a bring it back scheme. So what that means is any product that’s not naked and that is in packaging, is it sustainable, fully recyclable packaging, and then can we say to the customer, because you’ve bought in that packaging, we’d like to reward you in bringing it back to us. We’ll give you 50p off every other new purchase for every item you bring back. And then we bring this back to the green hub. We circulate it, we repurpose it, we recycle it and then we turn it back into new materials for new packaging. So the bring it back scheme has been and the green hub really has been going on since 2015. And then the last two years we’ve done this massive 2.3 million investment into the The new green hub green hub 2.0, which we launched this year, and we’ve put it in the I call it the back garden of all of our manufacturing sites. So we can collect all the wastes from all of our manufacturing rooms sorted, separate it be the home of the bring it back scheme. And then the trailblazing part of the green hub is that we’ve now opened it to the public. So anybody can come and visit me and the green hub team have a guided tour throughout our own circular economy and physically see what we do with each piece of material and waste. And I think for the customer, you know, it’s going beyond the product, it’s going behind the product. And it’s saying this is our transparency, you know, this is there’s no greenwashing This is right here, right now, book an appointment, come in and physically see what we’re doing. So I think for the customer experience, I don’t know many others out there that are doing that. And I think that’s really what I want for long because I get so passionate about it.

Graham  06:07

I’m just gonna say it’s amazing, because it’s what I’m hearing is all the stuff that we hear from everyone else we talked to about what makes a really good customer experience, right? It’s the narrative that you build around the product, it’s the transparency around letting people get involved and fully understand what it is they’re buying, and why they should care. It’s the ease, right? You’re making it convenient, because it’s all very well and good saying oh, we have recyclable packaging. But if you’re then going, but actually you have to check with the council, whether it will go in the bin or not. Or you have to find a specialised place to go and do it, you’re basically telling people look, we’re making half the effort, you have to do the rest. And actually, if you throw it in the bin, there’s not a lot we can do about it, that’s not really going the full row, right what you guys are doing and saying bring it back to us. Not only will we pay you for doing that, but we can guarantee and promise and show you that we’re living up to the commitment that we told you that we were going to make at the very beginning. So it’s the absolute perfect example of experience of sustainability. And it’s putting your money where your mouth is. And if more businesses forgot about just putting a placard up in saying we’re green, and actually did the doing and did what you guys are doing, I think we’d be in a much better place.

Eloise  07:11

Yeah, it’s exactly that we don’t want to have a statement on our website that says, you know, we’re doing this come and see it come and actually experience how a circular economy can work. And I think for anybody to physically see it, some people have never heard the word circular economy. So when the news or things just throwing these words out the general public as well, it’s like, what’s that got to do with me as a consumer? Or, you know, how do I get involved in that. So I think if they can physically see a woodshop team of carpenters, upcycling furniture, they can see my electrical engineers, repairing machinery, they can see that we have an entire investment into laundry to rewash, our spa laundry facilities. So you know that we’re continuously reusing you’re like, oh, wow, okay, I could almost do this as a business. And as an individual, like I can do every aspect of it. And I think that’s it’s wonderful to be part of, it’s very wonderful to be part of, and we really, truly want to open it and inspire and learn along with collective like minded businesses, we’re not 100%, we have a lot of projects we’re working on, we want to be really transparent, that we’re trialling different types of packaging, different types of material. And we’re showcasing that we’ve tried this way. And that didn’t work. We do like to trial and error. We love to experiment. And we do love to share that with our customers and getting the feedback, which is alot of fun,

Shelley  08:39

But I love that you’re prepared to share that and learn from it. And you know, like you said, from the very beginning, you’ve taken those customers on a journey, you’ve introduced them to many different topics. And for everybody, they’re going to have different entry points, like you said, whether they’re an individual, but they all have different levels of knowledge, whether they know about the circular economy or not, or whether they’re just starting to dabble in terms of I’d really like my products to be either not packaged so much, or the products to come from better places or better things. But beyond that, are you starting to see that this is having an impact on customers more broadly, in terms of you’ve introduced the customer to this whole subject? Are they now deciding to pick the ball up and run with it in terms of going you know, what, beyond lash actually, I’m demanding these changes in more areas of my life?

Eloise  09:21

Yeah, absolutely. I think they come in to us and our staff in our shops are so amazing at sharing those messages and really engaging with the customers. And we’ve been totally conscious that our customers are interested in the environment. And we want to invest in that as well. It’s not just to create a beautiful product for every need, but it’s to understand the responsibilities of a brand. And then you know that engagement with our customers they can see they’re saying well others aren’t doing this and why not why aren’t they doing this? Or why are your products naked? So it’s so good because we get to have those customer conversations and inspire them to get back and be like, Oh, okay, well, that’s one out of you know, I’ve been shopping today in 10 different places and one’s doing this and the others aren’t. And if we can inspire them to then look or investigate into that the customer has every right to question their purchase from that company and say, What’s your responsibility? You know, and we need to empower our customers to say, you can ask, you can ask them, What are they doing with those materials, where have they got those materials from our buying stories for our supply chain impact, we have endless of them as a library on YouTube as to where we’re getting our ingredients from, as well as then what we’re doing with our waste at the end of the product. And I think customers can totally ask for that. But I also think that’s why we get such great return is because our customers know that that is our commitment. And we are putting the environment at the very top of our cosmetic master plan. We have this key like, right we have a to do list the climate and nature and the environment is in every conversation. And our customers know that. So they return for that reason, I think many other businesses can enjoy that journey as well, they should come on this side of things and do it as well. Because the more you have a relationship with your customers, the better you all are. And the more successful you’ll be along with your transparency, trust your customer, and your customer will trust you

Graham  11:24

that it’s really good to hit because we’re seeing and kind of hearing the same thing in terms of the trends that are happening. We know people are asking these questions. And if there are other businesses, like you say yourself that are encouraging your customers to go out there and do that. And I guess the onus is on these other businesses to now step up to the plate and make sure that they can answer that right, because there’s nothing worse than being asked a question and then just being met with silence. So the hope is, everybody else can kind of learn from you guys. And like you say, it’s an open book, come on, have a look, we’ve got nothing to hide, we’re happy to share for anyone listening, you know, if you want to learn from the people that are doing the doing, the green hub really is the place to go, I guess how has this sounds or philosophy kind of affected the other parts of your business in terms of the way that I guess your employee experience or your stance that the business took against social media a few years back? Presumably all of these things are very heavily interconnected?

Eloise  12:15

Yes, absolutely. A really big part of the green hub and our environmental projects is to share those not only with our customers, but with our employees, it’s like myself, we come to work for the same reasons, because we know where Lush is going, we know that they’re caring for that. So you know, I spend a lot of time on internal engagement. And that’s immersion sessions and workshops and tours with our digital teams, our retail teams, our manufacturing teams, our customer service teams, bringing all of those in the last year we’ve done 300 tours internally. And those can be groups from two people to 40 people on each tour. And that’s for them to invest in it. Like we’re investing in it and leaving the social platforms, looking at our impact on the environment across all those areas. It’s not only our physical waste, but it’s also who do we bank with? How do we design our products to be naked. But for me, being off social media isn’t directly connected to waste. But it is in line with leaving the world lusher than we found it and we’ve stepped back from those platforms because the algorithms can cause risk and harm to their audiences. That’s a whole thing about caring for the planet. And we don’t want to be present in those spaces until they can show us they’ve made those changes to protect their audiences. So it extends to our presence on those in line spaces by saying, well, our true commitment to leaving the world lusher then we found it is including people, it’s protecting forests, it’s reducing transport emissions, it’s caring for our people. It’s the whole thing is truly circular.

Shelley  13:57

It’s lovely. Otherwise, it just sounds like lush is a lovely, lovely company to work for. There’s so much more depth to what you’re doing than even I had realised. Yeah, it’s incredible. Are there any tips or tricks, insights, practical kind of takeaways that you can provide to listeners, whether they are individuals who are interested or businesses that maybe want to make some change?

Eloise  14:17

Yeah, absolutely. Well come and visit us for a start. We do want the green hub to be an educational hub. And it’s just truly to share the circular economy works if we’re collective if we’re like minded, and we expand those audiences to invite anybody who’s slightly interested if we can work with the local community, global communities, individuals, huge businesses, small family businesses, it’s about sharing any aspect but for me, and for Lush, it’s breaking it down and making the circular economy accessible on any level. So as an individual, you can repair those pair of jeans instead of buying new you can just choose to purchase a good plastic, if I can say that there’s good plastics and there’s bad plastics. And a good plastic is something that can be continuously recycled without adding any virgin plastic, you know, it’s about a business saying, let’s question and investigate our supply chain impact. What are they doing towards the environment is talking to our buyers? It’s, you know, it’s talking to digital and saying, How have we put the environment into this conversation? We’re starting this new project? What’s our impact? If we’ve created something? Will it still be sustainable in 10-15 years time? If it’s not, can we before we launched that just relook at it again, and assess and say, Is there a more environmental protective way we could launch that item, and then assessing all of our waste as it’s an individual or a business? I think any business can look at their waste, and say, Is there ways that can be turned back into a material that has a monetary value and a purpose to be reused? And then what are we doing with the rest of it? If we’re working with vendors that take it away, and it doesn’t look dirty anymore? What are they actually doing with it? Where is it going, you know, as a customer has a right to ask a business, what they’re doing, the business has the same right to ask their suppliers and their vendors, what are you doing with our waste? Because waste does have value and we can you know, even down to the smallest of items, think, right? Well, what’s that gonna do to the environment, or to us as individuals and to our future generations. And I think another really key point is, you know, to let people into your business or your practices or, you know, share your stories, and don’t be scared, you know, we don’t have to say, we’re perfect, that’s fine. But if we’re all saying we’re trying, you know, then we are truly collaborative, and we can say, you know, this is like at the moment, I’m creating workshops for schools and local universities, you know, let’s inspire that future generation to look at their careers and say, I want a career in this, you know, how do we go about this? So yeah, I think there’s I think there’s I could just go on for hours

Graham  17:15

it’s all incredibly fantastic stuff. I think you’re right. The biggest tip really is if you if you’re genuinely serious about this, get in touch and come and visit, right because you can you can see it in action. You can get the the woods directly from the people that are doing it and learn the lessons and hopefully take it away and roll it into your own business. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Eloise  17:36

No, thank you so much. Thank you.

Graham  17:38

That was Eloise Flinter from the Lush. Having a core mission or message that your business strives for, be that sustainability or something else altogether helps to create total focus toward a goal. That in turn helps with all aspects of product creation, delivery and the experience you offer to customers. It helps form the narrative that gets customers engaged with the brand and allows them to be part of your journey. As Eloise said, trust the customer and the customer will trust you. Be open and transparent about how you do things and accept feedback. This is what will cement those continuous customer relationships. But don’t forget about the employee experience too. They will be the ones delivering the message and you want them to fully understand the mission at hand. If you’re interested in visiting the Green Hub to see Lush at work, take a visit to our website where all the details can be found in the blog for this episode. Thanks for joining us on this episode of 15 Minutes With, we look forward to having you along on the next one.