An Unexpected Life Story

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Issue 312
January/February 2019
Courage

Reviews

An Unexpected Life Story
by

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Cover: Anna and Elena Balbusso www.balbusso.com

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Satish Kumar reviews a biography of the founder of Lush. Dear John: The Road to Pelindaba by Jeff Osment. Lush, 2018. ISBN: 9780992708269

Mark Constantine on the CND march in London, October 1983

Mark Constantine on the CND march in London, October 1983

This is the story of Mark Constantine, the founder of Lush, a company committed to cruelty-free cosmetics. It is a remarkable biography of a man who grew up without a father, failed in school exams, did not go to university, and as a young man was homeless and penniless. All these difficulties proved to be a blessing in disguise, and made him strong.

The turning point came when Constantine met Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop. They were kindred spirits and hit it off immediately. They collaborated in their businesses and shared their passion to produce perfumes and cosmetics that embodied social and environmental values. After The Body Shop was sold and Roddick met her premature death, Constantine established his own business, Lush, in a similar spirit. It could almost be said that in many ways Lush is the heir to The Body Shop. All Lush products are 100% vegetarian and largely unpackaged. Minimum waste and maximum recycling are the principles and practices Constantine has established at Lush.

Moreover, the campaigning zeal of Lush shows that a business can also be a champion of good causes. In recent times, we have seen Lush’s campaign to highlight sexual abuse by undercover police officers. Lush produced a poster depicting a man as half police officer and half civilian spy; the caption read “PAID TO LIE #SPYCOPS”. This caused much controversy, but it showed that a business has the ability to stand up for social integrity and take direct action. Lush has run a number of other campaigns to create awareness about social, environmental and political issues.

In addition to being a perfume dealer and a social activist, Constantine is a keen birdwatcher. His books and CDs of bird life and birdsong are a heartfelt celebration of Nature. He has devoted a great deal of time, money and love to creating the Birds of Poole Harbour website, which has become a wonderful source of information and inspiration for people who are interested in the rich life of birds in one of England’s most beautiful locations.

Dear John was written in the context of Constantine’s not knowing where his father, John, was, or whether he was dead or alive. The author, Jeff Osment, a friend of Mark’s from childhood, took it upon himself to search for John. Thanks to Osment, there was an emotional reunion of father and son after 58 years of separation; John Constantine had migrated to a town called Pelindaba, in South Africa.

This is a moving story told in a sympathetic and mostly non-judgemental manner. Mark Constantine’s story shows that success can come from struggle and that through persistence and resilience you can even reconnect with your lost father.

Satish Kumar’s autobiography, No Destination, is published by Green Books.

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