How The Body Shop is using ‘monkey dating’ to tackle deforestation

The Body Shop has today (24 May) officially launched its new Bio-Bridges programme, which aims to regenerate and reconnect 75 million square metres of damaged forests, as part of the beauty products retailer's ambitious new CSR strategy.

Working in collaboration with the World Land Trust, The Body Shop will establish the first Bio-Bridge in the Khe Nuoc Trong forest in Vietnam, as a way of restoring wildlife corridors that help endangered species reconnect, enabling them and local communities to thrive.

From today, every time a customer makes a transaction in any of The Body Shop’s stores worldwide, the retailer will plant, protect or regenerate one square meter of forest, thus building the first bio-bridges.

The Body Shop’s director of corporate responsibility and campaigns Chris Davis likened the project to a “dating service for endangered species” – a metaphor that could prove fruitful for the retailer when it comes to consumer engagement with this CSR project.

Finding love

Through a campaign called ‘Help Reggie Find Love’, The Body Shop hopes to bring the serious issues of biodiversity loss to life in an engaging and entertaining way. Reggie, a Red-Shanked Douc from Vietnam – one of the species being given a chance to live safely and repopulate through the Bio-Bridges project – will be promoted to consumers online  as they make their purchase, and in The Body Shop’s stores in 65 countries around the world.

Speaking to edie for the second episode of the Sustainable Business Covered podcast (released on Friday), Davis said: “Imagine a beautiful rainforest – as of course there are many around the world – being destroyed through agricultural use, slash and burn farming or resource exploration. Effectively,biodiversity is destroyed and links between one rich area of rainforest to another are broken – you are challenging the gene pool.

“By building bio-bridges; by planting, regenerating and restoring forests to link two areas back together, we are allowing animals to pass and allowing the gene pool to be enriched and ensuring the preservation of species. 

“The key thing for us with this project is how we engage the customer – and we’re doing it in the guise of monkey dating. We’re building a link between two areas of forests where monkeys live – that’s the stance we’re taking to get consumers involved.”

Into the unknown

In the first Bio-Bridges project, The Body Shop is working with World Land Trust and its partner, Vietnam-based Viet Nature Conservation Centre, to protect the area and its wildlife through regular patrolling and utilising camera-traps. Viet Nature also works closely with the local community to encourage sustainable forest resource use and farming and with schools to encourage involvement. The second Bio-Bridge project will begin in late 2016 in the Garo Hills of India.

Davis explained that the project will also be used as a platform for other environmental initiatives. For example, the retailer is looking at sourcing new cosmetic ingredients from the biodiverse areas it is working in, and it is planning to use the Bio-Bridges to develop its own carbon offsetting programme, in areas where the group uses fossil fuels because there is no renewable energy available.

“Customers like the idea that we’re trying this new stuff,” Davis added. “We’re not sure how it will all work, or if it will all work – I can’t guarantee monkey dating! But we want to set these ambitious targets and make ourselves accountable for them.”

Green makeover

The Bio-Bridges programme is one element of The Body Shop’s new, wide-ranging Enrich Not Exploit sustainability commitment, which aims to make Brighton-founded retailer the most ethical and truly sustainable global business in the world.

Other CSR targets include ensuring 100% of The Body Shop’s natural ingredients are traceable and sustainably sourced; reducing the energy consumption of The Body Shop stores by 10% every year; and guaranteeing that that 70% of The Body Shop’s product packaging does not contain fossil fuels.

As L’Oréal’s largest retail brand, The Body Shop says this new commitment contributes to and enhances L’Oréal’s existing sustainability framework – Sharing Beauty with All.

Chris Davis in the edie Sustainable Business Covered podcast

Chris Davis is a special guest in the second episode of edie’s brand new Sustainable Business Covered podcast, which brings you the latest news, insights and inspiration from the world of sustainability. 

Episode 02, released on Friday (27 May), will have a focus on sustainability communications, answering key questions about how sustainability and CSR professionals should engage employees and consumers with their sustainability programmes. 

Visit this page every Friday for the latest edition of the Sustainable Business Covered podcast. Listen back to episode 01 here.

Luke Nicholls

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