Christopher Davis provides insight into Body Shop’s new Enrich Not Exploit™ Commitment and how they’re engaging consumers

As part of the build up to the 15th Annual Responsible Business Summit, we sat down with Christopher Davis, Director of International Corporate Responsibility and Campaigns at The Body Shop, to discuss their latest strategy, trends to watch in 2016 and SDG work.

Ethical Corporation: What's your current role and responsibilities?

Christopher Davis: I am responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of our company’s corporate responsibility and campaign strategy across our 65 countries. I lead a team of five great people focussed on driving collaboration across the business to ensure the decisions we make are true to our founding principles and business philosophy.

EC: What are the big issues to watch in 2016?

CD: For us the big issue is observing the increasing engagement with academia. We have a new partnership with the University of Brighton on sustainable design and we are going back to school- Cambridge University - and learning new things. Our biggest opportunity is to transform learning into practical business throughout 2016 and longer term and I believe there is huge potential for growth in this area.

EC: In your role as international director of corporate social responsibility what are your priorities for 2016?

CD: The launch of our new Enrich Not Exploit™ Commitment. This is our first step towards a newly restated vision to be the world’s most sustainable and ethical global company. The strategy has been developed over the past three years and it is one of the biggest changes the company has ever seen.

Our first challenge is to bring all 23,000 people across 65 countries into this new initiative. Many people join our company because they believe in doing business in a certain way. The Commitment is an evolution of Anita Roddick’s values-led approach; it is very ambitious and to succeed it needs everyone to be clear and get behind it.

By reaching out to our people – especially our store staff and our marketing teams - we also reach customers and share and engage them with our new story and new ambition for our company. It is vital our message has a big impact on those who visit our stores and engage with our digital community to ensure we keep our business healthy and profitable.

At the same time, of course, we are consulting with our various external stakeholders and that will remain another priority.

EC: This is a big announcement for many reasons. How will this guide The Body Shop’s strategy going forward?

CD: Company strategy has always been influenced by our values because Anita built them into the DNA of the business. However, over the past three years we have challenged ourselves to do more to ensure this philosophy is alive not just on paper and not confined to one department or one country but embraced through action by all. The Commitment’s development was really influenced by Geoff Kendall and the team at Future-Fit Foundation whose philosophy is focussed on creating a truly sustainable business based on what the planet and society needs rather than incremental change or competitor benchmarking. This means that over the past 12 months and moving forward to the future, the Commitment is not only part of the company’s business strategy, it is central to its development and success of the company.

EC: How is The Body Shop engaging its consumers to behave more responsibly?

CD: Customer engagement is central to our Commitment and the 14 targets within it, so we have focussed on enriching our products and activating our customers. For example, we are committed to doubling the number of Community Trade ingredients over the next five years – it is currently the largest in our sector but by increasing our breadth we will increase our impact and, at the same time, provide customers with the best natural cosmetic ingredients.

Another example is our target to improve our environmental footprint of all our product categories and publish our use of ingredients of natural origin, from green chemistry and water footprint. Again, we believe this empowers customers to take positive steps in their own lives whilst buying great products. These are just two examples of many and there are more in the pipeline.

EC: From research with our community we’ve been told sustainability as a source of competitive advantage is the biggest opportunity in the next 5 years – would you agree with this?

CD: The vast majority of companies are actively embracing a sustainability strategy. If everyone is doing it, can we really suggest it is a source of competitive advantage or would better be described as a licence to operate? I think and hope there is space for companies who do things radically differently to stand out but to do this, I think you have to be pretty radical, opinionated and very creative. I hope our new plan does this at The Body Shop – that’s our vision.

EC: Is the Body Shop engaging in any of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?

CD: The development of the SDGs was strongly influenced by best available environmental, social and systems science, to help steer society in the right direction. That same science underpins the sustainable business principles that the Future-Fit Foundation shared in their public draft papers in 2015, and which formed a starting point for developing our own Commitment. So while we did not design our programme explicitly in response to the SDGs, what we have ended up with is entirely compatible with them. I am a big supporter of the ambition and intent of the SDGs, but they may be too broad and offer too little focus to guide the creation of a new strategy for a company like ours.

EC: COP21 agreement – a success or did you wish for more?

CD: It feels very inconsistent. The 1.5 degree threshold is based on best available science whilst the speed and breadth of the actions feel more like they meet political objectives. We needed radical action, quickly, by all parties but what we have is political consensus which is, by its nature a compromise. What science tells us is we need to move really fast, and focussed to turn us from fossil fuels to alternative sources. What we have is a step towards the right direction – at least in five years’ time - but it can’t be seen as an outright success.

EC: Corporation tax – higher or lower?

CD: Higher for large companies who are using or producing fossil fuels.

EC: A government to watch on sustainability?

CD: Last month we were in Dubai with our teams from the Middle East who described some interesting work by the authorities in the region. We learnt about some new initiatives such as a mandatory sustainable building certification in Qatar, new carbon capture programmes in Saudi, new renewable energy targets in the UAE. These are quite interesting as ideas but perhaps more interesting is the speed with which it feels like it is moving and the recognition that it’s time to act.

EC: And finally, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s Responsible Business Summit?

CD: I hope there are small companies who challenge the bigger ones and cause debate and friction. That is always an exciting place to be. Summits where everyone agrees with what is already happening are less interesting.

Christopher Davis will be speaking alongside 45+ other speaker at this year’s Responsible Business Summit. CEOs from the likes of Telefonica O2, Firmenich, Heathrow, Nespresso, Fairphone and many more will be outlining their visions for a business of purpose. Click here to get more information about the event.

business strategy  sustainable  ethical  corporate responsibility  campaign strategy  corporate social responsibility  CSR  stakeholders  fossil fuels  sustainability 

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