Indonesian Environment Comes First for Body Shop Chief Executive

By webadmin on 09:06 am Jun 06, 2012
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Zack Petersen

Ask Suzy Hutomo what it means to run a company based on a “triple bottom line” and the Body Shop Indonesia chief executive is bound to respond with the same mantra she applies to her daily life: “You can’t do business on a dead planet.”

There are seven people in Indonesia who own the keys to a Toyota Prius — Suzy is one of them. But just because Suzy owns one of the “greenest” hybrid cars on the planet doesn’t mean she does much driving. The mother of three bikes to work. Recently, Suzy made a bet with the Twitterverse: If she garnered 1,000 followers in one month, she’d pedal the three and half kilometers it took to get from her home in Bintaro Jaya to the office every day.

The Prius now sits in the garage Monday through Friday, and most weekends, too, in fact.

Concepts such as these — biking to work, observing Earth Hour while all the other stores in the mall burn bright and giving back to the community at large through a broad range of conservation and social programs — are what Suzy and the Body Shop are all about.

Sekolah Bisa!, the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), TEDx — the list goes on. If they’re doing good things, Suzy has either sat on the board of the foundation or helped fund them in some way, shape or form. The Body Shop Foundation gave out more than Rp 2 billion ($212,000) in small grants and loans to foundations last year.

The Body Shop, the popular cosmetics company that boasts 76 Indonesian outlets, has won over customers around the world with its dedication to caring for the planet and making responsible decisions when it comes to producing their products and marketing them to customers.

Not surprisingly, concepts meant to encourage conservation and consumer responsibility are sweeping across Indonesia, and the Body Shop is at least partly responsible for starting the wave.

But Suzy, who now sits on the board of Yayasan Keanekaragaman Hayati (Kehati), a biodiversity foundation, didn’t just stumble upon The Body Shop. Her connection to the company began almost 30 years ago, on a trip to England.

“I was in London and I see this shop,” Suzy recalled. “It’s all green and has a big Amnesty International poster in the window. That’s what really, you know, made me very curious. Why would a shop that sells cosmetics have a human rights poster on the window? That got me inside the shop. That was the first time I stepped into the Body Shop, because of its values.”

A few years later, Suzy was managing a building in Pasar Baru with a little extra space to rent.

“I thought, why not Body Shop? So I wrote to Body Shop. Then corporate headquarters sent us a form to fill in. I didn’t know it at the time, but Anita Roddick [the founder of Body Shop] had a lot to do with the questions in the application forms,” she said. “They asked things like, ‘If you could change the world, what would you like to change?’ Questions like that. That’s how Anita thinks. She likes questions like that. ‘What do you think about animal welfare?’ And obviously I was into that and stuff like that.

“They sent one of their directors to interview my husband Hutomo and myself in Indonesia. He came with a little safari jacket, like he jumped out of Animal Planet, with his little rucksack. He said, ‘Do you know there’s a pregnant Sumatran rhino at the Ragunan Zoo?’ So off we went to Ragunan Zoo, my daughter and I in our best outfits and him looking like he came out of Animal Planet. Looking at rhinos and tigers, we chatted about conservation and whatever; he was the director at the time. He went back and soon after we were through. That was in 1992. Body Shop allowed us to go slowly.”

Suzy, who is one of 200 Indonesians trained as a “climate presenter” under Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, is proud of the standard the Body Shop has set as a genuinely responsible, ethical company that epitomizes the triple bottom line. The Body Shop has led rallies at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle to stop human trafficking, implemented campaigns to control proper waste management and fought hard to protect Indonesia’s rapidly disappearing biodiversity.

“I think what we’re most proud of is that we are an ethical company,” Suzy says. “We don’t always get publicized in the top newspapers maybe, but I think mostly we just do things consistently and do things that we care about.

“The Body Shop has its own triple bottom line — looking good, feeling good and doing good. Looking good because cosmetics make you look better, feeling good because it’s about feeling good about yourself. We’re very strong on self-esteem; we believe everybody’s beautiful.”

The Body Shop’s most recognized in-house campaigns are their Earth Hour campaign, where on March 31, Body Shop stores across Indonesia shut off 5,100 lights for an hour, conserving a total of 208,892 watts, and their Bring Back Our Bottle program, which has run since 2008. For every 25 empty bottles of Body Shop products returned, a customer gets a bottle of hand cream.

All returned bottles are chopped up at the Body Shop warehouse and donated to the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, a relief organization.

“We gave a 10 percent discount on everything during the hour that we dimmed the lights. Because we dimmed the lights, people became curious and entered the shop. Next year we’re going to have a huge sign up there so everyone knows there is a 10 percent off sale during Earth Hour.”

But there’s also a disadvantage to doing good. Because The Body Shop is so popular, many foundations and social change organizations want to work with it, which means Suzy has had to teach herself how to say no.

“The first [requirement]: It’s got to be in the area where we want to create some change. The whole point is that the Body Shop was founded by Anita Roddick because she wanted change to happen in society. She believed that business is a stronger force than the government.”

Meanwhile, inside The Body Shop Indonesia headquarters, both Suzy and her employees are putting their preaching into practice. All the lights are LED, and the refrigerators and air conditioners are inverters, which save on costs and use 25 percent to 30 percent less electricity. There are recycling bins on every floor and reminders to protect Mother Earth scrawled artistically on the walls.

But it’s not just cooking oil or driving a Prius that sets Suzy and the Body Shop apart from the pack; it’s the moral compass that monitors the triple bottom line for Suzy, one that points her in the right direction whether she’s in the office, at her home or looking into her heart.

Roddick passed away in 2007. Good thing she has someone like Suzy to carry the torch.