‘Happy to lose £ 10million by quitting Facebook,’ says Lush boss

‘Happy to lose £ 10million by quitting Facebook,’ says Lush boss

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Qadapting to social media is hard to do, even if it doesn’t cost you anything. So when Lush CEO Mark Constantine shut down his thousands of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok accounts on Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, he knew dropping the screens of millions of customers would hurt his company.

His Facebook and Instagram accounts alone had 10.6million subscribers and the void will result in an estimated turnover of £ 10million, but Constantine, one of the company’s co-founders, said that he had “no choice” after whistleblowers called attention to the negative social impact media sites like Instagram have on adolescent mental health.

“We have tightened up during the Covid period, it will not destroy us,” Constantine said of the financial fallout of the decision. He was disturbed by a Facebook search leak that suggested his Instagram app was making body image problems worse for teenage girls. “I was just like, ‘This is their own research and they ignore it and we draw people to their platform.’ We had no choice. Lush attracts a lot of girls of this age.

The 69-year-old businessman has been trying to run an ethical beauty empire since the Poole-based company was founded in 1995 along with five other people, including his wife, Mo. Over the years, the bomb supplier of bain has taken a stand on everything from the scourge of single-use plastic to fox hunting and the targeting of activists by undercover police.

Constantine speaks from her home in the seaside town of Dorset where Lush is the largest private sector employer. It has nine manufacturing sites and several offices, including one overlooking the harbor, where the large bay windows of his office offer the bird watcher a superb view of the water.

Like many Brits, Lush has already tried to quit social media. He said he would no longer post in 2019 to go back when the pandemic closed stores and the web became the only way to communicate with shoppers. He did not delete his accounts but signed a message that encouraged his followers to “stop scrolling and be somewhere else.”

While Constantine’s son Jack, the company’s chief digital officer, backed the plan from day one over concerns about algorithms that “generate addictive and insane scrolling,” other managers were not. disagree, and some still don’t, which may be why the first attempt failed.

Will the same happen this time? “I hope not, I would be the laughing stock,” Constantine said. “We didn’t do it as a publicity stunt, we did it for real reasons. He makes the excuse that social media is as addictive for businesses as it is for individuals. “We are the ones who are making a real effort to get by. “

This time, he even closed his personal Facebook account, even though he liked to publish a “little diary of mine” there.

Two staff members mix bathroom cosmetics outside a Lush store. Photographie : Stephen Barnes/Business/Alamy

Above all, Constantine says that Lush, who gives an average of £ 8million a year to charity, prioritizes ‘taking care of people’ and cannot ignore the links made between the use of social media and suicidal thoughts and wants platforms to have more stringent best practice guidelines. to protect users.

“We’re talking about suicide here, not staining or whether someone should dye their hair blonde,” he says. “How could we suggest that we are a caring company if we look at it and don’t care? “

With 400 company-owned stores worldwide and sales of £ 438million in 2020 (the company is double that size if other partnerships are included), Lush has survived the pandemic, but with some scars. The locks slashed her turnover by a fifth and ended the year at £ 45million, although Constantine says sales have rebounded and she is now financially ‘stronger than she is. ‘has never been’ after putting the company through what it calls, perhaps rightly for a company with a large hair care company, the ‘Covid flush’.

But the fallout from the pandemic hasn’t just been financial with the businessman alarmed by the number of colleagues struggling with their mental health. “It has never been a bigger problem for us,” he says. “I spend at least a third of my time discussing different mental health issues with colleagues… it’s never been worse. People who have never had anxiety have anxiety.

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Facebook is under new scrutiny after thousands of internal documents were leaked by Frances Haugen, the social media company’s former product manager. Among the most damaging was the claim that she knew her products were harming adolescent mental health. The company mounted a vigorous defense, saying, “To suggest that we promote bad content and do nothing is just not true. “

Lush’s desire to run impactful campaigns on the issues he cares about should make it natural in the age of social media, and Constantine insists he’s not afraid not to opt out of certain sites ( he stays on Twitter and YouTube).

No problem came close to creating the turmoil sparked by its 2018 Spycops ad campaign which addressed the scandal – revealed by the Guardian – of undercover police officers forming relationships with the women they were employed to spy on, he said. Staff were intimidated as police supporters called for a boycott and then Home Secretary Sajid Javid accused them of attacking “hard-working police” .

If so, shouldn’t Lush stay social and give a positive voice to young fans who get their egos out of eco-friendly shampoos and makeup? “Yes, but I’m not prepared to do it at the risk of someone’s life,” he said.

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