T he Body Shop has long been a pioneering force in retail. Since the late Anita Roddick opened the first store 36 years ago in Brighton, England, the company has embodied environmental and social causes, from launching a window campaign to support Greenpeace’s save the whales initiative to a global campaign against the media’s focus on unrealistically thin models amid rising cases of eating disorders.
Roddick was also guided by a core belief that businesses have a responsibility to protect the environment in which they operate, both locally and globally. She was among the first to combine ethical values and activism with product marketing — notably against animal testing, promoting fair trade as well as mandating environmentally friendly store interiors and packaging.
Customers responded to the products and policies: The Body Shop operates more than 2,500 stores (the majority of which are franchised) in more than 60 countries. It is now owned by French beauty care giant L’Oréal.
In the United States, the company’s verdant corporate campus in Wake Forest, N.C., is a model of sustainable farming activities. “We harvest water from our roof system to sustain our nut and fruit tree farm and keep bees to pollinate our trees and flowers,” says Adam Rice, director of the safety, health, environment/facilities management department for The Body Shop. “We harvest larva from the stream out back and raise frogs to be released into the stream to reduce mosquitoes.”
Inside the facility are energy efficient LEDs and motion detectors to automatically turn lights on and off. Conference room seats and acoustical ceiling panels are made from reclaimed and recycled fabrics, and a number of signs remind employees to recycle paper, glass and metal as well as food waste, which is sent to an on-site compost heap.
The Body Shop recently embarked on a new waste management, recycling and reuse program for its offices and warehouse with the assistance of International Environmental Alliance (IEA), a full-service waste management, recycling and diversion services provider. Prior to working with IEA, The Body Shop had an onsite bailer to bundle cardboard, says Rice, and its waste containers — headed for landfills — were full every week.
IEA performed an initial waste stream audit last year, with a goal of routing as much material as possible to viable recycling markets rather than landfills.
“Every facility has a unique waste stream and it’s important to understand exactly what its contents are and how they move through a facility to develop a targeted diversion plan,” says IAE COO Jeff Klein. “We identified all components of The Body Shop’s waste stream and determined which items could be diverted away from disposal by landfill and into recycling or reuse markets. We used the information collected from the audit to design a comprehensive program that was practical, sustainable and uniquely tailored to The Body Shop’s needs.”
One of The Body Shop’s unique waste stream needs involved products that were not appropriate for resale or landfill disposal and needed to be destroyed.
The Wake Forest operation, which supplies stores in North America, is still very much influenced by the U.K. headquarters in Littlehampton, West Sussex. “England as a whole is down to less than eight years left of landfill space, so they take [waste management] very seriously,” Rice says. “We needed to examine every possible contributor to waste collection at all levels.”
The program was then implemented throughout The Body Shop’s facility, including designating locations and containers for the facility’s waste and recyclables and training and communicating program elements to The Body Shop’s staff and service personnel.
“We’re always educating our temp service and new hires in both warehouse and office,” Rice says. “We post reminders to communicate the result of IEA reports to the groups to show the benefit, and use examples of ‘what’ goes into ‘what’ containers.”
Monitoring and maintenance
IEA ensures that all materials are diverted or disposed of according to LEED standards and local, state and federal regulations. Since there are numerous types of products at The Body Shop’s facility, multiple vendors were hand-selected to handle various elements of the waste stream, ensuring the best service at the most competitive pricing. Each vendor was selected based on its expertise in handling and recycling each specific material.
“Once The Body Shop’s program was fully implemented, a plan was immediately put in place for long-term monitoring and maintenance to ensure its continued effectiveness,” Klein says. Regular status reports are a key element of maintenance. “If a facility’s recycling volume begins to decrease, it’s a warning sign that the program is not meeting our diversion goals,” he says.
For that reason, IEA maintains contact with The Body Shop’s personnel and vendors on a weekly basis in order to meet their service needs and sustain program momentum. In addition, a monthly diversion report is created to monitor status of the program.
Which brings the story back to those waste containers once headed to landfills weekly. They’re now emptied monthly, Rice reports, and the program results — The Body Shop achieved 89 percent diversion per sq. ft., with 382 total recycled tons of waste in 2011 – impressed the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) during its annual awards program in 2012. The Body Shop and IEA received the Innovation in Sustainability award.
“The Body Shop is very ethically driven and has a large global objective to reduce carbon emissions and waste,” says Rice. By implementing a sustainable waste management and recycling program, it has been able to reduce greenhouse gases, but the program also saves time and increases the facility’s efficiency while reducing the overall cost of waste handling.