Anita Roddick: business revolutionary

Anita Roddick, who died this week, helped start a revolution in the supply chain by emphasising the standards of suppliers from all over the world. She helped reinvent the idea of ethical business and apply it to the global economy.

by The Independent
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Roddick's Body Shop was a byword for ethical consumerism. In the end she did ‘sell out' to L'Oreal in March 2006, but ploughed millions of the proceeds into her own and other charities and campaign organisations.

Michael McCarthy in The Independent argues that Roddick deserves a place in the pantheon of revolutionary thinkers who changed the world.

He says that Roddick's originality did not lie just in the achievements she is famous for, in the fields of animal rights, human rights, fair trade and environmental protection. It was in the idea, entirely novel 40 years ago when she started out, of business as a force for social change.

She opened the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976, and began selling ethical cosmetics that were not tested on animals. It was something many people felt strongly about - and they sold like hotcakes. In the end, the rest of the cosmetics industry had to follow, but not without Roddick's tireless campaigning, eventually leading the UK government to ban the animal testing of cosmetics.

Roddick believed business could change the world. Her goal was to show that capitalism itself, having despoiled the world for two centuries, could in the right hands repair it. She made this happen most of all in the area of fair trade, a concept previously considered inimical to global business practice.

As a result of making the Body Shop a pioneer in raising standards for suppliers, she helped to demonstrate that trade was indeed better than aid for the poor people of developing countries. It created sustainable communities, rather than dependency.

As the Body Shop's head of community trade, Dr Graham Clewer, says "[Anita] went everywhere, she knew everyone; it was her life. She had the ability to put herself in other people's shoes and the underlying drive to make things better for people."

Source: How Anita changed the world
Michael McCarthy
The Independent, 12 September

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