JUST GIVING?

Psychologies investigates the beauty industry’s philanthropic offerings to find out if our money is really doing any good

BY JO FAIRLEY

Maybe it’s down to a childhood spent watching Blue Peter, collecting socks or jumpers to dispatch to Africa, but I’ve always tried to do my bit for charity (FYI, my main effort over the past 11 years has been helping a simple, no-cost-to-anyone scheme that offers self-esteem workshops to homeless women at Centrepoint). And, like most women, I’ve been known to get a bit of a feel-good frisson when purchasing a beauty product that promises to help a good cause. Which, these days, is a lot of the time — each week, my inbox gets a mini-tsunami of emails about fund-raising, charitable or Fairtrade product launches.

In one way, I’m thrilled. Something — even a small sliver of cash that would otherwise just go to swelling a brand’s coffers — is better than nothing. But all gorgeous fund-raising goodies are not created equal, and I am careful now to read between the lines on packaging to dig out the truth about just how much any product is going to benefit a good cause.

In a perfect world, all proceeds are donated. Not profits, proceeds, such as those from MAC’s long-term Viva Glam lipstick project. Every penny goes towards helping those living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Aveda Earth Month candles almost fall into this category, too, save the 20 per cent taken by the VAT man, of course. Even if the product is labelled ‘all profits to charity’, such are the ways of savvy accounting that a product may not always make a profit, in which case the brand benefits from a ‘halo’ effect without having to dip into its coffers.

When it comes to the amount of profit going to a cause, nothing less than 100% will push my button. For example, Trilogy Helping Hand Wash has been giving total profits to help offer a future to Ugandan orphans through the Child’s-I Foundation. If I read that just 10 per cent of net profits go to a cause then yes, it’s much better than nothing — but that may not translate to great changes on that charity’s frontline.

Scrutinising the claims

What I am privileged to know from creating the chocolate brand Green & Black’s (the UK’s first Fairtrade-marked product) is that money can go a long, long way in the developing world, and make a real difference. But, like food, when it comes to Fairtrade cosmetics, I also know to look out for an official symbol that guarantees ingredients have been traced from field or forest directly to the face cream / body wash / foot treat they purport to contain, rather than settle for a brand’s ‘aren’t-we-fabulous?’ sourcing statement.

The beauty industry’s annual charitable thrust is Pink Ribbon month in October. Personally, I have mixed feelings about it. Although never wishing to undermine the efforts of the wonderful late Evelyn Lauder to raise money for breast cancer research, and wholeheartedly supporting the Look Good, Feel Better charity’s makeover workshops for women undergoing cancer treatment, I feel there’s a lot of pink bandwagoning going on elsewhere. It’s maybe because cancer is such an emotive word. Suddenly, pink ribbons appear on everything from tweezers to lip glosses with no real rules about how much of the sale price goes to charity. So over the years, I’ve learned not just to scrutinise ingredients, but examine ‘pink’ claims, too, and to make up my own mind.

How beautiful is the cause?

I have a sneaking admiration, then, for brands that try to do something for less touchy-feely causes. The Jo Malone garden recently unveiled in London’s Battersea Park may have been a petal-perfect fit with the brand’s fragrance identity, but it came about through a partnership with Thrive, the horticultural therapy charity that works with individuals facing mental and emotional challenges. This is not an area on which the industry tends to focus. Clarins, too, deserves a pat on the back for its annual Dynamisante Woman Of The Year Award (which I’ve helped judge from the start). Every year, £30,000 is given to a charity founded by women to help children at home or abroad, often in difficult, distinctly unglamorous situations.

I also like it when the industry gets off its backside on a grand scale, as with John Frieda’s HairRaising charity, which raised more than £1 million for Great Ormond Street children’s hospital, not just by snipping clients’ hair, but inspiring hundreds of hairdressers to get on their bikes and cycle for the cause.

I try not to be cynical about major brands’ efforts, whether it’s supporting traditional medicine from India, while sourcing a precious anti-ageing ingredient, or using Community Traded honey from Ethiopia in a shimmering body oil. Because corporate social responsibility is putting pressure on beauty companies who don’t donate to charity to pull up their Peruvian hand-knitted Fairtrade alpacas socks.

What I’ve experienced is that business really can change the world. The beauty industry can certainly afford to do its bit and more. Much, much more. As for all those feel-good launches I’m overwhelmed with? My inner Blue Peter-viewer says, ‘Bring them on.’ Provided I’m occasionally allowed to take the ‘we’re-so-generous’ claims with a pinch of (exfoliating) sea salt, that is, separating the genuine philanthropists from those who may be more focused on what a charity tie-up might do for their bottom line.

But my bottom line is I still tend to like it when beauty gives back. Because even now, all too often, beauty doesn’t.

~ SEPTEMBER 2012, PSYCHOLOGIES MAGAZINE

 

在上一期的「Psychologies」月刊,讀到了 Jo Fairley 寫的【Just Giving】,報導有關美妝產業興起的慈善行動熱潮。

果真無奸不成商嗎?「all proceeds」(所有營業銷售額)與「all profits」(所有淨利)根本是天差地別,如同 Fairley 在文中指出的,不是所有產品都能獲利,但若消費者不慎,立馬就成了冤大頭,商家的不光明策略也因此得逞。

我想起多年前在臺灣,每到寒暑假,街頭上就會出現很多工讀生,四處向行人兜售「義賣品」。一開始,我當著做好事的心理,也有鼓勵年輕人的想法,通常都不會拒絕。結果,有一天,報上刊出了內幕,戳破了這些所謂義賣商品的謊言 — 如果銷售額達到特定的數目,公司才會從中撥出多少百分比來捐獻。。。

說實在,讀了那篇報導後,我很火大,就算是這樣,為甚麼不能源源本本說清楚?說到底,根本就是無恥的欺騙行為嘛!靠!後來,再見到那些工讀生,無論再怎麼同情他們,我都是微笑、搖頭、閃人,不願意我的辛苦錢被這樣不明不白的賺走。

在這裡生活,感觸就是,人民真的要懂得爭取自己的權益。剛來的時候,就遇上了公立圖書館將被裁撤的消息 — 中央政府負債累累,以至於地方政府財源縮減,裁撤公立圖書館是其中一項「節流」的政策(為甚麼不是削減軍備費用?)。我們這個鎮雖然小,但也有一個頗為迷你的圖書館。居民們開始動員,「Save Our Library」(拯救圖書館)的口號貼紙以及說明海報四處可見,無論是住家或商號。我還記得,把貼紙貼上我們家客廳窗戶時,心裡感覺熱烘烘的。後來,在圖書館前的迷你廣場,也辦了示威。報紙上說,這麼小、這麼安靜的鎮上,也出現了抗議的人群,這是很不常見的,可見得居民們的不滿!最後,地方政府決定選擇其它「節流」方式,也就是說我們勝利了~

接下來,是大型連鎖超市 Tesco 特易購,準備在小鎮的郊區設點。本地商家發起了「Lay Off Leiston」(停止騷擾 Leiston)的活動,要求特意購取消計畫。特意購舉辦了好幾場說明會,雙方進行辯論;甚至還雇宣傳人員一一敲門說明,來我們家的是個年輕人,我直接說明自己支持本地商家的立場和理由,他也不廢話,很有禮貌道謝就離開了;我還沒說,特意購根本表現得像托辣斯流氓一樣,設點擴張超激進,明明在鄰鎮就有一個點了,還要來這裡。現在,特意購放棄了在本鎮的設點計畫,但是,已經開始在另一個鄰鎮的案子了;那個鎮是有名的旅遊景點,聽說居民們也是開始動員拒絕進駐了。

說是震撼教育,一點不為過。在臺灣還有新加坡的時候,真的從沒多想,似乎政府或是財團說要幹嘛,就傻傻接受了。事實是,如同甘地的名言:我們希望見到世界有怎麼樣的改變,就要先讓自己成為那個改變。

共勉之。