Sunday August 8, 2010
When Dame Anita Roddick set up her first store in 1976, in Brighton, Britain, an undertaker situated nearby complained about the use of the name “The Body Shop”.
Apart from such early hiccups, 34 years later, the brand can be found in 61 countries and 2,400 locations worldwide.
Part of the L’Oreal group since 2006, innovation, integrity and social responsibility are some of the key factors to its success.
A memorable campaign by Roddick in 1997 sought to raise self-esteem in women and fight media stereotyping of women. The Body Shop created a doll in the likeness of a Barbie doll but with a life-like voluptuous figure and luxuriant red hair, that came with the tag line, “There are three billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only eight who do.”
Her name was Ruby, a life-size plastic doll that the toy company Mattel thought looked too much like their star product – Barbie.
Although Mattel initiated legal action and the campaign was eventually stopped, it showed that Roddick was not averse to facing controversy head-on when it came to addressing issues important to herself and The Body Shop.
“For me, campaigning and good business is also about putting forward solutions, not just opposing destructive practices or human rights abuses”, Roddick has said with regards to her aim of changing standard corporate practices and traditional views of beauty.
The company has never tested products on animals, a fact recognized by the RSPCA in Britain with a Lifetime Achievement Award in October 2009.
In 1991, the Community Trade initiative was started with the objective of “creating trade to help people in the Third World utilise their resources to meet their own needs”.
Its first project was a paper factory in Nepal employing 37 people to produce bags, notebooks and scented drawer liners.
Following her death at 64 from a brain haemorrhage in 2007, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to Dame Anita, calling her “one of the country’s true pioneers” and an “inspiration” to businesswomen.
“She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market.
“She will be remembered not only as a great campaigner but also as a great entrepreneur.”