UK cosmetics company Lush has announced its decision to leave Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, saying its decision reflects concerns about the alleged effects of these social networks on the mental health of their users. The brand will maintain its presence on Twitter and YouTube.
Lush has more than 900 stores worldwide, and some 10.6 million followers between Facebook and Instagram; estimates suggest abandoning them could mean the potential loss of more than 13 million in sales, but its co-founder and CEO, Mark Constantine, insists that following revelations about the psychological impact these social networks have on girls and young women, who represent a significant percentage of its users, the company “will be happy to lose” that money, adding:
“when it gets to a point where our customers’ welfare is at risk because of the channels in which we are trying to connect with them, there is something wrong with us.”
The 69-year-old Constantine’s view is that continuing to participate on those social networks is, in a way, to be complicit in their actions. The revelations in the Facebook files indicate that the company not only knew about the alleged impact it has on the mental health of its younger users, but has also made a conscious decision to ignore the dangers.
Some critics have argued that the decision could also be influenced by social media campaigns accusing Lush of donating money to feminist groups who question some aspects of trans-gender activism, or complaints about the treatment of some of its employees in Australia, but the company has announced that it will try to find other, more appropriate channels of communication. In practice, the use of social networks for whistleblowing is not even related to whether or not the target company uses them: a whistleblowing campaign can very well be launched against companies that are not present on social networks, and therefore have a significant impact.
In 2019, Lush announced its departure from social networks in the UK, arguing they were no longer a suitable channel for dialogue with its customers, although it later returned to them. Leaving social networks is not an easy decision for any company, especially for the purposes of connecting with its customer base and formulating advertising campaigns, and basing the decision on their negative impact, almost in terms of corporate social responsibility, is possibly one of the most compelling reasons to do so.
Irresponsible companies like Facebook don’t just thrive because of how many people use them, but largely because of the unconditional support of the companies that use them to communicate with their clients and for their advertising campaigns, in which they manage to segment their target audience with far greater accuracy than by traditional media. If some companies start abandoning social networks on ethical grounds and as part of their corporate social responsibility, it could become a real headache for their managers. Could Lush now be part of a growing trend?