Last week, Lush Cosmetics announced that the brand would deactivate its Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat accounts in response to growing concerns about the mental health effects of social media. The company took the accounts offline the day after Thanksgiving, and Lush’s chief digital officer Jack Constantine says it has no plans to return them anytime soon, even if it means losing millions of dollars.
“In the last two years, we’ve really struggled to be able to see what social media promised us in the beginning,” Constantine told Fortune. “I think there needs to be a big shift in transparency around the algorithms and the data that is being managed by these companies.”
The cosmetics company is no stranger to digital detoxes. It previously attempted to quit its social media channels back in 2019, but found that it needed a way to stay connected to consumers during the global pandemic. But this time feels different, Constantine says, especially given the revelations around social media and mental health brought to light by Facebook (now known as Meta) whistleblower Frances Haugen.
“The Facebook Files gave us a kind of forcing point,” he said, referencing the Wall Street Journal series published last month. “We were able to be much more unified with our decision-making and say, ‘no, we can’t condone that. We need to be able to make a stand.’”
The Journal’s investigation into then-Facebook revealed the company knew that its platforms, including Instagram, made body image and mental health issues worse for its young users, especially teenage girls, and did nothing to address the issue. For Lush, whose demographic largely includes young women, and sells products like bath bombs to promote self-care, the news was a sign that the brand couldn’t justify staying on those platforms.
It’s a big possibility that the company will face revenue losses from taking its accounts offline. But Lush CEO Mark Constantine told The Guardian that he’s “happy to lose £10m” ($13 million USD) if it means that it’ll bring attention to social media’s devastating mental health effects.
“We’re talking about suicide here, not spots or whether someone should dye their hair blonde,” he bluntly told the publication in November. “How could we possibly suggest we’re a caring business if we look at that and don’t care?”
“It’s about creating safe spaces. You leave feeling better than when you entered and that sentiment is really important to us,” Constantine said. “It’s almost the flip reverse—mindless scrolling, hypertension, anxiety—coming out of social media.”
Lush will still keep its LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube accounts online. Although losing some of its social media presence will mean a loss in revenue and a shift in digital strategy, Constantine says he and his team are excited to work hard at a company where “every staff member brings their moral compass.” He knows that other businesses may not follow suit, but he believes Lush is standing by its values.
“This is something we feel confident in,” he said. “This is something we do need to stand by and put a flag in the sand. This is where we’re signing in.”
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