While there are plenty of cult beauty brands out there, there aren't so many known for a longstanding contribution to empowering women in developing countries. The Body Shop is one. (Quite possibly, the only one.) Beloved for its ethical approach to beauty — from sourcing ingredients to rejecting animal testing, the brand also happens to make products that are addicting. Want proof? The Body Shop's super-popular shea range is celebrating 25 years of female empowerment through its Community Trade program. If that ain't staying power, we don't know what is.
The way the shea butter range came into existence is typical of how The Body Shop do things. (See: With love, care and a passion for people.) When founder Anita Roddick visited Ghana in the '90s, she saw local women processing shea butter by hand and promptly fell in love with the ingredient. Determined to use it in The Body Shop's products, Roddick formed a community trade partnership with the Tungteiya Women's Shea Butter Association two years later, in 1994. Now, 25 years later, that same partnership is still going strong. Only now, it directly benefits 640 incredible female workers (and their families), across 11 Ghanaian villages.
The Body Shop's tagline, "there's a she in every shea" highlights the importance of how female empowerment is tied up in this trade agreement. See, in Ghana, shea is the only crop that is entirely in the possession of women. It's also the only way women have to earn money for themselves. Where men traditionally have held the majority of wealth in their communities, this collaboration has provided women with independence and options.
So, why is shea so special? In Ghana, the tree it comes from is called the "tree of life" because it's believed to be a God-given gift. For instance, a powerful storm called the Harmattan blows over West Africa every year, causing extreme dry skin and parched lips. Shea butter is so powerful it can protect against damage done by weather this brutal. Yep. Now imagine what it can do for you in the battle against air con-induced dehydration.
Happily, in 2019, The Body Shop will be sourcing even more shea butter, which promises to boost vital communal projects (think: water, education, sanitation) by an amazing 30%. It also means delicious new, ethically-sourced products on our end. *Throws confetti*
Fresh additions to the range include the thoughtfully named Shea Butter From Ghana ($25), a pure, multi-purpose product that's been whipped to create a light-but-nourishing texture that melts into skin and strands. (Fun fact: one block is made from 192 shea nuts.) There's also a Shea Butter Richly Repairing Hair Mask ($25), for hair that's prone to breakage. Perfect for anyone who's after less split ends, more shine, and zero frizz. (So, everyone then.) It's silicone-and sulphate-free too, so if you have keratin treatments you can still get amongst.
Lovely products are one thing, but in a world that's fast becoming overrun with sustainability marketing babble, it's sobering to realise that The Body Shop's Community Trade Initiative has been operating since way back in 1987. In other words, the brand has been loudly repping community trade since way before it was cool. Today it continues to work alongside "small-scale farmers, traditional artisans and rural co-ops", aka the experts in their respective fields, offering them respectful trading practices and prices for their products. The company's list of community trade ingredients (which also includes argan oil, hemp, tea tree oil and honey FYI) and hand-crafted accessories (like jute gift pouches) reportedly benefit more than 300,000 people. Yes, its body butters are great, but that's really something to feel good about.