"We pride ourselves on ethics," Mark Wolverton, president and chief executive of Lush North America, told me during a recent interview about the cosmetics company’s growth from one small store in Poole, England, to a worldwide chain of 700 shops in 44 countries. Wolverton says Lush has always strived to make a positive environmental impact. It does so by sourcing from vendors who use no child labor or animal-tested products. According to Wolverton, this is the "ethical choice" that Lush has clung to since its inception.
Regardless of the choices you make in your business, it’s important to maintain a unique identity and communicate your values through multiple channels. Individual Lush stores maintain their own Facebook pages, and Lush tells its story through its website and in-store newspaper. Lush also gets involved in environmental causes by holding events at its stores. In North America, Lush has run controversial campaigns tackling such issues as stopping overpackaging in the cosmetics industry, the Canadian commercial seal hunt, and extraction of oil from Alberta’s tar sands.
Wolverton acknowledges that Lush’s tactics might turn off some customers (Lush has stores in Alberta, and some employees have family members who work in the oil sands). But the company is also passionate about its values and communicating those values. "We strive for a substantial amount of transparency in the business," says Wolverton. "We must act in a green fashion and the causes we support. It all fits together."
Above all, Lush’s strong growth teaches small business owners that it’s not enough to sell a product. You need to trumpet—and live—your values as well.
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