From between the Deviant’s sofa cushions!
Eco-friendlier-than-thou multinational cosmetics corporation’s North America boss had ties with tar sands oil extraction and strip-mining industries.
Soap tycoon Mark ‘Castevet’ Constantine of LUSH Cosmetics talks to the Deviant on the phone – shocking revelations further down
Highlights are: attempts to discredit the reporter, a complete denial that Lush took dirty oil money although it did, an admission of his own hypocrisy, a candid admission that his top CEO isn’t ‘a big environmentalist’, a dig at the reporter personally and then an attempted bribery in the form of a veiled job offer to the reporter, swiftly withdrawn after refusal.
WOT A BELTER!!! [More copy editing and sub-editing, formatting etc on the context story soon]
Now read on –
The Lush Cosmetics President of North American operations, Mark Wolverton, might have a harder time than most his employees practicing what the sanctimonious high street soap mongers preaches out loud.
Especially at family reunions, since prior to taking the reins of Lush and becoming the #2 man in the firm, he worked with his father and brother for Wolverton Securities, the ongoing family business. Mark Wolverton Wolverton Securities CEO Brent Wolverton.
Wolverton Securities is a century-old Canadian corporation straight out of the Wild West gold rush, offering research consulting in mining and oil and gas explorations all over the world including Canada’s tar sands – which incidentally have been denounced by Lush as “largest and most destructive project on Planet Earth – unacceptable.” “Destruction is visible from outer space”, roared a video the global cosmetics brand posted online and has since taken down.
But Mark is seemingly unable to deliver that message at home. “Wolverton is a primary player in that market for this simple reason: If you look at mining operations in Siberia, South Africa or the jungles of South America, Canadians are running and financing the operations,” boasts the Wolverton Securities official website.
The Lush campaign goes on: “Major oil companies, banks and investors are pouring billions of dollars into the development of the Canadian tar sands and the government has created tax breaks and incentives for them to do so.” It even asked “who is behind this?’. Who indeed?
Stonecap Securities is the Wolvertons’ partner in equity research and investment in the businesses of oil sands extraction and strip-mining for precious metals. The latter involves razing mountains off the face of the Earth and washing up the pulverised debris with cyanide – a lethal poison with a curious habit of popping up in the water supply around these exploitations. Gabriel Resources, a Toronto Stock Exchange-listed company for which Stonecap Securities acts as intermediary to investors, is the owner of Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, which has just had a strip-mining operation in the Apuseni Mountains of Romania blocked and canceled after widespread protest managed to hold it back by scaring politicians into withdrawing the mining licenses they had spuriously granted the generous firm. Now, RMGC is under indictment in Romania for money laundering and corruption and its accounts are frozen – an embarrassing flop for the global mining tycoons who are behind it, two of them being Frank Timis and Beny Steinmetz – well known figures of the extraction industry, who have been involved in numerous corruption scandals during their careers.
Stonecap also trades with is Carpathian Gold, which already secured three major contracts to dig gold and silver out of Rovina Valley, Romania, to potentially disastrous environmental consequences.
If in doubt about these potential consequences, one only needs to look back to the year 2000 when a similar mining endeavour led to a valleyful of toxic water spilling on idyllic Maramures county, also in mineral-rich Romania. According to reports, that was Europe’s biggest environmental catastrophe since Chernobyl. Its Australian operator, Esmerelda Exploration, blamed everything on heavy snowfall during winter and got away with it.
Be this as it may, the Wolverton dynasty have placed themselves in an ideal position. They may not realise this yet but their setup is the future of PR in the modern digital world. When everyone has an opinion and cheap access to a means to express it, it’s a good idea to hedge your bets. Mark catches the activists, the press and the prosumers with his company’s do-gooder, high-horse stunts, making millions for with Lush in the process and his brother takes care of the old business. Their employees sure go for the message hook, line and sinker. They’d be fired otherwise. Angelica [not her real name], a longtime employee of Lush, had this to say about the corporation: “There’s a culty, incestuous and weird cabal going on in the Poole, Dorset head office. And they pressure all their shopkeepers to attend weird activism sessions.”
That Lush is a cultist company is no secret, that is after all quite a typical feature of organisations dealing in redemption. For those who feel too guilty living a sheltered life while all those atrocities are taking place on television, Lush doesn’t sell just soap. It washes away your sins. With organised religion in terminal decline, where else are tormented souls to go in search of overpriced atonement but the shop which sells ethical soap and aggressively campaigns for all that is right in this world? A Lourdes, via Poole, allons-y!
Divided into three companies under the private control of Mark Constantine, Lush cosmetics is made up of Lush Retail Limited, Lush Manufacturing Limited Wolverton Securities cash was arguably good enough for Lush UK, now a global enterprise with £330m turnover of which £37m is profit.
On the Lush media website, Mr Wolverton is described as: “Recognizing the importance of brand ethics, Mark has been integral to developing green strategies for the North American business; a champion of ethical campaigns and issues; a supporter of charitable giving initiatives and personally involved in employee engagement.” Yet, as the interview with his partner below shows, he’s “no big environmentalist”.
The Deviant couldn’t get through to Wolverton himself because of the PR hacks, but being used to fawning media coverage, Constantine figured he’d set me right.
Phone call came in circa 4 pm on a Tuesday, September 6 2013, whilst your correspondent was working on unrelated writing matters in his home study in the East End of London. The following conversation is a result of about two scores of back/forth emails with Lush PR agents over about six weeks. A few hours before the call, a PR woman set the time via an email for the second time, after Mr Constantine failed to keep a similar appointment a week before. Editors at Private Eye magazine were also called by Lush PR to check my background and credentials, because the press request related to an article I was researching with a fellow journo – with a view to get it published in there.
The story ended up in my drawer eventually and here’s the unabridged, uncensored and un-fucking-believable transcript of the talk I had with the founder:
– M.C.: Hello, it’s Mark Constantine, you were trying to get some information
– The Deviant: Oh, hello, sir, yeah.
– Hello, how are you?
– Fine, at home. How are you?
– Very good. You wanted to know about Mark Wolverton, yes? The reason we were so long with it is that lots of the oil companies like to take swipes at Mark. So we sort of assume that you’re not part of an oil company.
– No. I’m a freelance journalist, sir, I found all the information on the internet.
– I know, I’ve seen it. So you know we do a big push in Canada against the Tar Sands.
– Yes, I’m aware of all the campaigns.
– Yes, and there was an awful lot said about Mark, that he’s getting all this money from the oil industry, he’s two-faced… so I’m Mark’s partner, I’m the boss of Lush. Your angle is – given the environmental and ethical stance of Lush, are we comfortable working with him. Yeah?
– Yeah. Exactly.
– So the situation is: when I first met Mark was about 19 years ago. His father had the Wolverton Securities [company], he worked as a sort of junior in there. He then left that and did other things. He is fiercely proud of what he’s done with Lush with his own money. So you’ve asked a question that’s most sensitive to him, because he obviously doesn’t want to be seen just as the rich kid who didn’t have any problems making his way into…
– Yeah. I understand.
– He’s built Lush himself with his money and he has not taken money from Wolverton Securities. His older brother runs Wolverton Securities. So when the dad dies, he owned property in Vancouver, so all of [them] Mark and his family owned property.
– So that’s really where he does have the money [from].
– So the answer to the question I asked is that the money doesn’t come from Wolverton Securities – the money that Mark Wolverton used to buy into Lush.
– He started Lush Canada with just one shop, so he didn’t have to put in lots of money, you see what I mean? It wasn’t like that. He’s built that business back through the whole of North America over 18 years, the cashflow and the business itself.
– I see.
– He didn’t come in with millions of pounds and then opened loads and loads of shops.
– So whatever money he had at the beginning…
– But we’re talking about a few quid. It’s not …
– What I found a bit peculiar was the fact that that Lush is so strong against tar sands whilst Wolverton Securities, which is, um, whichever way you look at it, the family’s business is involved in…
– Let me explain again. No it’s not involved.
– Not Mr Wolverton, but Wolverton Securities has partners that do tar sands.
– So Wolverton Securities was his dad’s. He then went to work for his dad for a period of time then he left. And now Wolverton Securities is ran by his older brother.
– Older brother. Exactly.
– The truth is – and don’t quote me on this because I’m not sure – but I don’t get the impression that it’s a huge business, but it certainly has enough money to keep his brother comfortable.
– Sir, er, I understand. We’re not looking into that. And that’s, as I said, the main idea of the article – that Wolverton Securities, directly and through partner companies is involved in Tar Sands and they are involved as well in another…
– No. Actually, we did ask that question as well of Mark. I don’t think you’ll find Wolverton Securities involved in tar Sands, I think you’ll find…
– They’ve got Stonecap Securities as ‘partners’ listed on their website.
– If you look deep enough I think you’ll find that Wolverton Securities has been linked by the oil industry to try to rubbish Lush and to diminish Lush’s ability…
– No, sir, I’m getting my information not from second hand sources but from the official website of Wolverton Securities and from official statements, from official financial documents that I’ve downloaded and are freely available on the internet.
– From those official documents what did you find about Mark Wolverton’s involvement with Wolverton Securities?
– Nothing of his personal involvement, but I’ve found out about the facts I’ve…
– What does your brother do?
– I haven’t got a brother, sir.
– A sister?
– You have got a sister haven’t you? I think you have a sister ‘cos you hesitated. (Laughs hysterically)
– This isn’t personal, sir. (goes on laughing) Let’s be serious for a minute, yeah?
– Listen, let me just say to you – I’ve worked with Mark for the last 20 years, from my perspective, I wouldn’t call him the greatest environmentalist in the world, right?
– I see, yeah.
– He didn’t sign on for a big environmental pitch, I’m keen on the environment.
– Yes, and Lush is keen on the environment. It’s a very big business and a lot of its marketing is campaigning on the fact that it stands very strongly on environmental issues. Is that correct?
– No. It’s not correct. Basically, the principles of many people involved in Lush are environmental. When Mark Wolverton came into the business, he said quite clearly, ‘I’m not signing up for all this environmental stuff, I’m not that strongly environmental. However, he has run an excellent business. And you are speaking to the overall boss of all of Lush, and if you think it’s a huge business, that’s who you’re speaking to.
– Thank you for the call. [pause]
– Are you going now? [laughs]
– No, no, I’m not going, I’m just underlining that I appreciate you taking the time to call me.
– That’s ok. I just want you to see the reality on the human scale. I understand what you’re doing and I understand Private Eye and I’ve read it and I enjoy it. You know, so whatever you write is up to you, but the reality of the situation is that he’s very proud of what he’s created with Lush and he does not see it as a result of something from Wolverton Securities, he does believe he’s free to speak his mind about what he sees, irrespective of his connection with his brother, his dad or in fact his grandad. But he is aware of the oil companies who constantly try to come in and undermine the whole campaign.
– I assure you sir, 100 percent that I’m a freelance journalist and I’m not in any way linked…
– I’m aware that you’re not… you’re doing your reporting. And your only problem is whether you wish to support them or support those who are trying to get something cleaned up. And by attacking Mark Wolverton whatever way you do it and however you do it, you will be supporting those who wish to undermine the campaign. And that’s why I wanted to speak to you, to make sure you’re clearly aware that in writing whatever you write or supporting the guy who wants to write it – we’ve been through to Private Eye and found that you’re working actually for another guy, and you’ve also explained that, this is what you’re doing.
– This story is not about attacking anybody, sir. It’s about exposing the hypocrisy of Lush cosmetics in some ways, because on the one hand there are the environmental campaigns and on the other there’s Wolverton Securities which is connected to Lush CEO of North America.
– In which ways is it connected? His brother runs it, his father owned it…
– And he used to work for Wolverton Securities himself.
– And who have you worked for before? Can I go back and see that?
– Sir, this isn’t personal.
– It is, because if you’re going to say that he worked for Wolverton Securities, that his dad had set up, he’s therefore unsuitable to make comment on environmental issues…
– I’m not saying that. I’m saying whether you’re comfortable working with him through Lush Canada given that he’s coming from a background such as Wolverton Securities. Are you?
– Absolutely. And I’m very comfortable with you calling me a hypocrite as well, I get called it every bloody week. You know, people can’t wait to do it.
– No, I wasn’t calling you anything. I’m saying that Lush…
– First and foremost I believe in the freedom of the press, I believe you should write what you wanna write…
– Thank you.
– You should be provided with information and you should understand when you’re writing it who you represent and what that achieves.
– I’m just looking to tell the truth in that story.
– That’s what it achieves – so in calling him a hypocrite, which I’m sure he is, we’re all hypocrites, you know, I run a vegetarian company and I eat fish. They all tease me I’m a fish and chipocryte. Everyone’s the same, it’s all the same. So whatever idea you have you will not be able to stick to them all the time every minute of the day. So, everyone’s in that same boat.
– I understand. But given the fact that you’re running a company turning over hundreds of millions of pounds all over the world and that company is strongly, fiercely I could say, campaigning on environmental issues – do you think that Lush campaigning has any connection to Lush sales?
– No, well, if you were to look at it extensively, you should see that it should by rights damage sales.
– Not damage sales, I reckon it could help sales.
– Let me put it this way. We’re very anti-hunting and up in Thornton they are very pro-hunting, so most of the campaigns we do it could be argued are not things that would increase sales. Yeah?
– Well, I’m taking the view that environmental campaigning done by Lush with the hunting and the tar Sands and so forth is actually a marketing strategy because it’s done by a company that’s making profits.
– You can’t bring that out. I’ll tell you what. Have you seen the piece in the Sunday Mail that says that ‘this product funds terrorists’? Did you see that piece when you looked through on Lush?
– Well, have a look at that one. We get loads of articles come out knocking the living daylights out of our position. In the end, our position’s our position, just like yours.
– Of course.
– We express ourselves in that way and nothing that comes out is gonna change that. If you choose to do something incredibly negative we would lose sales by that.
– I’m not looking to be negative or positive. The article is exploring the connection between Mr Wolverton, who’s running Lush at the minute…
– Let me explain to you exactly as I see the connection. Yeah? So you’ve got it straight from me as I see the connection with my business partner in Canada. I’ve also explained to you the heavy knocking going on from a huge industry. If you think Lush is big, even one oil company would wipe the floor with us, thousands of times over. So that’s who you’re supporting when you attack us. And that’s what you’re going to do whether you mean to do it or not. So that – and I’d be very grateful if that’d be in there – that the oil companies are very very keen to, wherever they can, diss and destroy.
– I understand. And I hope you do realise that I’m independent and so is my commissioning editor. [i.e. the journalist who helped get the interview before the Eye dropped the story]
– Well you’re not independent if you’re going to support Tar Sands and attack Mark Wolverton. You’re actually working for the oil companies whether you realise it or not.
– So you’re saying that if I have an issue with Lush – not even that – If I’m questioning the methods through which Lush does marketing…
– I’m not saying that. You’re very welcome to question whatever you like, but if you produce a piece that says that becaue Mark Wolverton’s brother and father worked for a brokerage that have been involved in oil companies…
– And still are… er… look. Wolverton Securities works with the company behind Rosia Montana called Gabriel Resources which is all over the news at the minute. An exploitation in Romania, an open-cast mine, a strip mine that they’re trying to build.
– Is that where you’re from?
– Yeah. It’s going to be the largest cyanide …
– That’s a different issue altogether.
– Rosia Montana is about to become the largest open cast mining operation in Europe…
– Yes, I’ve read about it.
– You have. Well, among many others, one of the companies that works with Gabriel Resources and Rosia Montana is Wolverton Securities.
– Well, that’s another thing altogether.
– Really, it’s not. It’s just an instance of the business that Wolverton Securities do.
– It’s real what you’re talking about.
– It’s absolutely real, sir, yeah. As are the Tar Sands in Canada, against which Lush is directly opposed to and heavily campaigning.
– It’s something very different there. You’re talking about something very real, about something that I was unaware of. So thanks. [is this implying that the Tar Sands are somehow not ‘real’?]
– Yes, well, I’m glad I’ve informed you about that.
– Look, Mark Wolverton is not at the moment involved in Wolverton Securities, but I am very interested in the mine and the other connection. I think that – I’ve read all about that awful mine –and, er, that’s what you’re writing about isn’t it?
– Well, er, Rosia will be mentioned as will the Tar Sands.
– I don’t mind what you’re saying in the article. I’m not questioning that. I phoned you up thinking, here we go again, another bastard from the oil companies, who just wants to knock me out…
– No, sir, i assure you…
– I’ve got it, now, I understand. You’ve got something in your country which is appalling which you want to write something about.
– Yeah, well I am lucky enough to be a journalist in Britain.
– Yeah, well, you’re very welcome. I get it. What I’m saying is, if there’s something we could do to help, if you’d like to get involved with us, to put pressure on…
– I’m not an activist sir. I’m a journalist and a writer, not an activist.
– Yeah, but we’re activists.
– Well, Google Rosia Montana and get informed and it’s up to you what you do. My story here is the connection that has [to do] with Wolverton.
– There is no connection with Mark Wolverton and Wolverton Securities.
– Presently I know there isn’t.
– The point you’re making with this dreadful mine, and it’s appalling, in your own country, I think it really is.
– It’s got the potential to turn into an environmental disaster – maybe the most contentious environmental issues in the world now.
– Dreadful, I agree. So Mark Wolverton is not connected to Wolverton now. He’s making plenty of money with us, he’s not planning to go back to Wolverton Securities – it’s relatively small business.
– I understand. And the article isn’t a personal attack against Mr Wolverton but an exploration of the money that goes around industries. And the public and the readers should be informed about the circuit of money that goes from place to place in business.
– You write whatever you like about that, but there’s not much substance in it. You’re welcome and there’ll be no problems from us. You’re welcome and I agree with you about this open mining…
– And Wolverton Securities now do business with and they stand to profit from Rosia Montana… as they do from the Tar Sands…
– It’s a tenuous link you’ve got there. You’ve found one person that used to work for Wolverton Securities, therefore everything about Lush is corrupt – and it’s not.
– I’m not accusing anybody of any corruption at all.
– You are and I’m just pointing out that it’s a very tenuous link. It’d be much more fun to do something dramatic and dynamic about the situation in there that we can support than to attack us.
– That’s your business sir. I’m not attacking anybody, I understand and it’s your business.
– Let me put it this way. Would you like to deal with this company that’s mining in your own country? Would you like to do something to stop them from doing that?
– Not at all, no. I will, I am interested, but I can do it on my own, thank you.
– I’m not saying join me to do something, I’m just asking to try to get you to push your efforts…
– I’m fine with my own work, thank you. And thanks for the call.
– A real pleasure.
– My pleasure as well. Cheers. Bye.
I’ve just realised that most readers have a kind of perverse innocence about them when dealing with big-money public figures, and they fail to employ any critical analysis or skepticism in their judgements. I’ve been an adman for about two years and am proud to say I got fired, so I know how the dark arts of corporate PR and media training operate. To that end, an exchange I’ve had earlier on Reddit with someone might prove revealing and might answer some legit questions other people (or civilians, in PR parlance) might have about this story and its relevance. Here it is, with thanks to Ezterhazy, a prolific user of Reddit:
-made some errors there. At point two it’s started, not stared. And should’ve said Gaia herself at point four; and I apologise for calling you dumb.
Onwards – now tweet and show me the money. And if anyone with copy editing skills and subbing skills wishes to join the Deviant, please contact.
Note: this post originally appeared on my old website – the now defunct www.deviantreporter.co.uk, during a much more innocent and optimistic time of my life