By Erika Edwards, Grant Maker, Charitable Giving, North America of LUSH FRESH HANDMADE COSMETICS and Ashley Hernandez, Program Associate of International Funders for Indigenous Peoples
Lush Handmade Cosmetics is a cosmetics retailer most commonly known for their ethically and sustainably sourced products. Since the launch of Lush’s Charity Pot program in 2007, the business’s charitable giving is quickly becoming a trailblazer in Indigenous philanthropy. Their corporate funding model’s objective is to address the root cause of social issues in order to affect wider social change with their Indigenous and non-Indigenous grantee partners. This aim is supported by their flexible giving model and their continued commitment to cultivating relationships at the center of their donor and grantee partnerships.
Flexible Funding Model
Lush’s flexible giving model derives from their business. The funds come from Lush’s Charity Pot Hand & Body Lotion, where they give 100% of its sales (minus the taxes) to small grassroots organizations working in the areas of human rights, environmental justice & animal rights. What is also notable about their corporate donor model is the flexibility that allows Lush to fund groups and causes that challenge power, lobby government & take part in non-violent direct action to enable real change. This is partially because it is a privately-owned business, and where more traditional foundations may shy away from funding overtly political groups and projects, Lush is taking the lead. The business can fund organizations that do not have 501c4 status, which allows them to focus on small groups tied to larger grassroots movements, including Indigenous movements. For example, the organization increasingly recognizes the threats faced by Indigenous Peoples protecting their land and territory. As a result, Lush provides grants towards land sovereignty projects as well as campaigns to protect territories from extractive industries. Some of this includes direct action training to fight dams as well as partnering with the First Nations Peoples to campaign against the Tar sands in Alberta, Canada.
Lush’s intention is to go beyond monetary giving and ensure their funding practices is predicated on relationships and listening. This is especially important in designing grants that fit the grassroots Indigenous organizations that Lush supports. Lush values relationships and open communication with grantees so to fully understand their needs whether that is with changing policy & legislation or strengthening grassroots movements. Together, Lush and the organization discuss the project and breakdown the budget to dig deeper into what Lush is capable of potentially funding through their giving guidelines. It can also be a way for groups to evaluate their asks & needs. Lush insists they never want to tell Indigenous communities what they need or how to go about it, but rather develop trust and understanding, then see what is possible together.
This kind of communication and listening is also based in partner and donor relationships that are reciprocal. Lush, for example, has used their unique online & retail platform to raise awareness and drive public action on some of the same issues that are important to their grantees, such as the threat of fossil fuel extraction and their impact on Native communities. Lush looks to the groups they fund for knowledge and guidance, too. As a business, Lush, acknowledges their own role in reconciliation, and the steps needed towards repairing relationships between Indigenous & non-indigenous peoples because of colonization. Having open values-based dialogue & sharing with many of their grant recipients has been integral in helping guide their approach to funding. One instance, is where some Lush staff recently participated in Theatre for the Living’s “šxʷʔam̓ət (Home): What Does Reconciliation Mean to You?”. This is a project that Lush funded where actors perform an interactive play and the audience has the opportunity to take part in scenes. These scenes incorporate Indigenous experiences, bring about conflict-resolution, community healing and empowerment by participating in what other outcomes are possible such as residential schools, fighting racism and pipeline developments. The impact being that Lush staff leave asking themselves what kind of change and healing needs to happen so settlers can respectfully partner with Native peoples and communities.
Theatre for the Living’s interactive production called šxʷʔam̓ət (home), is performed by an indigenous and non-indigenous cast and the sold out plays ask us to imagine what reconciliation really means.
Lush Handmade Cosmetics illustrates how a corporate funder can contribute to social change beyond a monetary value. Their giving model provides flexibility as well as their commitment to relationships and reciprocity facilitates, as what they see, as a true donor and grantee partnership with Indigenous communities.
Please see here to learn more about Lush Charity Pot.