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Living happily ever after?

Everyone knows L'Oreal has bought The Body Shop. But no one seems to know how this alliance will work, writes Bharati Chaturvedi.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2006 12:30 IST

Everyone knows L'Oreal has bought The Body Shop. But no one seems to know how this alliance will work. Is the alliance doomed?

L'Oreal had a predictable reply ready for the predictable question on Body Shop's greenness. They said it would continue. This is confusing. How can two brands within a company follow such diverse standards?

Take the well-known Safe Cosmetics Campaign. The campaign essentially urges cosmetic companies to phase out chemical ingredients that can cause cancer, mutation or are endocrine disruptors. Many companies have signed the pledge and are working to make it possible for women to use cosmetics that won't severely damage their health. The Body Shop is one of them. Not so L'Oreal, named specifically for its stubborn refusal to acknowledge the importance of such safety.

Another widely discussed problem is that of animal testing. The Body Shop doesn't do any and won't in the future. Animal rights groups say L'Oreal tests continues to test some ingredients on animals. So, what prevents the profits from The Body Shop from being used by L'Oreal for research that is also based upon animals or marketing animal-tested products? It could happen because these things are hard to track.

What does this bizarre merger mean in terms of environmental health? Will there be no rub-off? And if there will be any, who will rub off on whom?

There is a knotty issue here: can a company with a deeply ethical USP dissolve into just about any merger? Are balance sheets the only consideration for mergers and acquisitions when corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly important? This sell off will decide to what extent seemingly incompatible partners will shed personalities to boost their profits.

Let them eat GM

In Punjab, citizens are agitated about how Prince Charles could be getting conned in their state. According to them, their CM will host a dinner early this week comprising organic fare for the royal visitor. Despite the high pesticide burden many women here have been found to carry, this feast would have been acceptable.

But for one thing: the state promotion of Bt Cotton in Punjab. The government even claims Bt as one of its successes! If the CM wants to showcase organic, they say, he should begin by protecting the interests of organic farmers by clamping down on such GM crops. Otherwise, the dinner will be hard to digest.

(If you feel for planet Earth, write toearthwatch1@yahoo.co.in)