A few weeks ago a man came into the shop and exclaimed “£11 for a deodorant?! No wonder nobody is going green”. We get this occasionally – if not always so bluntly – from people and we certainly know it’s an issue many people don’t voice. Why would you go green if you can buy something that does the job at a fraction of the price? I’m now on a mission to find something more around the £6 price but it’s a labour of love.
It’s not something we talk about much in-store – our ethos is to feel good about the changes you can make and celebrate the little wins – because that’s what we think will support sustainable change. We don’t labour the climate crisis flip-side but it’s looming large in the background, with all the associated economic imbalance, greed and exploitation that precipitates it.
So what is it about environmentally friendly products that makes them more expensive – in some cases – than things you can put in your trolley at the supermarket? It’s certainly not the sales margin we put on them! The simple answer is that if it’s cheap then someone, somewhere along the supply chain, is losing out. Whether that’s farmers at the end of the supply chain living in poverty, or pharmaceuticals exploiting animals or your long-term health by using cheap, synthetic materials to mass-produce toiletries.
I read a quote once – “every time you buy something you vote for the world you want”.
What exactly was I voting for? Going back ten years, I wouldn’t think twice about a ‘three for two’ offer on a market-leading brand roll-on. A quick Google search tells me it’s the same – I would pay £1 for my antiperspirant today. Let’s have a look at the ways – aside from price – this product was letting me down.
Firstly, ingredients. Towards the top of the ingredients list are the main controversy-courters of the synthetic deodorant world: aluminium, parabens and parfum (synthetic fragrance). These ingredients are used to block your sweat ducts, as solvents and preservatives, and of course to smell nice. Aluminium has been linked to breast cancer and parabens are known to be hormone disruptors, interfering with the way your body naturally produces oestrogen. The components of synthetic fragrances are hard to pinpoint in ingredients lists but most include phthalates – endocrine disruptors linked to cancer, human reproductive issues and respiratory problems – and benzophonen and styrene which are carcinogens. And that’s not even half of the ingredients listed.
It’s important to note that the cancer-causing links have not been proven in the evidence. It would be great to see more long-term research into the health hazards of these ingredients, but I can’t help wondering if the odds are stacked against that happening given the involvement of huge profit-making pharmaceuticals. What we know is that friends, relatives and customers undergoing treatment for cancer or infertility are advised to avoid products containing all of these ingredients. Knowing what we do and don’t know, we do at least have a choice.
What about the manufacturers, in this case Unilever? Ethical Consumer Magazine highlights “several ethical issues with Unilever, including environmental reporting, habitats & resources, palm oil, pollution and toxics, human rights, workers' rights, supply chain management, irresponsible marketing, animal rights, animal testing, factory farming, anti-social finance, controversial technologies and political activities”. The political activities included being a member of two groups that lobby for free trade at the expense of the environment, animal welfare, human rights or health protection (www.ethicalconsumer.org).
That’s the world I was voting for when buying my old deodorant. Yes, I had some extra money in my pocket and I appreciate the privilege of that position. Somehow that makes the cynicism of this even more difficult to accept: packed full of ingredients shrouded in uncertainty, produced by a corporation with a poor track record of ethical business practice driven by shareholder profit. Yes it’s cheap, but at what cost?
My current underarm treat is made by the Natural Deodorant Co. A thoroughly independent start-up they have painstakingly developed their product and brand themselves. My favourite deodorant contains arrowroot powder, coconut oil, sodium bicarbonate, shea butter, olive oil, magnesium oxide and essential oils – unlike the mass-produced product I recognise all of these without the aid of Google. My choice supports a UK-based enterprise, who care so much about using only natural harm-free ingredients that they stake their reputation and livelihood on it. It’s a vote I’m more than happy to cast. An £11 jar lasts me 2-3 months but 11 plastic-roll-ons would cost the same and last me over a year so it’s far from accessible for many struggling to make ends meet.
No wonder nobody is going green? I beg to differ, but I’m still on a mission – to find a product that works, made from wholesome ingredients by a company that cares, for closer to £6. The deodorant products we sell in store absolutely meet the first three criteria so you can be confident about trying them. Meanwhile keep checking in to see how I get on finding something that ticks all the boxes.