History Lessons: Walk The Talk - Anita Roddick

When Anita Roddick founded Body Shop in 1976, ethics was something to trouble philosophy students, not bosses of big business. Thirty years on, however, the corporate world has caught on: ethics sells. Tesco, Asda, Arcadia and M&S are among retailers suddenly looking to convince us of their purist creed. Even energy giants like Shell, long in the crosshairs of green campaigners, now run ads showing flowers floating dreamily out of factory smokestacks. Trouble is, you have to mean it. Roddick, who died in September, breathed ethics, pioneering audits of suppliers and campaigning for human rights. The ethical claims of big corporates are harder to back up. Arcadia's TopShop was accused by the Sunday Times of using 'slave labour' in its Kate Moss range, and Tesco's green PR has met with scepticism. Even ethics girl Roddick used low-paid Chinese labour and refused to recognise trade unions in her shops. But she always nailed her colours to the mast: a fine example to modern chief execs.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

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