Lush looks to the cloud to maintain its sustainability record

Liberty London's Tudor-revival building illuminated at night

Lush is a successful UK handmade cosmetics company headquartered in Poole. Known for its campaigning efforts on environmental issues and reducing its environmental impact in product design, manufacturing and selling, it is also against animal testing and the use of animal fats in its products. It has built its privately owned business of 102 UK stores and an online shopping website over 17 years maintaining this strong ethical stance.

Running a truly ethical business has always been a core mission for Lush. It is known for its stance or animals and the use of preservatives, as well as its efforts to educe the environmental impact of its manufacturing and packaging processes.

For Lush, these efforts start with the sourcing of ethical suppliers of raw materials that do not use animal products or those tested on animals. Palm oil is another product the company is looking to remove from its manufacturing process completely while the use of cocoa butter is currently under review, says Ruth Andrade, Lush environmental officer.

“Then there are the products, which go on up the supply chain, and all the waste produced and energy consumed in our factories and stores,” she says. “As both a manufacturer and retailer we are privileged to be allowed to try new things, like starting our own sustainable oil project or promoting local organic agriculture.”

All of these operations and initiatives need to be monitored somehow, which is why the company recently started to use CloudApps software. “We measure 100 indicators across over 100 stores,” Andrade explains. “We were getting into having thousands of spreadsheets, but this was highly manual and painful process. We can now collate all of this data through CloudApps as a single source.”

The CloudApps’ Sustainability Suite captures and discloses the company’s ‘environmental footprint,’ which includes measurements on water and energy use, travel, waste generation and packaging across all of Lush’s 102 stores, eight main offices and eight factory sites in the UK.

The company only signed up for the software as a service a few weeks ago, so have yet to fully harness all of its benefits. But Andrade says the very fact that CloudApps will centralise all of the data Lush generates in relation to sustainability will help it not only optimise the efficiency of its manufacturing, supply chain and retail operations, but also aid in the day-to-day running of the business.

“Having a central place to collect data, reports and analysis that compares one indicator to another means we can track indicators like our store energy use per square metre,” she says. “It also means our store dashboards contain the name of the manager, the annual rent, utility bill and everything else I need to know about each shop.”

The company will also use the central system’s collaborative functionality to increase staff communications and project management capabilities. “I can also see if a store is having a problem with maintenance, waste, the air conditioning and even what kind of air curtain it uses. It is providing us with an area where we can log calls, put in comments and generally improve our day-to-day collaboration and management,” adds Andrade.

The fact that CloudApps uses a cloud-based delivery model was a definite advantage for Lush, as the company’s counterparts in the US and Japan are also existing users.

“We liked the fact that the information be accessed from anywhere with a secure internet connection,” she continues. “We accept that CloudApps will always be more efficient at running its own systems in the cloud that we ever could. What we need to look into now is how efficiently the data centres that host CloudApps are powered.”

While it is still early days, initial impressions have been good according to the environmental officer. Having opted to configure the software themselves after receiving training from CloudApps, Andrade and an initial set of colleagues are in the process of setting up fields, importing data and customising it to the Lush’s particular requirements.

She reports that the full transfer of initial data, including utility and store smart meter network information, was not yet complete, but that once it was the company was planning to use CloudApps to generate more in-depth reports and benchmarks that would ultimately help guide it to run the business more ethically and efficiently.

Andrade says: “It will be good to see how things like water usage instore relates directly to sales, which we use in demonstrating our products, for example.” And this capability will, in turn, enable better comparison of performance between sites in support of “more concrete goals,” as Andrade explains.

“There is also the potential for using its project management features. But for now, it will be mainly used for reporting on the central initiatives in the cloud we already had in place,” she adds. Cloud computing resource is also an advantage for Lush when it comes to running the databases behind its freight reports and health and safety data.

“If the team are still using it in a year’s time, then we will know it works,” she also observes. “If they think it’s worth the time inputting the data because the view it gives them of the business helps them run it better than it will be helping to improve the business.”

“At Lush, we know there is always more to do. With CloudApps’ solution we are to accurately measure, analyse and report our total operational impact in real time. It allows us to accurately manage the sustainability goals we have signed up to, for the benefit of the environment we live in and to reduce our operational costs,” Andrade concludes.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.