Maintaining strong ethics has resulted in healthy growth for Lush, demonstrating that attracting customers within a sustainable business model can be a successful mantra.

“As we’ve become more known for our values and ethics, we find that staff were attracted to us because they too share concerns about these things,” Peta Granger, director, Lush Cosmetics Australasia, told Inside Retail.

“If you have staff who care about environmental issues, animal and human rights, then you tend to find you have staff who really care about people.”

“And that in turn transfers to your shop floor as really good customer service, because staff genuinely care about getting it right for their customers.”

As the business was founded by animal and environmental activists, campaigning on such issues and minimising the environmental impact have been major drivers since the business launched.

“All this passion rubs off on customers and gives them real trust and faith in our products and who we are. This then builds the momentum around our business and keeps Lush growing,” Granger said.

Lush supports charities and NFPs with its store windows acting like billboards on many of the world’s busiest streets.

Through managerial involvement, Lush aims to stay tapped into its valued customer opinions. “We make sure we have store managers, who have the most contact with customers and staff, in the room when we’re making big decisions about what issues to campaign on,” Granger advises.

This has seen Lush move from buying fair traded ingredients to developing supportive partnerships with the communities who produce them: “We started to set aside two percent of all the money we spend on buying packaging and raw materials each year into the Sustainable Lush Fund, or Slush Fund.”

This money is used to start sustainable farming and community projects – some of which produce and process ingredients for Lush products, to repair damaged areas, address environmental issues or assist communities. Since 2010, Lush has spent about $5m on 44 projects in 21 different countries.

Another successful campaign attracting customer interest and activity was the partnership with campaigning organisation GetUp! in joining the #BringThemHere movement, showcasing stories of those currently imprisoned on Manus Island. Granger reports that this was Lush’s most successful campaign in terms of engagement – reaching over half a million people: “For those who need some kind of proof that these kinds of campaigns engage staff and customers alike, our LFL across Australian stores last month (October 2016) was 49 percent with this campaign in our windows, stores and websites for more than half of the month. It’s never the reason for doing it, but a clear example of the impact it has on all involved,” she said.

Lush won Inside Retail’s Responsible Impact Award at the inaugural Retail Customer Excellence Awards and believes such retail awards offer an opportunity to highlight a different business model.

“We want to share that ethics, sustainability and the customer can be at the forefront of the business while maintaining growth and expansion,” Granger explained.