Why I won’t shop at LUSH

As I commented on Bob’s blog when he commended LUSH for their support of the No-one Is Illegal campaign,

“Lush – yep, a lot of what they sell is really weird and unnecessary and they put a hell of a lot of matter down the drain, but because so much of it is vegan and solid form and so unpackaged, and because of this kind of campaign, I’m mostly cleaned and softened by Lush products. “

Well, for some time since then I have been actively seeking alternatives to LUSH. First it was LUSH’s implicit campaign against Israel while whitewashing its aggressors and embracing Saudi Arabia. That was alienating enough, although so normal these days that I thought I might be able to get over it. Then while shopping in the Liverpool Street Station branch some weeks ago I picked up a leaflet accusing the Basildon authorities of ‘ethnic cleansing’ at Dale Farm.

I think Basildon Council’s treatment of the Dale Farm residents is wrong, even if it’s legally justifiable.  It wasn’t virgin meadow they built on, travellers have terrible difficulty getting planning permission, travellers have a terrible time in Essex – the sites they’re permitted to camp on are short term and they can’t gather in groups of more than, I think, three vehicles. Dale Farm is a close mutually supportive community of the kind you’d think a Conservative government or council would be touting as some kind of paragon. The idea that the community will be broken up horrifies me. I’m still smarting from the C18th Enclosure Acts. But to be a stickler for planning law and greenbelt law is not ethic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing is a legal term. Ethnic cleansing has aims to purify a region for one ethnic group.  Ethnic cleansers use weapons and rape. For LUSH to call Basildon Council’s activity ethnic cleansing was pernicious. I’d already written to them with unsatisfactory effect, and then no effect. Dale Farm was the final straw for me and LUSH. I began to think of them as an ideological purchase, and wonder what kind of movement I was helping to get off the ground.

In this state of disaffection I got to thinking about LUSH’s owner Mark Constantine, this purveyor of very expensive toiletries, many with confectionery fragrances and whimsical names which make me think they are aimed at the young. How do you persuade young people, who are often poor people, to part with so much cash? You’re idealistic but you’re also a for-profit company and you are chasing pounds. You know that society’s idealism resides overwhelmingly in the young. You calculate that if you give the young a little hit of feel-good, a warm feeling in their hearts that their purchase from you has helped to heal the world, then they will feel like they’ve made a selfless donation to charity with the added benefit of receiving a free luxury bath time product, and they’ll be more likely to come back and cough up again.

The other cynical thing LUSH has done for a long time is to put a little sticker with a drawing of a named worker on the back of things that come in pots. It gives you a sense of connection, as if you have done an individual a good turn. And this is kind of warm and treacley – until you remember that it was only in April 2011 that Mark Constantine finally capitulated to the demands of the LUSH workforce to be paid a living wage – and that only in London. All that time he’d been cheaply and sleazily massaging our most moral parts and he wasn’t even paying his workforce a living wage. They had to campaign.

All I want is vegan stuff, ethically made. I don’t want Mark Constantine stereotyping me as somebody with an off-the-shelf portfolio of – in my view – incompatible causes. I mean, I could deal with the causes, if I agreed with them. But I can’t go along with his. (Just a quibble – if you support an organisation which rejects immigration controls, is it coherent to also support the creation of a new state of Palestine which proposes to expel Jews living within it? It may be pragmatic for the Palestinian Authority and Israeli progressives who fear civil war unless the settler movement is defeated – but I can’t see that it’s coherent for a shampoo vendor, so why force it on your customers?).

It’s sad. LUSH creates the most wonderful fragrances on the high street – unless you work there, in which case I speculate you must be breathing in borderline unhealthy amounts of parfum. My sense of smell is so acute that I get as much pleasure as a canine from sniffing interesting scents (though never other dogs behinds). I’ll miss those. I’ll miss the sweet young women at Liverpool Street, I’ll miss swallowing the vodka grapefruit seasalt scrub in the shower. But I’ve had it with LUSH. LUSH creeps me out. They tried so hard to make me feel good than when they failed they had the opposite effect.

So I’m shopping now at Greenlands in Greenwich Market, and Spitalfields Organics on Commercial.  Same principles but they don’t treat me like an unworldly but morally self-absorbed cash cow.

See also this.

6 thoughts on “Why I won’t shop at LUSH

  1. They have two branches from what I can see:

    Riyadh: Al Faisaliah Centre

    Riyadh: Kingdom Centre

    Not only that, but branches in the dictatorship of Kazakhstan

    The Indie explains what a wonderful place it is, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/after-nazarbayev-the-dictator-his-daughter-and-a-dynasty-at-war-450971.html

    And a branch in the corrupt Ukraine:


    Lush are good at posing, but when it comes to the money they will happily do business in any old dodgy country and no questions asked.

  2. Ach the only thing I will miss from Lush is Smaragadine, a bath liquid thingy that dates back to Cosmetics to Go days.

    Mercifully my other half Shirl has bookmarked plenty of vegan cosmetics and ablution suppliers to try instead of Lush

  3. “Ethnic cleansing has aims to purify a region for one ethnic group. Ethnic cleansers use weapons and rape.”

    Basildon Council (like the French and Italian governments on a wider scale) are attempting to displace (exclusively Irish) Travellers from land that is legally theirs, in order to protect the economic interests of a middle class, English (and largely, although not entirely, racist) settled majority.

    The metropolitan police, in order to enforce this, used batons, roundshields (provide very little protection, but very good for punching people in the face with the edge of – I’ve had it happen, it hurts. A lot), heavily armoured vehicles, steel-toed boots (and at the point at which you start kicking people, they become weapons) battering rams, sledgehammers, and tasers. They were also armed with (although did not use) pepper spray canisters. All of these things (with perhaps the exception of the roundshields) are perfectly capable of causing serious injury or death.

    While none of the travellers were ‘raped’ (while it is a common characteristic of ethnic cleansing programs, I would not say it is definitive of them, but this is a semantic matter, and not one of importance here), a number of what might be argued to have been sexual/sexually motivated assaults, sexually inappropriate police searches, and sexist and sexually violent language were used (e.g. ‘you stupid fucking whore’) by police officers and bailiffs against both traveller and activist women (and, in some instances, men).

    No one was ACTUALLY killed. However, six people were hospitalised. A traveller woman had her spine fractured by police officers. Her home was then illegally demolished. A twelve year old boy was beaten across the legs. A cancer patient had the electricity to his chalet (where he is KEPT ALIVE by breathing equipment). The only reason he is still alive is that the Traveller and activist community (because by this time it had become ONE integrated community) had predicted this would happen, and had a diesel generator set up next to the chalet in advance. An injunction has now been passed preventing residents of Dale Farm from attempting to live on the land EVER again (thus preventing any hope that they might in the future be able to obtian planning permission). This same injunction prevents ‘any persons unknown’ from returning to Dale Farm, essentially preventing ANYONE from providing any support for the remaining residents (including legal observers, enabling bailiffs free reign in the eviction process).

    Basildon Council is now evicting another site at Brentwood, in, surprise, surprise, Eric Pickles MP’s constituency. They were going to be granted planning permission, but it was turned down by, surprise, surprise, Eric Pickles (Pickles is heading up the Localism Bill, which will serve to effectively prevent Travellers from settling ANYWHERE).

    This is not the Final Solution. But it’s not the first step either. It’s not evern the thin end of the wedge. ‘Where will the Travellers go?’ can quickly become ‘Where will we put the Travellers?’. And the answer could be very scary.

    The issue of whether you continue to shop at LUSH or not isn’t really the important bit (not to say that their support wasn’t hugely appreciated, and really important – it just wasn’t the main thing). However, I think it’s really important to recognise the systematic oppression and vilification of Travellers in the UK (and Europe generally) as what it is.

    I’d be interested in hearing back from you, whether on here, or if you email me, I’d really like to discuss this further.

  4. Having read a couple of your blogs, if someone isn’t treating you “like an unworldly but morally self-absorbed cash cow”, I can only presume they have never read any of your stream of consciousness ramblings. “Ethnic cleansing” is not a legal term. Anyone who suggests “x,y or z is a legal term” with little or no basis for doing so is, at the very least, being disingenuous.

  5. I too abandoned Lush some time ago. If they hadn’t been so expensive I might have stayed longer, but with my income I could not justify £3 for something that fizzes in the bath for 30 seconds or a shampoo that costs costs twice as much as an equivalent product.

    Had a friend who worked at Lush, and yes, they did not get treated that well – under A LOT of pressure to meet targets etc. I don’t suppose it has changed much.

    I find the idea that a company who clearly is barely a step away from the mainstream (really only in its ‘quirky’ marketing and a bit more lip service to ethics) being political quite ironic, but as you say they market very strongly to young people – particularly vegetarian and vegan women. They very much use the notion that they are an true alternative, and I do believe it to be notional. I am surprised that employees have not rebelled more, but with the current climate maybe there is less of a tendency to do that, and students are always on the look out for p/t work.

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