update: Caudalie

What Would Miss Manners Do?

UPDATE (2014-05): see also

Another one joins the illustrious ranks of Those Who Are Off The Lists, who don’t give an actual crap for customers, reputation, loyalty, responsibility, honesty, ethics, all that shit. It’s just sales-pitch anyway. At the end of the day, what matters? Number of sales (no matter to whom: lots of people buying something once then never again, or a smaller number of regular cutomers, who cares, doesn’t matter, they count the same) and profit margins and keeping stocks up and shareholders happy. Response to customers who give a crap? Le shrug, like the whole Pierre Fabre group featured yesterday, and (back in February) the Estee Lauder & Avon corporations. Le sigh.

Not that I’d usually be one to quote The Daily Fail as a reliable source on anything other than what colour of knickers some pseudo-celeb wasn’t wearing, but Caudalie, Pierre Fabre, Estee Lauder and anyone else might want to have a quick look at the following item, then go do some scouting-around on the actual information behind it:

Two factors here, in “brand strength”:

  1. loyalty, trust, contributions to women’s empowerment
  2. legacy, reputation, solidity, long-term, history, significance (connecting individuals) across generations

Admittedly, most of those brands are precisely the sorts of big players who leaped straight into the Chinese market as soon as it started opening up.  They’re not as feminist as they’d like you to think. And include some, such as L’Ucifer, from whom I wouldn’t buy a used car salesman, even a very cute one anything ever.

Making The Body Shop’s stance against market-presence in China all the more unusual and laudable. Maybe they do give even a little bit of a crap for their loyal customers, baby-boomers from the 1970s (many of whom are now rather well off) and many like me who sought refuge in that lovely comforting bower-green scented hallowed shelter that was TBS, when going through adolescent hard-left vegan rebellion in the 1980s?

Here’s a thing. Big companies’ arrogance (or negligent blasé uncaring) about customers and ethics could well be to the benefit of smaller companies. May be happening already. Any company not big enough to be thinking of moving into the Chinese marketplace: and there’s a lot of them. Ethics aside, there’s plenty practical reasons not to move into China—though a cost-benefit analysis would suggest hard work done now will return the expenditure many times over in the long term—for smaller companies lacking the personnel, the business nous, the contacts, the research-skills. It’s a hefty investment: whatever happens on the pots-de-vin side, just above the table it’s already very demanding in time, people/staff, then infrastructure, networks, distribution, and so on and so forth. So it would be understandable for companies not to go into a/this new market.

I mean, we see this plenty with US companies—some of them only from over the border, not very far away, a few hours’ drive from here—who take for ever to be available in Canada. The rules on ingredients and labelling are very alike; the big issue is labels here having to be in French as well as English. I have actually offered my services, gratis, to do this translation for certain companies whose products I really really really like, and would love to see, say, in my local Whole Foods. Certain sunscreen-makers, for example…

So there’s now an advantage to being too small to venture into the Chinese market: whatever the actual practical reasons for not doing so, you can always claim the ethical one. And it’s not the end of the (business) world: you could venture into Australia (cruelty-free, English-speaking…) and, if your company gets its act together on labelling in languages other than English, there’s not just Canada but also the (cruelty-free) EU to look towards. The EU’s a pretty damn big market. And one where there have been companies that are cruelty-free and indeed greener-than-green (plant-based, vegetarian, organic, biodynamic,…) for a very long time. The oldest of them for about a century. A long venerable brave tradition in some countries, in total disregard for fashion (and their unfashionableness for most of a century), before North American whippersnappers went born-again-green in the Summer of Love, or Generation Me folks jumped on the “my body is a temple” purity-obsessed green bandwaggon in the last 10-15 years.

So who’s the latest one to join The Elect? Well, this time it’s someone who makes a fair song and dance about being nice and green, plant-based (but also sciency).

Caudalie: oh dear.

c/o The Book Of Face.

My thanks, again, to the good Avironneur. Long may he row his boat. Be that gently down the stream, or valiantly against the current of idiocy, idiocracy, nonsense, fearmongering, manipulative hogwash, and other Forces of Darkness…

There will be others. There are already some companies who admit that their products are sold in China, but not directly by them, and that they have no idea what happens to them once they pass over into Chinese administrative hands: Weleda, for example. Who at least had the honesty to admit this, to see that this was a problem, and to pursue it with The Higher Ups in their company.

This is already a scandal: companies lying to their customers. Companies banking on a certain reputation. Customers buying from them becaus they’re listed by PETA. In the case of Estee Lauder, c/o Aveda: receiving major awards from PETA. On the basis of their cruelty-free reputation.

It would surprise me if there isn’t more to come.

Ad let’s not get started on palm-oil sourcing. You’d be horrified at the number of hip cuddly granola Etsy sellers I contacted to ask about their (GAH TRAD COLD-PROCESS SKIN-STRIPPING-GUARANTEED but never mind, that’s for another day) soaps, and found out that either their palm-oil not only wasn’t ethically-sourced, but they had no idea about it. Their supplier could tell them what country it was from. OK, that’s a start: you can already decide not to buy from countries with certain kinds of political régime (whatever rocks, or doesn’t rock, your boat). But these people were selling soap at very similar prices; many of them were very proud of how organic many of their ingredients were, and some fair-trade and fair-labour too. But using sustainably sourced palm oil and palm derivatives? A rare beast indeed.

One way to check, and a tip for anyone else asking these embarrassing questions on Etsy: ask who their suppliers are. And get onto the suppliers. Mountain Rose Herbs are one of the more ethical suppliers of raw materials, and they do do wholesale, and they supply a lot of the crafty community (be that for small-scale family-and-friends use, or small Etsy stores, farmers’ markets, and similar). The Etsy sellers who cared enough to know about where their palm-oil came from (rather than caring about wanting to become the next Tata Harper) all used MRH. So that’s your tip.

Other tip? I’m just not using anything containing palm-oil or palm-oil-derivatives, as far as humanly possible, unless I know where it’s from. Alas, that means no rebuying Laura Mercier’s gorgeous eye basics (linen). But there’s other options that do the same thing, without my minor fussy quibble.Even if there weren’t, we’re talking eye concealer for crying out loud. Anyway, I usually repurpose a face-concealer or foundation there. Plus foundation works out way cheaper. But if I had to deprive myself of eye concealer, you know, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.


I’ll live.

If more people did that sort of thing, maybe more rainforest would live, and its inhabitants too.

We’re just talking palmitates, teeny quantities in a teeny tube of eye-concealer: but these things all add up. And do more harm than petroleum cosmetic by-products, for the record. Avoiding them too, where possible; but then again, I barely use the main petroleum products of which mineral oil is a by-. I don’t drive, I use public transport and bike and own two feet, and I carbon-offset like a mad thing possessed when I have to travel long-distance. Which isn’t crazy, given where I live and where family, friends, and work-stuff are. There’s also Skype and videoconferencing, which helps a lot.

Every little helps…


  1. anna3101

    I’m still very upset and very angry about all these companies going into the Chinese market. And, of course, I’ve been doing my best to avoid any suspicious companies. However this post of yours made me realize I never actually looked for palm oil in my cosmetics or wondered where it comes from. I don’t think there should be any but it would be good to check. I can vaguely remember someone saying that palm oil is the cause of chopping down rainforests?? Need to look this up.

    • gingerama

      Yes, that’s the one 🙂 de-rainforest-ation, destruction of orang-utan habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia, forced removal of inhabitants (animal and human), forced evictions and land-grabbing and use of very-near-slave-labour in Brazil (thougb there it’s usually for replanting with other crops such as soy, rather than oil-palm).

      See more here: https://gingerrrama.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/greenwashing-4/
      and here: https://gingerrrama.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/slightly-more-entertaining/

      On the other hand, there *are* “good” plantations and producers, managed forest, with good environmental and human-rights practices. Hencw why it’s always worth asking a company where their palm oil and palm derivatives come from: sometimes it’s OK, and even if it isn’t, it makes them think!

  2. anna3101

    Thank you – will check my cosmetics and send emails if there’s any palm oil there. It’s hard being a conscious consumer 🙂 Since I started trying to be one, emails to companies are my daily bread 😀

    • gingerama

      Oh, I’m with you on that! It’s hard. But there’s plenty out there–like Siru Annika said, and 100s of possibles c/o “greenlists” like this one–and the more people vote with their feet and their nimble typing fingers, the sooner companies get The Message and On Message. Even if it’s not for good ethical reasons, but to keep those numbers crunching: same end result.

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