Introducing the third instalment of our Mindful Masterclass series – a run of articles which explores some of the brands we believe are going above and beyond in demonstrating best practices in sustainable ecommerce.
In each of these articles, we spotlight a brand doing amazing work that specifically aligns with one of the pillars that make up our Sustainability Guide. We’ll investigate the brand’s wider positioning in terms of sustainability, peek under the hood to see what kind of tech stack they're running things on, and finally pull out a few key takeaways that we think all online brands would do well to keep in mind.
Lush is a business that needs very little introduction. Co-founded by five friends in the mid-90s, the wildly successful high street cosmetics and beauty brand has become a household name over the last three decades. Lush’s positioning has always been crystal clear – they do things differently, and they care about people and the planet in the process.
There’s so much we could say about Lush as a sustainable brand, but for the purposes of this article, we’re going to be focusing on the impact they’re making to improve the impact caused by the delivery of their products.
Mindful Deliveries: What are Lush Doing Right?
When we talk about Mindful Deliveries, we’re thinking about transportation of multiple kinds - from the ingredients that make up products, through to the transit of completed products, either to stores or to end users after an online purchase.
Impact from deliveries comes in the form of the carbon cost of physically transporting an item, as well as the packaging required. Lush takes a multi-pronged approach here, and provides a lot of transparency around the actions that they’re taking.
Lush starts by reducing the amount they need to deliver in the first instance, by actively designing packaging out of their products via their Naked ranges. Recognising that products still require some packaging in order to be preserved and transported, they prioritise “recycled, organically grown or upcycled materials, and as much as possible, making sure we can reuse, recycle, compost or recapture our packaging at the end of its life.”
Lush has an entire R&D department dedicated to lowering their impact on the environment, through all aspects of the business and its operation. One outcome of this was their ability to design and manufacture their very own packaging material - Eco Pops. By changing the sourcing of these biodegradable packing peanuts from an external to an internal source, Lush has cut 24,000km of lorry miles annually in the UK, saving 19 tonnes of C02 emissions being produced, every year.
To put this into perspective, that’s taken things from 100 truckloads of expanded packing peanuts to just four trucks of corn starch pellets, ready to be turned into the finished product in-house.
Additionally, mail order items are now shipped “naked” – with products simply separated by recycled cardboard dividers and nestled in eco pops. This move alone will save more than half a million cellulose bags being used every year. Additionally, the outside of the box has been beautifully designed, in the hope that recipients will want to keep it and repurpose it (always the greenest option!)
Lush appears to be running on a headless set up, leveraging Saleor, a headless, GraphQL ecommerce platform. Operating on a headless architecture, which decouples front from back end technologies, enablings the brand to deliver an efficient omnichannel experience, and to iterate quickly when embracing new interactions and activations. Lush is known for its army of super-fan customers, so it's no wonder they have a system in place for collecting and displaying reviews. User generated content and reviews are handled by BazaarVoice. What’s more, displaying customer reviews can also help make your operation greener! Reviews enable customers to make more informed decisions about the items that they purchase – leading to fewer wasted products or emission-heavy returns. Learn more about how reviews can help your sustainability here.
Digital Carbon Footprint
Interestingly, for a company that invests so much time, care and attention into doing the right thing for the planet, Digital Beacon returned a poor score in terms of digital carbon footprint for the brand’s UK webstore. While the site is far from the worst we’ve seen, the scan still showed a rating of “bad” in terms of the carbon emissions linked to one first time visitor – nearly 4g of carbon.
As you’d expect for a brand which offers such a huge range of products, images account for a huge portion of the website’s weight. Lush could benefit from taking inspiration from Organic Basic’s low carbon website, which adopts a “load on demand” policy for larger photo-based images, offering the customer a lightweight graphic representation of the product they’re expressing interest in, and only loading the full colour product imagery when the viewer actively chooses to view it by clicking to reveal.
Takeaways From Lush
Keep innovating when it comes to your delivery process. Lush are still iterating and improving their delivery process after 25 years, whittling away packaging materials to find environmental savings wherever they can. Any improvement, no matter how small, makes a difference over time.
Incentivise reuse and circular packaging loops. Lush makes a feature out of gift wrapping in colourful fabric scarves (a gift in their own right) which are made from recycled fibres. Additionally, discounts are given for pots returned to store - to date more than half a million have been brought back into circulation.
Consider lazy loading or “load on demand” policy for larger photo-based images, and get rid of auto playing videos etc, to secure a lower digital carbon footprint from your sales site – especially if you gave a very large product range!