Sunday, September 23, 2007

Body Shop Loses Founder

Somehow the passing of Anita Roddick, the founder of Body Shop went without much notice in the progressive blogosphere. She was 64 and suffered from a brain hemorrhage a week ago, after discovering she had Hep C. She and her Body Shop were a modern version of Robert Owen in the age of globalization. She took campaigning for fair trade policies empowering farmers in the third world, to end animal testing, to support the Angola 3 in the U.S.

In fact she shared much in common with Owen.

Robert Owen (1771-1858), social and educational reformer, remains a controversial and enigmatic figure. Having profited enormously from enterprise in the early Industrial Revolution he set about trying to remedy its excesses through environmental, educational, factory and poor law reform. Synthesizing reformist ideas from the Age of Enlightenment and drawing on his own experience as an industrialist he constructed A New View of Society (1816), a rallying call for widespread social change, with education at its core. New Lanark, the test-bed for his ideas, became internationally famous.

She will be sadly missed. As they say success breeds success and her making Body Shop not just a business but a global effort to ameliorate the worst excesses of capitalism for this she will be remembered and her organization will continue to contribute to the betterment of humanity.

Those on the right who dis fair trade continue to miss the point that Anita and other Owenite capitalists have always made, capitalism is supposed to make life better for people. The right wing of course espouses this theory, a hand up instead of a hand out, but of course that is just a platitude to justify rapacious speculative casino capitalism.

Anita is one of many capitalists who used their business acumen to do just that to use their wealth to aid in social development and not just to make more money for its own sake. That was what made her wealthy, the good works she did, not the money in her bank account.

Dame Anita Roddick
Dame Anita brought ethically-sourced products to the High Street
Founder of ethical cosmetics firm Body Shop, Dame Anita Roddick, has died at the age of 64.

Her family said in a statement she suffered "a major brain haemorrhage" at 1830 BST at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex.

Her husband, Gordon, and daughters Sam and Justine were all with her.

Dame Anita set up the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976. She pioneered cruelty-free beauty products and turned them into a highly profitable business.

In February she announced she had contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in 1971.

She had been taken to hospital on Sunday evening after she collapsed complaining of a headache.

The founder of the Body Shop, famous for her determination to combine social campaigning with business success, has a new mission. Facing her own battle against liver disease, she's determined to win this fight, too

Anita Roddick embarked on a new campaign last week - in an intensely personal fashion. Rather than watching the creator of the Body Shop talking aloe vera with Guatamalan tribes, we are now witnessing her as the campaign chief for hepatitis C. She was diagnosed with the disease three years ago, but decided to go public as her health worsened; she has cirrhosis of the liver and will need a transplant.

her new mission to rid the UK of its 'air of indifference' towards hepatitis has all the hallmarks of a classic Roddick campaign. For starters, she wants to know why the government spends £40m a year promoting the switch from analogue to digital television and just £2m on her disease. It's another example of Roddick turning personal questions into political activism.

The Body Shop was famously born out of pure necessity of supporting two children during Gordon's equine adventure. In 1975, Roddick began cooking up moisturisers from Bedouin recipes in her Brighton kitchen, opening her first shop in the Lanes in 1976.

She once said: 'How can you ennoble the spirit when you are selling something as inconsequential as a face cream?' But there was a certain inevitability that the young woman who blagged a £2,000 bank loan pitching up in a Bob Dylan T-shirt would end up retailing soap from her soapbox.

In 1985, Roddick used the shop windows of her by-now burgeoning Body Shop business to promote Greenpeace's Save the Whales campaign. It was the first explicit tie-in between products and causes. Mango butter, jojoba cleanser and brazil nut conditioner were to become inextricably entwined over the next decade with staving off destruction of the rainforest, preserving the Human Rights Act, resisting nuclear power, sticking two fingers up at corporate greed and promoting pacifism.

Roddick is routinely considered to be the originator of almost all the different facets of ethical consumption and business, but she was certainly an important pioneer of fair trade in the UK. Instead of buying ingredients such as brazil nuts for shampoo from commodity markets, she went straight to the source and set up development projects all over South America and Africa. The overriding message was that a business could be good and consumers could be a force for change. 'If Anita can whip up an empire, you can too,' ran a Body Shop slogan of the time.

More than three decades later, the company has around 2,000 stores in 50 countries; it was bought by France’s L’Oreal Group in March 2006. Roddick claims on the company’s Web site, “I haven’t a clue how we got here.”

The Body Shop’s success has stemmed from the growing numbers of middle-class, ethically conscious people who pine for organic food and Fair Trade products, along with a combination of first-mover advantage and consistency in branding and reputation.

There was some anger from Roddick’s admirers last year when the Body Shop was acquired by L’Oreal. Many feared the company’s standards would be compromised, and that the $204 million return for her and her husband’s 18% stake suggested Roddick was abandoning her by-then iconic business.

But she defended the decision, saying that “the campaigning, being a maverick, changing the rules of business. It's all there, protected. It's not going to change – that's part of our DNA." (See: “ Roddick Promises No 'Selling Out' In L'Oreal Sale”)

Earlier this year, she wrote in Newsweek that she had sold the Body Shop so that she could dedicate her time to radical causes; she also said that she regretted taking the company public in 1984 because it had led to a loss of some control.

After selling the business but staying on as an arms-length consultant, Roddick turned her back on the world of commerce and focused on giving away her more than $100 million fortune to charity – saying she didn’t want to die rich – and campaigning.

Up until Sept. 7, she regularly updated her blog,, focusing on developments in human rights and globalization, an area where she said the developing world had been grossly shortchanged.

Roddick viewed her illness with characteristic aplomb: “Many people have spoken of my ‘bravery’ in going public with my illness – pish. It shouldn’t take bravery to live life openly despite illness, although our developed world, with its deep fear and denial of mortality, often demands it.”

Aside from the frank expression of her beliefs, Roddick will be remembered for having helped reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable: commerce and social activism. Though the latter seemed to clearly be where her heart was, she still managed to cultivate a phenomenally successful business and become a millionaire, while reminding everyone that, “businesses have the power to do good.”

Comments on Anita and her impact are posted on her website.

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Help Support One of Anita's Charities

Dame Anita Roddick, our
founder, has died at the age of 64. She died at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, where her husband, Gordon, and daughters Sam and Justine were all with her.

"All of us in The Body Shop family are deeply shocked and saddened to hear the news about Anita's passing away. Anita was not only our Founder but she was also the heart and passion of The Body Shop and with her we achieved so much, whether on animal rights, human rights, Community Trade, or through the founding of organisations like Children on the Edge. It is no exaggeration to say that she changed the world of business with her campaigns for social and environmental responsibility. But for everyone who knew Anita, it was about much more than that: you couldn't help but be inspired by her love of life, her vision of the world and her passion for changing it. Anita leaves us with an enduring legacy which will long guide the affairs of The Body Shop. Our heartfelt condolences are with the Roddick family at this sad time."

Adrian Bellamy
Chairman, The Body Shop, Canada

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1 comment:

son of gaia said...

Eugene - I've lost all contact info for you, so I'm resorting to off-topic postings in your comments as a means of grabbing your attention. Truly sorry about that.

I need to know if you would be willing & able to participate in short protest events against the tobacco control cabal, as detailed in the protest proposal on our Surreality Times blog. You can reach me thru
either way.

G Roy Harrold