The Body Shop began rolling out its refill concept in 2021. After two years, can you say whether this is a viable concept in terms of demand?

Georgie Coppin - We’ve long been leaders in the ethical beauty sector, so our customers expect these kinds of innovations and packaging solutions from us. I think customers want brands to help them live more sustainably, and our refill stations are all about making it easier for people to reduce their impact on the planet, by making refilling convenient and easily accessible. We’re definitely continuing to see a demand for these alternatives — 29.5% of customers have returned to re-purchase a refill since the launch of our refill stations, which is a higher repeat purchase rate than our plastic bottles (24.3%). We were also getting a lot of feedback from customers that they wanted more products to be available as a refill.

So, this year we expanded our refill offering from shampoos, conditioners and shower gels to also include our makeup range. We now offer a refillable lipstick and a refillable foundation powder too.

The brand is present in over 80 countries, so are refills available everywhere?

Georgie Coppin - Yes! We are rolling out our refill stations globally. And our aim is to have a station in all of our eligible stores around the world by the end of 2024.

However, refilling has not yet completely replaced plastic bottles, which are still available in stores.

Georgie Coppin - We know that as a business we need to do more to help our planet, and our refill stations are just one part of our mission to help build a circular economy. This desire to be the best ethical, sustainable, inclusive company that we can be is at the very heart of everything we do. It’s what guides us as a business.

Currently, half of The Body Shop’s plastic packaging comes from pre-existing plastic waste, with part of it coming from our partnership with Plastics For Change, one of our Community Fair Trade partners. Through this partnership we work with 2,000 waste collectors in India who receive fair prices for the plastic waste they collect, as well as access to better working conditions, and other social benefits. We’ve now collected 100 million plastic bottles (and counting) from the streets of India.

Solids, refills and the banning of single-use products are among the solutions being considered in France to move towards a zero-waste bathroom. Are other solutions being considered elsewhere?

Georgie Coppin - In some countries, customers can return their used cosmetics bottles to be cleaned and either re-used or recycled anywhere that it is possible to purchase beauty products. This makes refilling even more accessible to consumers. However, this would require collaboration between brands, either voluntarily or enforced by legislation. The concept of a zero-waste bathroom is only possible through a collaborative effort between businesses, governments and consumers.

Why aren’t things moving faster?

Georgie Coppin - When we were developing our refill program, we carried out a survey to get a sense of consumers’ attitudes towards refill solutions. We found that one of the main things preventing customers from switching to refills was convenience. That’s why we set out to make refilling a convenient and easily accessible option that people could make part of their daily life, by aiming to have a refill station in all our eligible stores globally (even the smaller, more remote shops) by the end of 2024. Customers still want to enjoy the experience of using beauty products and aren’t always willing to sacrifice this for the planet. So, for us, it’s about making the product that creates the least waste easy by providing education on why refills are the best option.

Can inflation be a brake on this ecological transition?

Georgie Coppin - Inflation can definitely have an impact on developing and implementing these sorts of sustainable innovations for businesses. For The Body Shop, this is no different. However, our purpose; to fight for a fairer and more beautiful world, is our North Star, and reminds us that these efforts to reduce our impact on the planet are even more important during difficult times. For customers, those who engage in our refill scheme actually save money. So whilst inflation could be a blocker to them, we are doing what we can to make refilling financially attractive to consumers. When you buy a refill from us, you pay the same price as our standard 250ml plastic bottle version, but you get an extra 50ml of product for free each time.

Is the zero-waste bathroom a utopia or the future of beauty?

Georgie Coppin - Refills and packaging solutions are certainly a step in the right direction but getting to zero-waste can only be achieved through a collaborative effort between businesses, governments and consumers. All parties need to reach a common understanding and work together with this shared goal in mind if we are to achieve this.