We will be recycling around 1 mn plastic bottles by 2024: Antara Kundu, The Body Shop

Kundu, Deputy GM - Asia South: Marketing, Brand & Customer Acquisition, shares insights on the brand's new activist store, efforts towards sustainability, expansion plans, marketing strategy & more

by Ritika Raj
Published - June 16, 2022
6 minutes To Read
We will be recycling around 1 mn plastic bottles by 2024: Antara Kundu, The Body Shop

With sustainability becoming the need of the hour and consumers becoming more environmentally conscious, brands are recognising the importance of taking active initiatives to be sustainable and putting their money where their mouth is. Keeping up with this insight and in line with its ethos, ethical cosmetic brand The Body Shop launched its second activist store in the country in Delhi yesterday. The Activist Workshop store will help customers easily recycle their beauty product packaging. According to Antara Kundu, Deputy General Manager - South Asia: Marketing, Brand & Customer Acquisition, the brand strives for long-term, systemic change through its Return Recycle Repeat (RRR) in-store plastic recycling program. She further shares that the inspiration for this RRR initiative comes from The Body Shop’s 45-year-long position on plastic and approach towards packaging.

Through the RRR initiative, the brand is looking at inculcating a behavioural change in consumers. According to Kundu, it's a very small change that can make a big impact as it doesn't come to us naturally to bring back bottles to a store. Therefore the brand is trying to encourage customers to bring their Body Shop plastics back. She adds. “After they drop it off in the store, it is our responsibility, we pick it up, we sort and clean it, we work with local recycling partners and recycle that plastic. Our long-term vision is to become 100% plastic positive so that whatever we put in our packaging will eventually come back to the store. We are committed as an India team to recycling around 1 million plastic bottles by 2024. In an ideal world, the solution would be to lower plastic use altogether. But realistically, what we want to do is to look at plastic as a valuable material. It can be recycled, it's more carbon-neutral than a lot of other materials and so the intent to use it as a valuable resource and therefore recycling and bringing the bottles back home is very critical right now.”

Communicating to the Consumer

Activism and sustainability have been central themes of The Body Shop's messaging for its consumers. According to Kundu, the activist core of the brand helps to refine its focus as there is no ambivalence. Commenting on how this helps speak to the consumer, Says Kundu, “Fundamentally, ethically engaged consumers have always been there but now three factors which are come into play. The demographic is getting younger and younger and they are more ethically aware, environmentally and socially progressive than the generations before. That's definitely one way where there is an automatic salience. Secondly, there have been behavioural changes post the pandemic and now, consumers are putting their money where their mouth is t and it's an adjustment that a lot of brands and businesses will have to make. One key area of activism for us going in the future is also going to be about how we really ensure a more sustainable future for the coming generations because the coming generations are our consumers. It's about brand heritage coming into the future but it's also about consumers getting younger and more aware and educated. And that bodes well for brands like ours and we welcome more brands to come and join this because it’s going to take a lot more than one brand.”

With 200 retail stores already established over India and a retail to online sales ratio of 70 to 30, the brand is looking at opening up 30 new stores in 12 Tier 2 and 3 cities. Sharing about how the messaging would change in cities and towns in the interiors of the country considering the lack of awareness, Kundu believes that in this extremely digitally connected world where consumers have access to beauty, environmental and social education and social media interaction, the lines are really getting blurred. She emphasises that consumers in the smaller towns are very aspirational and it was only a matter of not having enough access that D2C and e-commerce have broken down. She adds “From a brand messaging point of view, therefore, it is not that much of a difference that we need to make. It's a matter of really hammering the education and the messaging in constantly and investing in the right channels.”

Marketing Route To Sustainability

With a 60% marketing spend on digital channels, The Body Shop has always been digital heavy when it comes to choosing the right medium for their communications. Sharing insights behind the strategy and how it works for the brand, Kundu reveals the brand has been social media and digital-driven because the target consumer has always been the young and ethically engaged consumer. However, the critical focus for the brand has always been the right kind of storytelling. She adds “We keep doing TVCs & OOH as and when the marketing strategy requires. The big focus for us is going to remain on digital especially as our D2C channels scale up. Secondly, with digital, the opportunities for storytelling are much higher, with some more immersive, more engaging formats. For us digital is not just content marketing or social media itself, it's also seeing how can we create digital experiences for our consumers.”

As a fairly well-established brand in the mature Indian marketplace, The Body Shop typically tends to spend about 10 to 12% of the total turnover. Out of this spending, digital investments currently take up a 60% share which is 6-7% more than pre-pandemic digital investments. Further commenting on the evolving marketing strategy and scaling up investments for The Body Shop, Kundu shares “We've always invested in the market fairly aggressively. The Body Shop globally does not do television advertising but India is the only market in the world where we do it. There are many other activities that we invest in for the Indian market which may not fit the global agenda. We invest a lot more in OOH, events, experiences and brand ambassadors, and that's something that we will continue to do. The larger part of investments are likely to stay digital but then it's something that we will take a call on according to what the business needs. As the business is growing, the investment is going to scale up and it will be in proportion to the growth.”