I’d studied management for six years and actively sought to work for The Body Shop – I knew there was nowhere else I wanted to be, because it was completely different to any other business, and Anita was completely different to any other CEO I’ve ever come across.
She was a remarkable woman – entrepreneur, campaigner, global thought leader, corporate responsibility expert – like four people rolled into one. She was relentless with everything, the ultimate in multi-tasking. She was also a visionary, and an uncompromising one. She absolutely knew what was right and what needed to be done, and carried on doing that when others didn’t necessarily agree, or perhaps weren’t quite there yet.
Working for Anita was definitely a lifestyle activity; I worked 24 hours a day for that business for nearly three years and never questioned it. She was obsessively frugal and highly organised – she’d know everything from the performance of a range to what shop was opening in the Philippines.
She was an activist before she started her business, but she saw things from a global perspective because she’d travelled so much at a young age. She understood fairtrade, and realised that it wasn’t just a business issue – it was about women’s rights and cooperatives too. Anita stood up for these people – that’s why she’s been involved with so many campaigns, charities and NGOs around the world. Every year she’d visit most of her markets and do around 70 speeches and 100 book forewords, plus weekly campaigns and company launches.
Anita helped everyone see that you can do things differently. She was an absolute pioneer of corporate responsibility – the ethical audits of The Body Shop, her campaigns against other global businesses… People are starting to get on board with this now, but she was doing it 20 years ago.
She leaves a massive legacy. Around the world, there aren’t many people who don’t know her name – she did so much for women, so much for everyone. She’ll go down in history as a pioneer of how business, and people generally, should treat the globe.
I’m so stunned; she was so young, and she still had so much she wanted to do. My heart goes out to her family.
(Sara Tye is the founder of redheadPR, and worked with Anita for almost three years)