Dame Anita Roddick, environmental activist and business woman, died at 64 of a brain hemorrhage on September 10, 2007.1 A tireless advocate for the environment and human rights, Roddick founded the Body Shop chain of cosmetic stores. She also helped establish The Big Issue, a magazine produced and sold by homeless people in England, and Children on the Edge, a charity for children with disabilities in Eastern Europe and Asia, HIV/AIDS, and other problems.2 An avid protestor, she has been frequently pictured with picket in hand—once even alongside the musician Thom Yorke of Radiohead protesting for the Trade Justice Movement, a group of organizations that campaign for trade that helps the disadvantaged and the environment.3 But it wasn’t the famous that drew her to these causes.
“She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so,” said her husband Gordon, according to a recent article on the Guardian Unlimited Business Web site.2 “[She] inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market.”
The Body Shop strives to sell products containing natural ingredients such as marula oil (Sclerocarya birrea, Anacardiaceae) from Namibia, shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa, Sapotaceae), sesame oil (Sesamum indicum, Pedaliaceae), babassu oil (Attalea speciosa, Arecaceae), and even bananas from the Caribbean.4 It also promotes several ethical causes, such as the refusal to test cosmetics on animals and the use of community-traded natural ingredients. According to its Web site, the Body Shop community trade program purchases natural products from disadvantaged communities around the world, ranging from Australia to Zambia. These groups, who otherwise have limited opportunities, benefit from fair pricing, better market access, and improvement in income, education, etc. Though Dame Roddick sold the store to the French cosmetic giant L’Oreal in 2006, the mission of the over 2,000 outlets has remained intact, and it’s a legacy that Roddick put in place. The Body Shop’s mission statement is “To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change,”5 though it may not have started out that way.
“The original Body Shop was a series of brilliant accidents,” Roddick said.2 “It has a great smell, it had a funky name… We recycled everything, not because we were environmentally friendly, but because we didn’t have enough bottles.”
Dame Roddick was born Anita Lucia Perilli in Littlehampton, England, in 1942.1 She graduated from Bath College of Education but often called traveling her real education.6 In fact, it was the contacts she made in the 1980s while traveling that formed the basis for the Body Shop community trade program.4
Dame Roddick married Thomas Gordon Roddick in 1970.6 When he expressed a wish to travel from Buenos Aires to New York on horseback, she opened the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976 with a 4,000 £ loan.2 She originally opened it to provide for herself and two daughters during her husband’s absence, but soon the whole world was aware of the Body Shop’s potential. Over the next 15 years the stores spread all over Britain. There are now over 2,000 stores spread throughout 50 countries. It was Roddick’s pragmatic nature and environmentally conscious approach to business that made the difference.
“[T]he frugality that my mother exercised during the war years made me question retail conventions. Why waste a container when you can refill it? And why buy more of something than you can use?” she wrote in a Body Shop message to the reader.5 “[W]e reused everything, we refilled everything and we recycled all we could. The Body Shop’s environmental activism was born out of ideas like these.”
Roddick was given the title of dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 for her contributions to retailing, the environment, and charity.6 She is survived by her husband Thomas Gordon and her daughters Samantha and Justine. More about Anita Roddick is available at www.anitaroddick.com.
- Lyall S. Anita Roddick, Body Shop founder, dies at 64. New York Times. September 11, 2007;C11.
- Glendinning L. Anita Roddick, pioneer whose dreams turned the high street green, dies at 64. Guardian Unlimited Web site. Available at http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2166637,00.html. Accessed September 18, 2007.
- Jewell W. Business Heroes: Anita Roddick. The My Hero Project Web site. Available at http://www.myhero.com/myhero/hero. asp?hero=Roddick. Accessed September 20, 2007.
- The Body Shop. Support Community Trade page. The Body Shop Web site. Available at http://www.thebodyshop.com/bodyshop/values/ support_community_trade.jsp. Accessed September 21, 2007.
- Roddick A. Message from Dame Anita Roddick, the Body Shop Founder. The Body Shop about us page. Available at http://www. thebodyshop.com/bodyshop/company/index.jsp?cm_re=-_-Footer-_About_Us. Accessed September 21, 2007.
- Rourke M. Anita Roddick, 64; founded Body Shop cosmetics chain. Los Angeles Times. September 11, 2007;B9.