One of Anita Roddick’s favourite quotations was “If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito”. Many of us know that whenever we try to do our bit to change things around us, we are told that we are wasting our time – that one person cannot make a difference. Well this one person did!
Anita started her retailing career in 1996 in Brighton England to create a livelihood for herself and her two daughters while her husband Gordon, a poet and a traveller, went off to ride a horse from Buenos Aires to New York City (seriously! I am not kidding! And Anita supported his decision).
The Body Shop is no ordinary cosmetics business just as Anita Roddick was no ordinary woman. In her autobiography, Body and Soul: Profits with Principles — The Amazing Success Story of Anita Roddick & The Body Shop, she wrote, “I hate the beauty business. It is a monster industry selling unattainable dreams. It lies. It cheats. It exploits women.” So she and her husband Gordon (yes he came back and joined the business) worked hard to ensure that The Body Shop was different from other cosmetic companies. They wanted the business to be profitable, yet based on solid principles. The idea was to bring values into an industry that was certainly not value-driven, and to create social and environmental change by having a business that was built on the principles of honesty, fairness, respect for the individual and care for the environment.
Anita did not want to deceive women by telling them that moisturising cream from The Body Shop would shed years off their faces. Her products were never positioned as miracle treatment for the skin or hair. It is probably the only cosmetic chain that never used beautiful and glamourous women to market its products.
Bags and trucks from The Body Shop carried social messages regarding the saving of the rainforests, saving the whales, putting an end to animal testing, campaigns against dumping hazardous waste, awareness regarding AIDS and Violence against women. The Body Shop also supported movements like Amnesty International and Green Peace long before it became fashionable to do so.
Anita Roddick was a brilliant entrepreneur – but an entrepreneur with a conscience. She did not believe in mediocrity. She worked with a passion and proved beyond doubt that companies can make lots of money and yet be socially conscious. She inspired a lot of women – and men – through her hard work, her compassion and her ethics. I don’t think I would be accused of exaggerating if I say that she changed the face of business – in fact re-defined it.
Anita suffered a brain haemorrage yesterday. She was 64. She had revealed earlier this year that she contracted Hepatitis C thirty five years ago during a blood transfusion. This resulted in liver damage. She was a courageous woman, a shining star who lived each day as if it were her last. She leaves behind millions of admirers. Rest in peace Anita. You will certainly be missed by all who knew you and whose lives you touched.
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