We caught up with Matthews as part of the recent in-cosmetics Formulation Summit, where he spoke on The Body Shop’s history of auditing for CSR, social responsibility and consumer awareness.
He gave us his insight on the changing landscape in light of an ever more globalised beauty and personal care industry, and the challenges of meeting consumer demands on a worldwide stage.
With the connectivity of the internet and the ease of cross-border retail, is it fair to say that a ‘global beauty consumer’ exists these days?
Of course there is a global beauty consumer, and our own insight team at The Body Shop has identified a global beauty consumer for our brand, who has specific characteristics, including being socially and ethically engaged. There are, however, some clear differences in consumer behavior across the markets of different countries.
This can be based on product needs and desires, plus aspects like weather and traditions. We carry out research to understand what our customers in each market are most interested in so we can promote those products accordingly.
For example, we know our Middle Eastern customers are big users of fragrance and makeup, while in Brazil, body and hair care products are very important. All our customers want to understand what the products do and how the ingredients work. Alongside the ingredient and product information, The Body Shop’s commitment to ethics and sustainability is a core global message that is consistently promoted.
What needs and expectations would such a consumer have (especially in terms of CSR and product safety)?
It is fair to say that consumers across the globe have differing levels of expectation and emphasis when it comes to important aspects such as CSR, product and ingredient safety. For example, the Nordic markets want extremely detailed information on ingredient safety and are often the first markets to adopt strong regulatory stances on ingredients of concern, even before the legislators at the EU level take action.
These markets are also extremely interested in the impact of products on the environment. In the same way, there are markets that are much more interested and engaged with our stance on animal testing, such as the UK.
One common theme the world over is the increasingly insatiable appetite cosmetic consumers have for more information about the products they use. Under our Enrich Not Exploit™ Commitment, we are addressing these demands by developing key indicators on the major topics of interest to our consumers.
We've also pledged to publish our use of ingredients of natural origin, from green chemistry and the biodegradability and water footprint of our products. You’ll be able to see this information on our website from early next year.
Is this idea of a global consumer driving regulatory alignment across market regions in beauty?
Despite seeing encouraging steps taken in the past few years by legislative bodies, the landscape for regulations still remains a major challenge to global brands.
A good example of this is the implementation of the EU Cosmetic Regulation. This was hugely beneficial to brands operating across Europe, resulting in a single consistent set of regulations for all member states.
As markets outside of the EU begin to adopt the principles of these regulations, we are encouraged that there is some alignment, despite having a long way to go. One area that The Body Shop is passionate about driving forward, with an ambition to help bring about a global ban, is legislation on testing on animals for cosmetic purposes, where there is currently no global alignment.
In general terms, what are the challenges for brands in meeting the differing expectations from consumers across the globe, especially in this time of ever-increasing global visibility of corporate practices?
We develop and offer a global assortment of products, but we can be flexible at a local level to satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers in that market. In this same way we empower our local teams around the globe to develop product messaging that will resonate with the consumers in their markets.