5 MINUTES WITH MONTANA LOWER ON SUSTAINABILITY & PLASTIC POLLUTION

by

Ethical Business and the Environment.

Below, Collective Hub speaks to Enviro engineer, artist, and Model, Montana Lower about her recent trip to India and her advice on living a kinder life, and asks The Body Shop how beauty businesses/brands can be more sustainable when it comes to plastic.

MONTANA LOWER 

You’ve just returned from a trip to India. Why were you there and what was that experience like?

We were there to witness the current state of the waste picking and managing industry in India, and the impact community trade plastic has on its development. The experience was incredible. From seeing firsthand how the waste is managed, to learning how the technology developed by Plastics for Change initiatives are able to stabilise the economy and working rights, that are made possible from partnerships such as the one between PFC and The Body Shop… to meeting the people working in these conditions, talking to them about their life journeys and what they are now realistically able to hope for in their future… I always leave these trips feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude and inspiration.

What is the toughest part of your job when travelling to places like Bengaluru, India with The Body Shop?  

Hmm honestly, put in that context – none of it is tough. It is hard to see the struggle. It is hard to see the realities they face, the struggles that I will never understand just from being born and raised in a country as privileged as Australia, but it is also our responsibility to make an attempt to understand, to open our eyes, minds and hearts to this hardship – and to ask ourselves, what we can do to make it better.

What are some of the biggest life lessons you’ve come home with?

How important recycling is! Obviously, I’ve always understood and campaigned for this, but to see it first hand – to go to where they are sorting, to see that there are human hands behind it, not only in India but ALL over the world. Especially when a lot of our waste is shipped off shore to be dealt with in these circumstances. It really is just so important that we do our bit before the waste goes into its rightful bins to guarantee its best chance possible at a second life.

You’re very passionate about living a positive and sustainable life across your social platforms… What’s the first step consumers can take to work towards a more positive and sustainable future?

Shop quality, not quantity. If we buy fewer, high quality things – we reduce contributions to landfill and invest in safer, more ethical working practices. 

LEE MAN – The Body Shop Global Community Trade Manager

The Body Shop just launched its first Community Trade recycled plastic in Bengaluru, India-What is Fair Trade? 

“Community Trade is the name of The Body Shop’s independent fair trade programme. Community Trade is externally audited and verified. Our Sustainable Sourcing Charter outlines our commitment to Community Trade suppliers. We aim to form long-term trading partnerships which are mutually beneficial to The Body Shop and supplier (producers, farmers and artisans). We pay a fair price which is formally agreed between The Body Shop and the supplier group. Some suppliers also receive a premium fund to invest in social and environmental projects. In many cases, this investment benefits the wider community too. For example, we’ve been sourcing shea butter from Tungteiya Women’s Association in Ghana since 1994. Long-term investment in the community has funded schools, healthcare facilities and safe water which now benefits the wider community of 49,000 people.”

How can beauty businesses/brands be more sustainable when it comes to plastic? 

 “There are many ways to approach the plastic crisis.  An abundance of waste plastic currently exists – in oceans and on land, and it’s important to find ways to re-use this plastic rather than creating new plastic.  We believe, with our Community Trade recycled plastic, we have found a solution where we are re-using plastic, but in a way that supports marginalised communities with better livelihood opportunities. We would love for more brands to adopt this model.

Additional measures that brands can take is:

  • To look at ways of reducing reliance on packaging, not just plastic
  • Offer easy recycling solutions to customers 

Essentially we all need to look at a circular approach with all materials.”

What other initiatives have The Body Shop put in place to minimise their footprint in plastic pollution?

“In addition to our partnership with Plastics for Change, in June 2019 in Australia, we are launching an in-store customer recycling scheme called Return. Recycle. Repeat. The program will initially launch across five key markets: UK, Australia, Canada, France and Germany. We are partnering with recycling industry pioneers, TerraCycle®, to facilitate this scheme which forms part of our larger commitment as a brand to reduce our impact on the environment.

All stores* within these five markets will feature a recycling bin where customers can return any five empty products and receive an incentive**. The packaging is then sent for processing at a TerraCycle® plant where it is recycled or repurposed into new recycled plastic products (such as park playgrounds and benches). We are working to quickly expand the scheme within our global network and ensure every store* has an in-store recycling solution. 

In the longer term we will close the loop and repurpose The Body Shop packaging back into our packaging or for use in our shop fit designs.

Our long-term vision is that ‘Our products do not cause harm to people or the environment and can be repurposed’. We are looking at a broader focus to take a responsible and circular approach with all materials and not just plastic. We’ve got some really exciting projects that we are working on and hope to share soon. Stay tuned!”

Find out more about The Body Shop’s Community Trade Plastic here.

* Excludes a select few stores due safety reasons.

** Customers have to be a Love Your Body Club member to be entitled to the incentive. All non-Love Your Body Club members can either sign up to become one or return their empty packaging without an incentive.

We would love to hear your thoughts