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‘Business has the power to make a difference’: Shriti Malhotra, CEO, The Body Shop

Shriti Malhotra, CEO, The Body Shop India
Long before I heard the term ‘cruelty-free’, I had switched to using skincare products from a brand that proudly refrained from animal testing. As an animal lover, I didn’t want my personal grooming to bring any harm to other living beings. I didn’t know back then (more than a decade ago) that the brand I was growing so fond of — The Body Shop — was the first global beauty brand to fight against animal testing.
I grew up to eventually write about sustainability and life came full circle when The Body Shop’s team took me to Bengaluru to witness the initiation of another project that could prove momentous for advocates of the circular economy… Community Trade Recycled Plastic.
With over three decades of working with disadvantaged communities around the world, The Body Shop is applying its expertise to help tackle the plastic crisis. In its first year, the brand will purchase 250 tonnes of Community Trade recycled plastic to use in nearly three million 250 ml haircare bottles by the end of 2019.
This marks the start of a wider ambition, which is to introduce Community Trade Recycled plastic across all PET plastic used across the world by the beauty label within three years. Over the course of three years the programme will scale up to purchasing over 900 tonnes of Community Trade Recycled Plastic and help empower up to 2,500 waste pickers in Bengaluru.
They will receive a fair price for their work, a predictable income and access to better working conditions. The Body Shop and Plastics for Change will work alongside local partners such as Hasiru Dala, a non-governmental organisation that fights for waste picker rights, and Hasiru Dala Innovations, a social enterprise dedicated to creating essential employment opportunities for waste pickers. The Body Shop will buy recycled plastic collected by the waste pickers in Bengaluru and introduce it into its packaging following a thorough cleaning process.
“By utilizing such recycled resources and incorporating them for ingredients, gifts and accessories in a fair way, we are creating sustainable trading relationships with marginalized communities around the world,” says Shriti Malhotra, CEO, The Body Shop India.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview where she talks community trade and responsible business:

What is your association with The Body Shop?

I have been a part of The Body Shop since the beginning. It’s been an incredible 12 years for the brand in India. The brand journey has been exceptionally fast paced, exhilarating and dynamic.
Our business principle is that business is a force for good and we are committed to giving back to the planet, environment & communities through our community initiatives and far reaching impact.

This business principle has led to a historic ban on animal testing in cosmetics.

The Body Shop was the first international cosmetics company to be recognized under the Humane Cosmetics Standard supported by leading international animal protection groups.
Over the last three decades, we’ve worked with our campaign partner Cruelty Free International and our collective efforts helped lead to a European Union ban in 2013. But that isn’t enough. 80% of countries don’t have laws against animal testing, including the U.S. Animals continue to be used in testing, and we want to end this practice everywhere and forever.

In 2018, The Body Shop had submitted 8 Million signatures to United Nations in a petition to ban animal testing in cosmetics forever and in every country of our world.

India has one of the earliest connections with the company’s community trade programme. What is the story behind it?

A firm believer in empowering people, The Body Shop’s founder Dame Anita Roddick founded Community Trade as Trade Not Aid in February 1987. It was a movement to give developing communities a hand up, rather than a hand out.
The Body Shop’s association with India goes back across decades as Teddy Exports from India is our first Community Trade supplier since 1987 and continues till date to craft wooden massagers and organic cotton tote bags for us.
Since 1987, Community Trade has helped Teddy Exports grow from 5 employees to 600 craftspeople from over 30 villages. This initiative has helped provide vital employment & empowerment to the marginalized community including women, HIV positive patients & disabled members. Teddy Exports also supports training, education and health schemes benefiting the community holistically.
The Body Shop is also sourcing mango seed oil from Manorama Industries, located in Chattisgarh, India. The new CT mango seed oil will be included in the entire mango range  starting with Body Butter.
Today, The Body Shop launched the first ever Community Trade Recycled Plastic, from Bengaluru. The initiative highlights the lesser-known, human side of the plastic crisis. Through this campaign, The Body Shop wants to fight more than plastic pollution — it wants to drive social change and help empower people at the same time.
Shivasiddha at work in a segregation centre which participates in The Body Shop’s recycling programme

The Body Shop engaged in CSR long before it became standard practice. What is the brand’s history with corporate social responsibility?

The Body Shop pioneered social activism from the 1970s, long before it became fashionable. We are often credited with being one of the founders of modern corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Our Founder, Dame Anita Roddick always believed that business should be a force for doing good. Activism and positive campaigns to bring in change will help to inspire, educate and motivate communities around the world. We would like to do it with passion, irreverence and humour.
Community Trade was born from our founder Anita Roddick’s belief in ‘trade not aid’ and a commitment to developing lasting relationships with communities from around the world. We are continuously on the lookout for more! The Body Shop has always worked hard to do things differently and we still operate this way today.
The Companies Act 2013 calls for a company to fulfil its CSR obligations including ensuring environmental sustainability and ecological balance, animal welfare & community welfare. This obligation entirely aligns with our own Community, Environment and Sustainability programmes which we have been working on for over 40 years.

Take us through some of your ongoing CSR projects and activities in India.

We have worked strongly in the areas of Animal Cruelty and Environmental protection over the last 2-3 years. In 2017, we launched the campaign ‘Forever Against Animal Testing’. Conducted in partnership with Cruelty Free International, the campaign aimed to collect 8 million signatures globally.
On October 4, 2018 we submitted these 8 million petitions signed from consumers around the world to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to create a global framework to end animal testing. This campaign received huge support from consumers in India and we are one of the Top 3 countries in the number of consumer petitions by country.
The Bio Bridge programme in Garo Hills is another key environment project for The Body Shop India. In 2017, The Body Shop pledged to protect the endangered Indian Elephant and Western Hoolock Gibbon with its Bio-Bridge project in Garo Hills, India. The programme is part of the brand’s existing commitment to protect and regenerate 75 million square metres of habitat through Bio Bridges around the world.
Bio bridges are an innovative way to create protected corridors of biodiversity that allow the wider forest to flourish and its inhabitants to breed and thrive. In addition to protecting the environment, this project also catered to improving health and sanitation facilities for the Garo community. Poor access to medical healthcare and sanitation facilities has been a concern for the communities of Garo Hills. Even the healthcare centres that exist, lacked basic equipment and hygiene.
The Body Shop, partnering with Wildlife Trust of India, provided modern healthcare equipment at Siju and Baghmara (in South Garo Hills). It extended support to upgrade the Asanang Health Centre (in West Garo Hills) by construction of public sanitation facilities.
The support from The Body Shop India and WLT will go a long way in achieving the aim of securing approximately 4500 hectares of Canopies, Corridors and Catchments of Garo Green Spine for enhancing the survival prospects of elephants, gibbons, chocolate mahseer and other key wildlife indicators by 2025.

Who are the implementing partners? How are they chosen?

The Body Shop works with different partners who are specialists in the field. Our Partners are chosen on the basis of the area of work, shared ethics and values. For the current recycling program, we have collaborated with Plastics For Change (PFC).

Through this partnership, The Body Shop will be helping waste pickers with access to fair and consistent income opportunities. PFC have applied mobile technology to create sustainable livelihoods for the urban poor, while transitioning the industry towards a circular economy.
In addition to PFC, Hasiru Dala (‘Green Force’), a non-profit organisation helping the marginalized waste picker community in Bengaluru is also our implementation partner.

What are some of the measures being taken to ensure responsible business practices?

The launch of our Community Trade recycled plastic is just one part of our approach towards sustainable packaging.  We believe in taking a responsible approach, in this case helping marginalized communities working on waste, protecting our planet by collecting used plastic and re-purposing it responsibly.
The Body Shop is committed to reducing its impact on the environment and we know we have a lot to do. As part of this commitment, we are undergoing a full review of sustainable packaging, exploring a variety of options that can be delivered at a global scale, in a socially and environmentally sustainable way.
Our long-term vision is that ‘Our products do not cause harm to people or the environment and can be repurposed’. We have also tied up with Children on The Edge in association with their local partner Parivartan Kendra which supports 10 learning centres, educating 230 Dalit children in the rural communities of the Vaishali District.
Since 2014-2016 for Support Her Education (S.H.E) campaign, we have fundraised INR 30 lakhs for the education, nutrition, healthcare and self defence training of 100 girls in need, in partnership with Food For Life Vrindavan (FFLV), an NGO dedicated to this cause.

What makes The Body Shop one of the most ethical and conscious beauty brands today?

We believe that business has the power to make a difference to the world around us, and the best way to convince others is to lead by example. All our products are made with a love of the life and world we live in, our individuality, our community spirit and a commitment to trading fairly.

The Body Shop was one of the first international beauty brands to use an alternative to sperm whale oil, pioneering the use of Jojoba oil as an alternative. In 1986, the Save the Whale campaign was launched with Greenpeace – the first major campaign that Anita Roddick and The Body Shop launched, drawing attention to the continued threat facing the great mammals.
The Against Animal Testing campaign led to a UK-wide ban on animal testing on cosmetic products and ingredients in November 1998 and the largest ever petition (4 million signatures) being delivered to the European Commission.
We introduced 100% post-consumer recycled PET bottles in 2008. The Body Shop and ECPAT International launched The Stop Trafficking of Children & Young People campaign in 2009.  It inspired change on an unprecedented scale, gathering over 7 million signatures from customers globally, resulting in over 20 countries across the world committing to adopting new legislation in response to our petitions.
Community development and social impact is the soul of our business. To me, it means to transform the way we conduct ourselves our business on a daily basis. Responsible business means driving awareness, creating sensitivity and bringing action towards social and environmental challenges. Businesses should be no longer only about the ideals of success but the ideals of service.

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The CSR Journal Team