[ beyond mcdonald's ]

- a criticism of 'green' consumerism -

The Body Shop have successfully manufactured an image of being a caring company that is helping to protect the environment and indigenous peoples, and preventing the suffering of animals - whilst selling 'natural' products. But behind the green and cuddly image lies the reality - the Body Shop's operations, like those of all multinationals, have a detrimental effect on the environment and the world's poor. They do not help the plight of animals or indigenous peoples (and may be having a harmful effect), and their products are far from what they're cracked up to be. They have put themselves on a pedestal in order to exploit people's idealism - so this leaflet has been written as a necessary response.

Companies like the Body Shop continually hype their products through advertising and marketing, often creating a demand for something where a real need for it does not exist. The message pushed is that the route to happiness is through buying more and more of their products. The increasing domination of multinationals and their standardised products is leading to global cultural conformity. The world's problems will only be tackled by curbing such consumerism - one of the fundamental causes of world poverty, environmental destruction and social alienation.

The Body Shop have over 1,500 stores in 47 countries, and aggressive expansion plans. Their main purpose (like all multinationals) is making lots of money for their rich shareholders. In other words, they are driven by power and greed. But the Body Shop try to conceal this reality by continually pushing the message that by shopping at their stores, rather than elsewhere, people will help solve some of the world's problems. The truth is that nobody can make the world a better place by shopping.

20% of the world's population consume 80% of its resources. A high standard of living for some people means gross social inequalities and poverty around the world. Also, the mass production, packaging and transportation of huge quantities of goods is using up the world's resources faster than they can be renewed and filling the land, sea and air with dangerous pollution and waste. Those who advocate an ever-increasing level of consumption, and equate such consumption with personal well-being, economic progress and social fulfilment, are creating a recipe for ecological disaster.

Rejecting consumerism does not mean also rejecting our basic needs, our stylishness, our real choices or our quality of life. It is about creating a just, stable and sustainable world, where resources are under the control of local communities and are distributed equally and sparingly - it's about improving everyone's quality of life. Consuming ever more things is an unsatisfying and harmful way to try to be happy and fulfilled. Human happiness is not related to what people buy, but to who we are and how we relate to each other. LET'S CONSUME LESS AND LIVE MORE!

Natural products? - The Body Shop give the impression that their products are made from mostly natural ingredients. In fact like all big cosmetic companies they make wide use of non-renewable petrochemicals, synthetic colours, fragrances and preservatives, and in many of their products they use only tiny amounts of botanical-based ingredients. Some experts have warned about the potential adverse effects on the skin of some of the synthetic ingredients. The Body Shop also regularly irradiate certain products to try to kill microbes - radiation is generated from dangerous non-renewable uranium which cannot be disposed of safely.

Helping animals? - Although the Body Shop maintain that they are against animal testing, they do not always make clear that many of the ingredients in their products have been tested on animals by other companies, causing much pain and suffering to those animals. They accept ingredients tested on animals before 1991, or those tested since then (if they were animal-tested for some purpose other than for cosmetics). There continue to be concerns about the enforcement of their policy. Also, some Body Shop items contain animal products such as gelatine (crushed bone).

Caring for our bodies? - The cosmetics industry, which includes the Body Shop, tries to make women - and increasingly now also men - feel inadequate and insecure about their bodies, and pushes the message that people need 'beautifying'. Women especially are often put under pressure to conform to the impossible physical ideals set by money-oriented industries and the media. Let's appreciate everyone's natural beauty and dignity.

The Body Shop pay their store workers low wages at or near the expected minimum wage and well below the official European 'decency threshold' for pay. The company is opposed to trade unions, ensuring that they keep labour costs down and that employees are not able to organise to improve their working conditions. None of their workers are unionised so employees are forced to channel their grievances and demands through procedures completely controlled by the company. This isolates workers and denies them collective bargaining power.

The Body Shop claim to be helping some third world workers and indigenous peoples through so-called 'Trade Not Aid' or 'Community Trade' projects. In fact, these are largely a marketing ploy as less than 1% of sales go to 'Community Trade' producers, and it has been shown that some of these products have been sourced from mainstream commercial markets. One such project, which has been the centrepiece of the company's marketing strategy for years, is with the Kayapo Indians in Brazil. The Body Shop have claimed that by harvesting brazil nut oil (used in hair conditioner), the Indians are able to make sustainable use of the forest thereby preventing its destruction by mining and logging companies. But only a small number of the Kayapo are involved, creating resentment and internal divisions within the community. As the Body Shop are the sole buyer of the oil, they can set any price they like. The project does nothing to safeguard the Indians' future interests. Furthermore, the company have used them extensively for PR purposes for which they have not been compensated.

Such projects take attention away from the need to oppose the threats to the survival of indigenous peoples. Rather than encouraging them to be tied into the market economy controlled by foreign companies, people should be supporting their freedom to control their own land and resources and therefore their future.

One recent Body Shop advertisement extolled their commitment to indigenous peoples and the American Express card (the ultimate symbol of consumerism). At the time American Express was a major backer of a massive hydroelectric scheme due to flood vast areas of Cree Indian land in Quebec against Cree opposition.

As the Body Shop rely so heavily on their 'green', 'caring' image, they have threatened or brought legal action against some of those who have criticised them, trying to stifle legitimate public discussion. It's vital to stand up to intimidation and to defend free speech.

Together we can fight back against the institutions and the people in power who dominate our lives and our planet. Workers can and do organise together to fight for their rights and dignity. People are increasingly aware of the need to think seriously about the products we use, and to consume less. People in poor countries are organising themselves to stand up to multinationals and banks which dominate the world's economy. Environmental and animal rights protests and campaigns are growing everywhere. Why not join in the struggle for a better world? London Greenpeace calls on people to create an anarchist society - a society without oppression, exploitation and hierarchy, based on strong and free communities, the sharing of precious resources and respect for all life. Talk to friends and family, neighbours and workmates about these issues. Please copy and circulate this leaflet as widely as you can.

Contact the anti-consumerism campaign 'Enough', and join in their annual 'No Shop Day' in November: Enough, One World Centre, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS, Tel 0161 226 6668. To support indigenous peoples contact Survival International, 11-15 Emerald Street, London WC1N 3QL, Tel 0171 242 1441.
[ BodyShop Coined ]

For more information, contact:
London Greenpeace
5 Caledonian Road
London N1 9DX, UK.

Tel/Fax 0171 713 1269
Tel 0171 837 7557
E-mail: lgp@envirolink.org

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« Back to 'Beyond McDonald's - Retail' Section
» Referenced version of 'What's Wrong With The Body Shop'
» London Greenpeace Press Release
» WWW Body Shop FAQ
» London Greenpeace reply to Body Shop statement