The Body Shop pushes for weekend elections

The Body Shop Canada has launched an effort to get the next federal election moved to the weekend to increase turnout among younger Canadians.

The effort is part of the company’s broader “Be Seen. Be Heard” initiative, a joint campaign launched with the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth last May, which has a stated aim of increasing young people’s participation in public life in more than 75 countries.

“Since Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop in 1976, we have campaigned on issues of social and environmental justice, because we believe that global businesses have a responsibility towards the communities in which they operate,” said David Boynton, CEO of The Body Shop, at the time.

“The world’s problems cannot be solved by the same people making the same choices. Our research indicates young people are the most positive about the future, and we need to hear their views and ideas inside the halls of power. ”

The new Canadian-specific initiative is with Apathy is Boring, a Canadian non-profit formed in 2004 when its founding members were troubled by how few of their friends were voting. While voting is one of the organization’s foundational planks, it also works to help youth “find their lane” for engagement, with a stated goal is to support and educate youth to become “active and contributing” citizens in Canada’s democracy.

Voter turnout has consistently been lowest among people 18-25—66% of eligible voters in that age group turned out to vote in 2021—with The Body Shop citing a long list of reasons including apathy, political reasons and procedural issues. However, when asked their reasons for not voting in the 2021 federal election, just over 42% of non-voters aged 18-24 cited “everyday life reasons” as a key reason, with 24.9% of respondents indicating that they were too busy.

According to The Body Shop, 60% of Canadian youth have indicated they would be more likely to vote if Election Day were held on the weekend.

“Voting is one of the most effective ways to make change happen,” said Hilary Lloyd, vice president of marketing and corporate responsibility for The Body Shop North America. “That is why The Body Shop is improving access to voting by campaigning to move federal election day to the weekend—ultimately allowing more young people to get involved in the democratic institutions that have such a large influence on their lives.”

While Sunday is the most popular voting day around the world, weekday elections are more common in English-speaking democracies (although Australia fixed its election day on Saturday in 1918). Speaking with the CBC in 2021, University of British Columbia political scientist Richard Johnston said that the Canadian tradition of Monday elections is a reflection of the country’s protestant roots.

Visitors to The Body Shop’s more than 120 stores and its website will see visual material about the importance of voting, and directed towards an e-petition requesting that voting day be moved to the weekend. The e-petition has amassed 231 signatures since going live. The Body Shop is also making a $30,000 donation to Apathy is Boring.

The company has also enlisted its “Changemakers” ambassadors, including two-spirit activist and Indigenous content creator Kairyn Potts, environmental scientist Kelcie Miller-Anderson, and environmental scientist, Indigenous research, model and pow-wow dancer Nikita Kahpeaysewat, to spread the message through livestreams, digital storytelling and live events.

Chris Powell