The Body Shop, a skin care and cosmetics company founded in 1976, sells more than 1,000 products across 3,000 stores in 66 countries . Since inception The Body Shop has incorporated social and environmental responsibility into its mission, with a focus on promoting natural, ethically-sourced ingredients.
The Body Shop purchases a large portion of its key ingredients from small-scale farmers under its Community Fair Trade (CFT) program which ensures sustainable producer benefits such as minimum demand, fair price, and community development. The CFT program covers 25 supplier groups, mostly located in developing countries in tropical regions, that are responsible for producing 18 key ingredients included in 93% of the company’s products .
For example, The Body Shop has been sourcing sesame oil from a cooperative in Achuapa, Nicaragua since 1993 to use as a base ingredient in over 100 products . In recent years Nicaragua has been experiencing more erratic and extreme weather events, leading to production challenges of various crops including sesame. Achuapa region’s sesame production was especially impacted during 2010 and 2011 when heavy winter rain caused plants to be more vulnerable to diseases, ultimately leading to significant crop losses . Since many of The Body Shop’s producers are based in geographies that are likely to experience the strongest impacts of rising temperatures and fluctuating rainfall, climate change could present a material risk to the company’s overall supply chain and viability of product lines.
The Body Shop has made concerted efforts to prevent the potential disruption in production from climate change. In an effort to mitigate near-term supply shocks the company requires intermediate distributors to hold greater amounts of CFT inventory as a buffer. Moreover, the company has adopted a strategy in which it communicates demand forecasts with producers 12 months in advance and performs a mid-year review so that production problems, if present, can be addressed well ahead of time. It has also developed new environmental criteria for its CFT producers .
In addition, The Body Shop is committed to “protecting the planet” in the longer-term and has implemented changes across its supply chain to reduce the environmental impact. By 2020 the company “aims to reduce CO2 emissions, electricity consumption, and waste by 50% and domestic water consumption by 25%” from its operations through better energy management and elimination of unnecessary packaging . Within its network The Body Shop is shifting towards a “hub-based distribution system” to reduce its carbon footprint including air freight, and is using recycled plastic and paper for packaging whenever it can, in addition to having eliminated 6% of its transport packaging . Most interestingly, the company is planning to integrate sustainability into its product innovation process through its “Bio-Bridges” initiative which aims to regenerate 75 million square meters of forest land and endangered species. “Bio-Bridges” refer to biodiversity hotspots that are created by planting local species of trees in corridors of deforested land between healthy rainforests. The Body Shop’s goal is to not only restore forests but to also identify and utilize ingredients from these areas, such as the Andiroba nut, so that it could create a living for the locals and encourage them to sustain the locations .
While I generally agree with The Body Shop’s holistic approach towards combatting climate change there are additional measures that the company can take to better manage its supply chain. In the near-term, the company can work more closely with its CFT producers to leverage “climate-smart” agricultural techniques that increase productivity and resilience against weather events. For example, given the importance of freshwater access to farming operations The Body Shop can educate CFT producers on water conservation methods such as planting trees along streams and rivers and treating wastewater before it gets released back into channels. The company can also share ways to maintain healthy soil which is essential to keeping crops hydrated during dry periods .
In the longer-term, the company should expand their efforts outside of its own network to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of its supply chain partners such as its chemicals suppliers. One common chemical used in The Body Shop’s products is paraben, a widely used preservative in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry. The Body Shop should develop clear environmental criteria that it can use to evaluate and partner with paraben producers that share the company’s values on sustainability, thereby influencing industry participants to collaborate on creating a greener supply chain.
As The Body Shop continues to develop its green supply chain one open question I have is: how can The Body Shop work with other companies in the cosmetics industry, including upstream and downstream supply chain partners, to continue to promote sustainability?
 “The Body Shop”, Wikipedia, [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Body_Shop], accessed November 2017.
 The Body Shop, “Community Fair Trade – The Human Dimension of Biodiversity”, UEBT Conference, April 2014, [http://ethicalbiotrade.org/dl/bsr_2014/04_11_Christina_Archer_Body_Shop_web.pdf], accessed November 2017.
 Thorpe J, Fennell S, “Climate Change Risks and Supply Chain Responsibility”, Oxfam Discussion Papers, June 2012, [https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/dp-climate-change-risks-supply-chain-responsibility-27062012-en.pdf], accessed November 2017.
 Crognoletti, Chiara, “Beauty with Heart: the Values Chain by The Body Shop”, Green Light for Business, July 5, 2014, [http://www.gl4b.org/2014/05/beauty-with-heart-values-chain-by-body.html], accessed November 2017.
 Brucher, Melissa, “The Sustainable Supply Chain of The Body Shop and the Company’s Approach to the Complexity of Fair Trade”, Cologne Business School, Summer 2015, [https://www.academia.edu/26253545/The_Sustainable_Supply_Chain_of_The_Body_Shop_and_the_Companys_Approach_to_the_Complexity_of_Fair_Trade], accessed November 2017.
 The Body Shop, “Announcing The Body Shop’s Bio-Bridges Initiative To Regenerate, Reconnect And Protect 75 Million Square Meters Of Forest And Endangered Species”, Cision PR Newswire, May 24, 2016, [https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/announcing-the-body-shops-bio-bridges-initiative-to-regenerate-reconnect-and-protect-75-million-square-meters-of-forest-and-endangered-species-300273845.html], accessed November 2017.
 The Rainforest Alliance, “5 Ways Farmers Can Combat Climate Change”, Global Citizen, September 30, 2016, [https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/5-ways-farmers-can-work-around-climate-change/], accessed November 2017.