Lush Cosmetics is in Congo. Well the store isn’t really in Congo, they are now buying their cocoa products from farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It all started with Baraka Kasali, who studied and lived in the United States before returning to his homeland in the Congo. Violence, instability, and limited employment, education, and healthcare greeted him.
Kasali saw great potential in the agricultural sector, specifically growing cocoa, as a low-risk way of generating income. What does low-risk mean? Because of instability throughout the country, those who grow and/or harvest natural resources become targets by armed groups because of the quick access to resources with little effort required on the armed groups’ part. Except for cocoa. Cocoa doesn’t become valuable until it’s fermented and dried which takes something that armed groups lack; time and knowledge. This makes Cocoa crops basically conflict-free, which then translates to a sustainable source of income for farmers in Congo.
The cocoa farmers’ next step was to create and build business relationships which weren’t easy in a country with little infrastructure and continued security issues.
The solution? Kasali partnered with Eastern Congo Initiative: an organization that creates public and private partnerships in order to provide new stable economic and social development in eastern Congo. Kasali joined their team as a program officer (you can watch a video of what work he has done here) and works with the Farm Trust program to breathe new life into the cocoa (and coffee) industry. They help help farmers produce higher quality cocoa and provide a larger network of international buyers.
One of these buyers happens to be Greg Pinch from Lush Cosmetics. Pinch believes purchasing cocoa from Congo is a great opportunity to get a high quality product while helping farming communities thrive. If you have to buy the materials anyway, why not have a positive impact, right?
In 2016 Pinch visited Congo to meet hundreds of farmers. He saw for himself how Congo farmers use the profits they earned go to building schools for their children and building infrastructure for storing and sorting their cocoa beans, therefore directly improving their communities. Pinch says the company’s demand for cocoa is steadily increasing and is happy to see the growth knowing the benefits Congo will reap.
Lush was the first cosmetic company to partner with eastern Congo’s cocoa producers and Kasali hopes that Lush sets an example that other companies will soon follow for future business practices.
So next time you are in need of some soaps and things check out Lush. I am with Pinch on this one, if you are going to buy it anyway, why not consume well? Let’s think before we buy.
You can read the full Lush story here: http://www.lushusa.com/Stories-Article?cid=article_cocoa-in-congo