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Save the earth - and look beautiful while you're at it

The Body Shop is leading a global campaign to build Bio-Bridges

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Reggie, an endangered red- shanked douc; deforestation contributes to the growing threat of habitat loss, and causes animal populations and their habitats to become more fragmented than ever before.

Singapore

THE Body Shop is on a quest to help a monkey - an endangered red-shanked douc named Reggie - find love.

No, the 41-year-old L'Oreal-owned firm has not become an animal-dating service agency. The search for Reggie's soulmate is part of a campaign to build a Bio-Bridge, which is like a green corridor for plants and animals.

The Body Shop's APAC commitment and corporate communications manager Camilla Adindamaulani says: "We are doing more than replanting trees; we are connecting isolated forests and damaged landscapes that are affected by numerous causes such as deforestation so that animals, indigenous species and local communities can thrive."

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She adds that the firm launched its first such project in Vietnam in June 2016 and subsequently expanded it to Malaysia and Indonesia.

However, with jargon such as biodiversity hotspots and deforestation, the Bio-Bridge is an esoteric subject that may seem unpalatable to some. Hence, one of the challenges embarking on this project was to get the staff on board.

Head of marketing and corporate responsibility for Singapore Tan Jinli says that The Body Shop's over 200 employees in Singapore gathered for a briefing at Swissotel in February 2016 before the project launch.

"They understood the concept behind Bio-Bridge when we drew parallels with Singapore's Eco-Link at BKE (Bukit Timah Expressway), as the idea is similar," says Ms Tan.

Modernisation sometimes takes place at the expense of nature. Deforestation contributes to the growing threat of habitat loss, and causes animal populations and their habitats to become more fragmented than ever before.

"That is why we started building the Bio-Bridge, so that the plants can thrive and animals can meet again. Otherwise, we won't be able to sustain the business and the environment. Hence our campaign slogan - to make the subject a relatable one with people - Help Reggie find Love", Ms Tan adds.

Building Bio-Bridges is a global campaign led by The Body Shop International, and as each country's regulations vary, the company teams up with international NGOs (non-governmental organisations), World Land Trust and local partners such as Viet Nature in each project location to ensure a smooth process.

The fundraising efforts in Singapore, to build the first Bio-Bridge in Vietnam, took place from June to September 2016, and the second round of fundraising to build Bio-Bridges in Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia took place from Nov 1 to Dec 25, 2016.

The Body Shop Singapore managed to raise enough money to build 68 soccer fields worth of Bio-Bridges, and the firm will commence another round of fundraising from Aug 31 to Oct 31, 2017.

The Bio-Bridge project represents one-third of The Body Shop's ethos of "Enrich our Planet", and the firm has the lofty goal of regenerating 75 million square metres of habitat by 2020.

The Body Shop's latest corporate social responsibility project - Forever Against Animal Testing - falls under both pillars of "Enrich our People" and "Enrich Our Product". The company intends to collect eight million signatures globally to submit to the United Nations to ban testing on animals.

The firm's APAC human resources director Aditi Madhok-Naarden says: "We feel very sad that we are still talking about animal testing when the EU (European Union), which has one of the most stringent rules in terms of safety and rules, feels comfortable banning it. This is still a subject in many parts of the world and we feel we would not have succeeded in our activism and cause until there is a total ban on it."

She adds that animal testing is not 100 per cent accurate and there are alternative methods which precludes subjecting the animal to unnecessary pain.

"The Body Shop has been around for over 40 years and if the firm has the trust of the consumers without testing on animals, other organisations can do it as well," Ms Madhok-Naarden says.

The target for Singapore is to garner 160,000 signatures by the end of next year and it will be all hands on deck to collect them.

Ms Madhok-Naarden says: "This needs to stop. There is power behind every signature and we are going to let the public know about this campaign."

An employee engagement survey conducted late last year shows that the majority of the staff are proud to work for The Body Shop due to the volunteer and "do good" culture.

Ms Madhok-Naarden says: "From a HR (human resources) perspective, it is amazing when candidates come for an interview and say they love this brand. People really believe in the values of the company."

The Body Shop is also on the path to reduce its products' carbon footprint. Hence, besides using FSC-certified materials including paper and wood - which means the forest where the material is sourced from is managed responsibly - The Body Shop has created a development partnership with California-based Newlight Technologies to introduce AirCarbonĀ® in The Body Shop products.

Says Ms Adindamaulani: "AirCarbon is a thermoplastic material that behaves the same as the plastics we are used to seeing in our packaging, but instead of using oil as a carbon source for plastic, this innovation uses methane and carbon dioxide, which would otherwise be released into the air as a greenhouse gas. This takes greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and helps to keep the oil in the ground."

Ms Tan quips: "We can still do our bit to save the earth in the never-ending pursuit to look beautiful."

  • This article is part of a series covering companies contributing towards under-served causes. The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as media partner. Go to www.companyofgood.sg for more information. Company of Good is in support of SGCares, a national movement dedicated to supporting the goodwill of Singaporeans and to guide them to better help those in need.
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