The Body Shop is installing refill stations in almost half of its U.S. stores (the chain currently operates 85 stores in the country). By the end of 2022, 49 percent of locations will play host to a refill facility, designed to help decrease packaging. The move is part of a global five-year plan to increase refilling capabilities throughout all territories.
The initiative is steeped in legacy, with founder Anita Roddick championing refilling containers as far back as the 1970s. The Body Shop states that customers have long-awaited the rollout of refill stations and that it’s the latest manoeuvre to embrace a more circular economy business model.
The beauty industry’s ugly side
Plastic action platform rePurpose estimates that the beauty industry accounts for more than 120 billion units of packaging every year. Of this, more than 70 percent of the plastic designs end up in landfill and 95 percent of those are made from single-use materials. Though many beauty brands set their own sustainability targets, rePurpose is pessimistic about them being met. It estimates that 90 percent of sustainable packaging initiatives will be unfulfilled by 2025.
As global brands look to tap into the sustainability trend, refill stations offer a practical way to reduce plastic consumption. This will prove critical for countries with net-zero carbon targets in place, including the U.S., which is eyeing a 2050 target.
The Body Shop’s customers say yes to refills
Initial testing of the refill model began in London’s Bond Street store, in 2019. “Overwhelmingly positive” results were reported, with 50 percent of consumers choosing refills over standard packaging. However, the company as a whole has been open about the logistical challenges that installations present.
Space requirements for refill stations can come at a premium, especially in smaller locations. Globally, differing regulations need to be adhered to as well, leading to a company-wide mandate being implemented at local levels.
“We are hoping to continue overcoming some of these challenges as we progress with our ambitious refill rollout over the next five years,” Hilary Lloyd, VP of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility for North America at The Body Shop told Glossy.
Positive impacts of refill stations
The Body Shop reports that since it rolled out refill stations in 400 global locations, it has saved more than 3.7 tonnes of plastic. A further 400 are planned for this year with the certified B corp aiming to remove 25 tonnes of plastic from the supply chain, while saving 5 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
The refill process is simple to support. Consumers are offered the chance to negate standard packaging in favour of an aluminium container, supplied by The Body Shop. Customers are not permitted to bring their own containers. Products are then selected and bottles filled, saving money on the cost of the same-size option in regular packaging. With every refill, the container pays for itself and finally, begins to save the customer money overall. Shampoo is currently priced at $12 for a new bottle or $9 for a refill. Similar savings are carried through into shower gel and other items.
Refill stations will take the form of either a large wall display or mobile trolley, depending on store size and layout. Between six and 12 products will be available at each.
The Body Shop’s continued evolution
As a company, The Body Shop has been making inroads into conscious consumerism for years. Recent innovations include shifting towards a higher percentage of vegan products, recycled packaging and implementing a more ethical supply chain. 2019 saw the company begin sourcing Community Fair Trade recycled plastic from India for use in its product containers.
The beauty industry as the next refill champion
The beauty industry appears to be taking cues from the grocery sector, which has seen numerous retailers and brands look to incorporate zero waste refill stations. Even mobile refilling outfits are gaining traction.
Aside from The Body Shop and liquid personal care refills, a number of makeup brands are looking to make beauty more sustainable. Seeking to do away with plastic cases, brands are looking to refillable aluminium trays and wooden compacts as a way to lessen their environmental impact. Many are combining this, similarly to The Body Shop, with moves towards vegan ingredients.
All phtos by The Body Shop.