Retail in Asia

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with The Body Shop: Singapore welcomes the “Activist Workshop”

TBS ION store front

The Body Shop Singapore’s first sustainability-focused “Activist Workshop” store at ION Orchard was officially opened in August. The store is completed with sustainable store fixtures made with “green” materials that have been repurposed, recycled and upcycled into furniture and fittings.

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This comes as a part of The Body Shop’s brand rejuvenation plan, which focuses on a number of activities, including sustainability in the aspects of branding, evolving retail landscape, transformation of digital environment, enhanced customer experience and advocating activism to pave way to incite positive changes to bring about greater good for humanity.

Building on their ever-growing and evolving commitment to the environment, this new store concept is an instrumental milestone and key component in bringing to life a compelling expression of the brand’s purpose and ethos, especially in the new norm.

Alongside reclaimed wood and recycled plastics to help minimise environmental impact, the store also features EKOply worktop surfaces, stools made using reclaimed steel for frames and recycled wood for seats, storage crates in back and front of house that are upcycled from a UK car seat manufacturer, just to name a few.

This new concept store will be rolled out to other physical stores within the next few years, and The Body Shop hopes this will mirror and amplify other ongoing sustainability efforts like recycled packaging, responsibly sourced natural ingredients, and thereby reducing environmental impacts.

Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Kean Hye Yang, General Manager for The Body Shop APAC Brand & Singapore market, about the new store as well as the brand’s sustainability journey.

Kean Hye Yang, GM for The Body Shop APAC Brand & Singapore Market
Source: The Body Shop

Kean Hye moved to Singapore when she joined The Body Shop in June 2016. Her first role is GM for APAC brand. In March this year, she took on an additional portfolio as the GM of The Body Shop Singapore.

Having lived in Korea, her home country, where recycling efforts are well entrenched in daily lives, she is a strong believer in sustainable living.

She leads by example, reducing use of single-use disposables and recycling as much as possible. She challenges her team to ‘think green’ at the work place and in all marketing activities.

RiA: Ahead of its time, why is sustainability and being responsible important as a key business pillar for The Body Shop?

Kean: The new Activist Workshop store is part of our wider-ranging brand rejuvenation project, which is one of The Body Shop’s key objectives as part of our ownership under Natura &Co.

In the two years since The Body Shop became part of Natura &Co, the business’ transformation plan has focused on a number of activities, including brand, retail, digital, customer experience, activism and sustainability. Brand rejuvenation is a key pillar of this transformation plan.

This entails a major focus on ensuring the brand brings our purpose to life, across all touchpoints. These include natural ingredients that work, empowering women and girls, and creating products and communications that help people to feel positive and proud about themselves, their bodies, their futures.

RiA: How has this commitment helped the brand and business over the last 40 years?

Kean Hye: Since the first opening over 40 years ago, our approach was ahead of the curve. With Anita’s passion for the planet and campaigning for causes, The Body Shop was always more than just a beauty brand. It had purpose – profit and principles working in harmony.

Our products were never tested on animals and didn’t exploit anyone in making them. We worked fairly with farmers and suppliers, and helped communities thrive through our Community Fair Trade programme. Today, there are more and more brands following in our footsteps, and we’re glad to welcome them aboard. The world needs it.

RiA: What is The Body Shop’s perspective on the future of sustainable retail? How has it evolved over the years?

Kean Hye: At The Body Shop we feel positive about the future of sustainable retail. Although retail in Singapore is tough, we believe that we offer something different. As an activist brand, we have more to talk about than our products, and that is manifested in this store. We believe that customers still want to come into physical stores, to interact with knowledgeable employees, to be inspired, to touch, feel, smell and test products.

With the growing spotlight and interest for sustainable living both locally and globally, we want to be able to give our customers – both the eco-conscious and those who are exploring the idea of ‘green’ purchasing habits – peace of mind when shopping with us, by introducing this sustainable store environment and gradually incorporating more elements in all our stores as we progress in this direction.

TBS ION Body Butter Tower
Source: The Body Shop

RiA: What does The Body Shop hope to drive in the local community with the opening of this sustainable concept store?

Kean Hye: For over 40 years, The Body Shop has shown the world that business could be a force for good, living and breathing our founder’s trailblazing approach. Now, we have the B Corp™ stamp to prove we still live by that vision, and we care as much about people and the planet even as we do business.

From the green fixtures and fittings in the new store, down to the ingredients we use in our products, we aim to make a positive difference and hopefully lead by example. Through this sustainable store concept, we hope to highlight and encourage sustainable living, and inspire Singaporeans as well as other brands who are looking to minimise waste and improve their recycling, upcycling and repurposing habits.

RiA: What are The Body Shop’s plans in tackling the plastic crisis and what are their packaging targets?

Kean Hye: The Body Shop is committed to reducing its impact on the environment. We are currently undergoing a comprehensive review of sustainable packaging, exploring a variety of options that can be delivered to our customers across 69 countries, in a socially and environmentally sustainable way.

Our long-term vision is that ‘Our products do not cause harm to people or the environment and can be repurposed’. We are looking at a broader focus to take a responsible and circular approach with all materials and not just plastic.

By the end of 2021, we aim to use Community Trade recycled plastic across all our PET plastic bottles. By 2025, we will phase out all single use plastic and all our plastic will be free of fossil fuel. By 2030 we will have a completely closed loop system for all our packaging.  This means we will recycle or re-purpose 100% of our packaging – mostly back into packaging or shop fixtures.

TBS ION Recycling Corner 1
Source: The Body Shop

RiA: How has the new norm changed the way retail strategies are planned at The Body Shop to continue to excite and provide value to shoppers?

Kean Hye: Given the new norm of staying at home more often and shopping online, we have expanded our online retail channels to provide more options for our customers and enhancing their shopping experience with us. Currently, we are available on Lazada and Shopee, and if customers are in urgent need of some skincare essentials, they may also place their orders via GrabMart or PandaMart to enjoy same-day delivery.

Because we no longer have testers available in our stores, we now hold Instagram Live sessions where we go into detail about our products and do live product demonstrations, so that our shoppers have a better idea of the product textures and how they can properly use them. We’ve also recently launched our ‘Call & Shop’ service where customers can get virtual skin consultations from the comfort of their home and shop our recommended products online thereafter.

RiA: How does being part of Natura &Co help in strengthening sustainability practices?

Kean Hye: As a collective, we work towards our sustainability vision 2030. Natura &Co’s Commitment to Life sets out our commitments and actions – within a 10-year timeframe – to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues: addressing the climate crisis and protecting the Amazon, ensuring equality and inclusion, and shifting our business towards circularity and regeneration. Our approach calls for an all-encompassing business model that gives back more than it takes.

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RiA: How is sustainability implemented throughout the supply chain and what are the challenges in your specific sector?

Kean Hye: Weare aiming for a minimum of 75% PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic across all product lines by 2022. This is a big leap from our current 10% PCR plastic across all our ranges. And by 2030, we will only be using three types of plastic instead of 20, making it easier for our consumers to recycle our products. With our ‘Return. Recycle. Repeat.’ and other schemes, we will collect 25% more packaging than we sell.

This is not only great for the environmental footprint that packaging has – it also increases the pool of recycled materials for other industries to use. We also do a consolidation of APAC shipments from UK to minimise carbon footprint.