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Anita Roddick: green business pioneer

Choice quotes

  • "Be daring, be first, be different, be just"
  • "I want something not just to invest in. I want something to believe in"
  • "To succeed you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality"
  • "There is no scientific answer for success. You can't define it. You've simply got to live it and do it"
  • "Nobody talks of entrepreneurship as survival, but that's exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking"
anitaroddickcropped

Eco-friendly luminary Anita Roddick entered the world in 1942, in Littlehampton, England.

Born of Italian immigrants The Body Shop founder grew up fast as something of an outsider.

The Body Shop now boasts more than 2,000 stores, serving over 77 million customers across 12 different time zones

She became a teacher for a while, but the footloose Roddick could barely sit still for long and was soon off globetrotting. Her travelling experiences, she says, were a big influence on The Body Shop business model.

Roddick married in 1970 and, with her husband, ran a restaurant and then a hotel, having two children along the way. She opened The Body Shop's first outlet in 1976, aged 34.

Despite The Body Shop brand now being synonymous with ethical sourcing and a social conscience, the chain was founded for more parochial reasons - to support her family while her husband trekked across the Americas on horseback. Pragmatism, coupled with the convenient timing of a green revolution in Europe, proved fruitful ingredients in Roddick's recipe for success.

The Body Shop, which sells skin- and hair-care products, went public in 1984 and now boasts more than 2,000 stores, serving over 77 million customers across 12 different time zones. Its fortunes, however, suffered a downturn in the mid-1990s, when rival retailers started imitating its much-vaunted production techniques.

Roddick courted controversy in 2006 by selling the chain to cosmetics giant L'Oréal, which some saw as a sell-out by one of the progenitors of the ethical shopping movement. In truth, L'Oréal probably recognises that the company's brand image lives or dies by its adherence to the 'ethical' principles on which it was built.

When her role at The Body Shop was downgraded to consultant, Roddick found time to campaign for Greenpeace, and became a trustee and board member for numerous charities and foundations. Among these were hepatitis C charities, as Roddick herself suffered from the condition, possibly following a blood transfusion in 1971.

Sadly, Roddick died from a brain haemorrhage in September 2007. Mourned by environmental campaigners and business people alike, Dame Anita Roddick proved that entrepreneurial success and integrity are not just compatible, but that they can complement one another profitably.
 

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