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Lush apologises after donating thousands to anti-trans groups

The company issued a statement after anti-trans pressure group Woman’s Place UK revealed it had received funding from Lush’s Charity Pot scheme

The UK branch of Lush Cosmetics has issued an apology after it came to light that the company had donated thousands to anti-trans groups. 

Over the weekend, anti-trans pressure group Woman’s Place UK published a financial statement on its website which revealed it had received £3,000 from the cosmetics brand for “events organisation.”

The money came from Lush’s “Charity Pot” which distributes grants to grassroots groups working in the areas of animal protection, the environment, and human rights. Significantly, company guidelines state that it will not fund groups who “harbour racism or prejudice”, “deny the human rights of others” or “judge others on anything other than their actions.”

Speakers at Woman’s Place UK meetings in the past, PinkNews reports, have referred to transgender people as “horrible, hateful misogynistic bastards” and demanded trans women’s exclusion from all women’s spaces, including refuges, toilets, locker rooms, prisons and hospital wards.

The group organised in 2018 in response to proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act under the belief that “women’s hard won rights must be defended.” Four of its “five demands” focus on transgender issues – asserting that “the principle of women-only spaces” should be “upheld and where necessary extended.”

Many customers found the news that Lush financially supported an anti-trans group unacceptable and took to social media to voice their anger. “No Christmas presents from Lush. No shopping ever again from Lush,” wrote one Twitter user, while another tweeted, “No more lush in your lives. strike @lushltd from all your shopping lists. bigotry must have consequences.”

“Disgusting to see Lush funding transphobia while masquerading as allies to the LGBTQ+ community each pride. Lush employees, if you havent already, join a union and stand with your trans and non binary siblings against hate,” wrote the chair of Young Labour, Jessica Barnard.

Others brought up the news from June that Lush CEO and co-founder Mark Constantine was gifting products to police officers in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests. “Their ceo also gave gifts to the police during the height of the blm protests earlier this year. don’t buy from lush. if you’re looking to buy ethical bath products this holiday season I’d recommend checking etsy!“ one tweet that has been liked over 2K times reads.

Following the backlash, Lush issued a statement on Sunday explaining its donation to Woman’s Place UK and a second organisation FiLia. 

“Our goal has constantly been to not cut funding to our treasured LGBTQ+ friends worldwide nor to cease giving much needed funds to women’s struggles, but to remain outside of a debate where we have no authentic voice,” part of the statement reads, explaining that the company had decided on a policy of not funding campaigning work surrounding the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act but that one of the donations predated Lush’s awareness of how “toxic discussion around this issue (GRA) had become.”

“To make our stance clear, we do not believe that Trans rights are a threat to women’s rights,” the statement concluded. “Those who are on the margins should not have to fight other marginalised groups to get the protections they deserve and have a right to.”

Many people, however, felt the statement didn’t go far enough, particularly from a company which has always positioned itself has inclusive to all. In 2015, Lush ran a #GayIsOk campaign with LGBTQ+ organisation All Out, while earlier this year a branch in Edinburgh put up signs against “racism, homophobia, sexism or transphobia.” Lush has also run campaigns supporting open borders and against climate change.

“Read it and it’s a load of waffle. No accountability and no learning. Never buying from you again,” wrote an Instagram user in response to Lush's statement. “The statement really needs to mention that this won't happen again and that rigerous research processes are going to be put in place in future. without anything like that it just sounds really damn hollow,” said someone else while others noted the lack of apology offered to trans people.

Lush then issued a second statement on Monday, this time with an explicit apology. 

“To trans people and allies, we wish to say sorry for some past mistakes in our choices of donation recipients,” it reads. “For those of you that have...been left wondering whether Lush has deliberately funded campaigning against trans rights, we want to assure you that this would never be our intention and we are sincerely sorry that any of our funding has gone towards doing this.”

Lush ends by affirming its intention to offer support and financial help to trans groups.

“Over the last 5 years Charity Pot has given grants to 514 LGBTQ+ groups totalling £1.6 million. Our intention is to continue to fund the many wonderful trans groups that come to us needing help to stay safe and to fight for acceptance and we hope that this has not put you off applying. We never wish to let you down or to not be right there by your side during your struggles.”

Read the full statements here.