We have recently produced for public distribution a thoroughly researched
leaflet about 'green' consumerism focusing on the Body Shop because of its
ethical claims. This new campaign and leaflet is called "What's Wrong With
The Body Shop? - a criticism of 'green' consumerism" and was launched with a
picket outside a Body Shop in Central London on 21st March 1998 (see report below).
The leaflet and campaign is intended to stimulate discussion and debate,
which we welcome. There have been a number of questions which people have
frequently asked, so we thought it would be useful to set out our response to
these. Also, a detailed referenced version of the "What's Wrong With The
Body Shop?" leaflet, validating and expanding on all the facts and opinions in the
leaflet, is available on request.
Q. Why pick on the Body Shop? There are many worse companies out
Surely there are more deserving subjects for a campaign?
A. London Greenpeace is intent on scrutinising the effects of all
multinational companies on our lives, on society, and on our planet. The Body Shop is one
such multinational - chosen as a focus of the leaflet and campaign because it
makes particularly strong ethical claims. The company has put itself on a
pedestal in order to exploit people's idealism for profit. There is no
reason why the Body Shop should be above scrutiny and criticism.
It is intended as an educational campaign (rather than a boycott campaign),
showing that consumerism ('green' or otherwise) is one of the fundamental
causes of world poverty, environmental destruction and social alienation.
Nobody can make the world a better place by shopping and in fact the world's
problems will only be tackled by curbing consumerism. We're hoping to
stimulate discussion and debate about consumerism and the effects of companies like the
Body Shop on the environment, on animals, and on people. We're also
concerned to encourage real solutions to the world's problems and crises.
The Body Shop's propaganda gives the erroneous impression that corporations can
be a force for positive change - but the reality is that they are a major
part of the problem.
Big companies are set up to exploit people and resources to make profits
for a small number of shareholders - the Body Shop is no different in this respect
from any other company. Our leaflet makes it clear that we cannot hope for
capitalism to change the world for the better - people shouldn't be fooled
by the misleading claims that the Body Shop make. Real change will only
come about by people realising the essential exploitative nature of
capitalism and by creating a new society based on cooperation and sharing -
this means people taking direct control of their lives, their workplaces and
communities, and all local resources. There is no place for companies and
governments, or any other form of exploitation or power over people.
We agree that there are, on the face of it, companies with more immediate
impact than the Body Shop in terms of the direct environmental damage they cause and
so on. We've already produced leaflets and information about McDonald's,
Shell, Unilever etc. And in the McSpotlight Internet site, there's information on
and criticisms of 30 companies and many industries. What particularly makes the
Body Shop a legitimate focus for a leaflet and campaign, in our view, is
that they make ethical claims which are false - exploiting people's idealism
for their own ends. The company fools people into thinking that by buying
products at their store, rather than elsewhere, they are doing something
good for the environment, animals, themselves and others. In fact, the Body
Shop are an integral part of the cosmetics industry, fuelling the
consumption of mass-produced and often trivial consumer goods which is
causing major environmental and social problems.
The "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" leaflet highlighted the effects of the
fast food industry. In the same way, the criticisms in the 'Body Shop' leaflet
apply to the cosmetics industry as a whole and to all those multinationals
that make ethical claims. As public awareness and opposition to the effects of modern
capitalism on our lives and our planet continues to grow, so too do the
attempts of financial institutions (and governments) to clothe themselves with
'ethical','green' and 'community-orientated' credentials. This would be laughable if
it wasn't for the fact that such organisations have enormous influence and
power, continuous access to the media, and massive marketing budgets with which to
spread their propaganda.
We want to show that, at the end of the day, all multinationals have the same
characteristics and negative impact on society and the environment.
Q. But aren't the Body Shop doing a lot to highlight environmental
problems, human rights issues, women's issues, and animal welfare
issues? Surely they are a force for good?
A. The Body Shop are involved in the mass production, packaging and
transportation of standardised products around the world. This inevitably
involves the systematic mass use of environmentally-damaging chemicals and
huge energy wastage at all stages. Modern industrialisation has meant the
undermining of communities, human culture and diversity, with people's lives
becoming dominated by the needs of big-business.
Q. Surely, the best place for such an excellent critique of green
consumerism is in the editorial pages of newspapers and magazines
rather than in a leaflet?
Regarding the Body Shop's specific products, plastic bottles made from
petrochemicals are filled mostly with petrochemical and other synthetic
ingredients (produced by ICI and other large chemical and pharmaceutical
companies), and are then shipped by air or sea around the world to supply
their 1500+ stores in 47 countries. It's not a sustainable and low impact
The Trade Not Aid (or Community Trade) projects are largely a marketing
exercise and the Body Shop are doing nothing to tackle the fundamental causes
of the enormous (and widening) gap between rich and poor. In fact, the
consumerism they are fuelling is one of the main causes of those
inequalities and poverty around the world.
While professing to abhor the beauty myth, the Body Shop actually rely on it
for selling products and as a result strengthen it. The company (like any
cosmetics company) creates a demand for products where a real need for them does not
The Body Shop pay their workers low wages and are opposed to trade unions,
ensuring that they keep labour costs down and that employees are not able to
organise to improve their working conditions and control over their working
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
The company have a reputation for responding to public concerns about animal
cruelty but when challenged over their use of certain animal ingredients they
admit: 'We don't claim to be a vegetarian company'. But, in any case, as
more and more people begin to reject the exploitation of animals, companies
begin to recognise a new 'market' to target and exploit.
The company's hypocrisy can be illustrated by a few examples:
(1) The Body Shop have been supporting the struggle of the Ogoni people in
Nigeria against the activities of Shell Oil and the Nigerian government.
London Greenpeace, of course, fully supports the struggle of the Ogoni people; we've
produced a leaflet on this subject entitled "What's Wrong With Shell Oil?".
We have no problem with any organisation genuinely supporting such a just
cause. But we would like to point out the company's hypocrisy: many of the Body Shop
ingredients are petrochemicals and other synthetic materials. In other
words, the company's expanding operations are contributing to the increasing
consumption of petrochemicals. The increasing consumption of petrochemicals
causes oil companies like Shell to continue their extraction of oil in
places like Nigeria and to explore for new oil fields (such as in the
Atlantic frontier). This exploration, extraction, transportation,
processing, and consumption of oil causes enormous environmental damage on a
local and global scale (such as oil spills and global warming) and has a
massive negative impact on people directly and indirectly (such as the Ogoni
people). The Body Shop's operations are part of the problem, not the
(2) A leaflet currently available in UK outlets of the Body Shop advertises
a new range of products called "Oceanus". The leaflet is full of water and
ocean images and contains pictures of dolphins and fish. The leaflet
begins: "The Body Shop International PLC is concerned about threats to
oceans and marine life and has campaigned against whaling. One of the many
ways we are seeking to protect the environment is to strive to minimise the
amount of water we use in our manufacturing." The leaflet then goes on to
display the new range of products such as 'Oceanus Body Lotion' and 'Oceanus
Eau de Toilette', a "fresh, uplifting fragrance for women and men".
People's concern about the threats to oceans and marine life from human
activities are used by the company to entice people to buy their products.
This is what we mean by "exploiting idealism for profit". The leaflet
states that the oceans are "worth looking after" but doesn't say what could
really be done to help them, like consuming less, reducing the world's
reliance on oil and challenging the power of profiteering industries. It's
estimated that the petrochemical industry spills over 3.6 million tonnes of
oil into the seas every year, mainly as a result of shipping accidents
involving oil tankers.
(3) Another leaflet currently available in UK outlets of the Body Shop
advertises various colouring cosmetics. The leaflet's front cover has a
picture of a 'beautiful' Chinese woman wearing lots of make-up. It then
begins by saying "You're born an individual. Live like one" before setting
out the various products the company wants women to buy: lipstick,
eyeshadow, eye shine, lip shine. This is not encouraging women to assert
their individuality but rather to reduce their real individuality to a
question of which cosmetics to consume. The image of the Chinese woman is
one of idealised beauty. The effect of the leaflet is the same as the
effect of the advertising of other cosmetics companies. It's trying to make
women feel inadequate and insecure about their bodies, and is pushing the
message that women need 'beautifying'. The Body Shop's claim to be
celebrating the natural beauty of women and to be campaigning against the
beauty myth is completely hollow.
A. There have been numerous articles about the Body Shop and green
consumerism in various magazines, newspapers etc. But we want to reach out
directly to people by handing them leaflets in the street, to stimulate
discussion and thought that way.
The Body Shop promote their image and products through leaflets, marketing
and advertising. Leafleting is a great way to get information straight to the
public, countering company propaganda and hype, and enabling people to make
informed choices about whether to consume products or not. It's also
important to let people know that there are alternatives to the profit-driven society
we live in today.
Q. You say its not a boycott campaign - what do you mean by this?
What can people actually do then?
A. We have embarked on an educational campaign over the problems of 'green'
consumerism and the real alternatives to capitalism. The Body Shop has been
selected as a symbol of this issue because of its grandiose claims and its
reputation. However, it is an integral part of the cosmetics industry and
just one of thousands of profiteering companies which control our lives and
the world's resources. Our basic point is to demonstrate that the problem
is not this or that particular company, but the economic system based on
profits and power. Hence, rather than call for a boycott of one such
company (the Body Shop), we call for public debate and opposition to
capitalism, and for people to get organised where they live and work to
challenge the power of all those institutions which currently dominate our
society. This is the same as with the long-running anti-McDonald's campaign
- generally, we've not called for a boycott of the junk food chain, but have
encouraged a public dialogue with the customers going in and the exploited
staff who work there. We do of course support local residents opposing a
new McDonald's or indeed any other project in which they have no say or they
People can do so many things to empower ourselves and our communities, and
to stand up to the institutions which dominate us. For example we can:
in our neighbourhoods; encourage mutual aid and solidarity among people;
campaign against traffic problems; fight for amenities we really need;
local children and their needs; do our own newspapers, leaflets and street
stalls; organise in workplaces and support workers in disputes; occupy empty
buildings for homes; open community centres; grow our own food; defend
people against bailiffs or police etc; organise our own events, parties and
festivals; join in with protests, demonstrations, direct actions and
movements for change; defend green areas under threat; organise workshops
and consumer co-ops etc;...and there are many many more examples of people's
self-organisation and attempts to take control of their immediate lives and
communities. If you wish, contact us for a copy of our special leaflet
entitled "Reclaiming Our Lives And Our World - how can people make it
Hey, why not turn all local Body Shop premises into community-run
action centres, and local McDonald's stores into kids play areas?
Q. Who are London Greenpeace?
A. London Greenpeace was the first Greenpeace group in Europe, founded in
1971, and has always been separate from Greenpeace International (founded in
1977). We are an open anarchist, ecological group which has always supported
a wide range of radical, social and environmental issues, networking with
other activists and initiatives.
We have open meetings every Thursday from 7pm at 5 Caledonian Road, London
N1 (by Kings Cross).
We have recently emerged victorious from a huge legal and public battle with
the McDonald's Corporation, another high-profile global company making strenuous
efforts to project a benevolent image. Thanks to the determination of
grass-roots anti-McDonald's campaigners backed by huge public support, the
company failed to stop the global dissemination of millions of the street
version of our "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" leaflet. Three million of
these leaflets have now been handed out in the UK alone since the libel
action was initiated in an attempt to silence us. The leaflet has been
translated into at least 26 languages so far. Protests and campaigns
against McDonald's continue and are growing in strength in many countries
around the world. "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" leaflets have become
probably the most famous and widely distributed protest leaflets in history.
London Greenpeace's point of view, as stated in the 'Body Shop' leaflet, is:
"Let's consume less, and live more. Fightback against the institutions and
people in power who dominate our lives and our planet. Join in the struggle
for a better world - one based on strong and free communities, the sharing
of precious resources and respect for all life."
RESPONSE TO STATEMENTS BY THE BODY SHOP ABOUT
The Body Shop have produced a counter-leaflet to the London Greenpeace
leaflet entitled "Claims vs Facts". The Body Shop leaflet fails to tackle
the core of the issues raised in the London Greenpeace leaflet, and makes a
number of interesting statements. For example:
THE LONDON GREENPEACE CAMPAIGN
(1) On the issue of whether or not they are opposed to trade unions, the
Body Shop leaflet states "Any member of staff is free to join a union." Paul
Preston, McDonald's UK President, made a similar statement when testifying
during the McLibel Trial: "It's their right to join a union if they so
choose." The Body Shop leaflet fails to point out that they refuse to
negotiate with unions so employees are forced to channel their grievances
and demands through procedures completely controlled by the company, thus
isolating workers and denying them collective bargaining power. Anita
Roddick, in an interview broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in Spring 1997, said that
the company does not wish to have a dialogue with unions, and that they
would do so only if forced by legislation. "The Company does not formally
recognise any Trade Union as representing any of our employees, and has no
plans to do so" - from document entitled "Employee Consultation and
Representation" produced by Stuart Rose (Managing Director of Body Shop) and
dated 20/3/96. By the way, the judge in the McLibel trial found that
McDonald's are "strongly antipathetic to any idea of unionisation of crew in
(2) The Body Shop's own counter-leaflet attempts to refute the statements
in the London Greenpeace leaflet about "fuelling consumption at the Earth's
expense", and then goes on to the "natural products" issue. The Body Shop
leaflet states "We explain the necessity for preservatives in order to make
a full range of safe, stable and durable cosmetics and ship them all over
the world." This is exactly the point that the London Greenpeace leaflet is
making, ie. that the company is involved in the mass production, packaging
and transportation of standardised products around the world, resulting not
only in wasteful energy usage and environmental damage but also
necessitating the products containing many preservatives and other synthetic
(3) On the issue of censorship, the Body Shop leaflet states "We respect
London Greenpeace's right to hold their views on rampant consumerism and their
right to voice them. We do not accept their attempt to smear The Body Shop with
misleading and untrue allegations. We believe the best way to counter these
smears, however, is by making the facts available to any and all in our
independently verified Values Report on our website." This is a change from
the Body Shop's behaviour in the past. They have a reputation for suing or
threatening to sue their critics, and not respecting people's rights to
criticise them. Could it be that they have changed their tune because they
don't want to risk being caught up in another McLibel trial and campaign,
having their policies and practices scrutinised in public?
REPORT OF LONDON GREENPEACE BODY SHOP PICKET
15 people handed out a thousand leaflets, and held placards and a banner for
two hours outside the Body Shop on Oxford Street. The banner displayed the
subverted Body Shop logo and read "The Body Shop: exploiting idealism for
profit". The public response was good with many Body Shop customers and
passers-by taking leaflets, and some people stopped for a chat. A Body Shop
manager handed out a few copies of their counter-leaflet. Future pickets are
21st March 1998 - outside Body Shop, 374 Oxford St, London W1
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE BODY SHOP?
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.
- a criticism of 'green' consumerism -
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.
FUELLING CONSUMPTION AT THE EARTH'S EXPENSE
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!
MISLEADING THE PUBLIC
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.
LOW PAY AND AGAINST UNIONS
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
EXPLOITING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
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.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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.
For more information, contact:
London Greenpeace, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, UK.
Tel/Fax 0171 713 1269 & Tel 0171 837 7557 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Independent Internet info at - http://www.mcspotlight.org/
Published and accurate as of 3.98