In my first book, an autobiography and history of the early years of The Body Shop called "Body and Soul" (Ebury Press), I wrote that I would never employ anyone from Harvard Business School. I came to that conclusion after some marketing genius (from Harvard, I hasten to add) told The Wall Street Journal that to survive, The Body Shop would need a major advertising campaign, especially just as we expanded operations into the United States in 1988.
But I have always gotten a charge out of breaking the mold when it comes to traditional business practices; for example, I broke a major rule of retail when I chose to use the windows of Body Shop stores to promote not our products, but our issues and campaigns -- from the Amnesty International campaign to messages about domestic violence and self-esteem. We have always depended on reputation and word-of mouth, not massive advertising efforts, to grow. It seems to have worked. The Body Shop now operates in 50 countries with more than 1,900 outlets spanning at least 24 languages and 12 time zones.
Years after the Harvard know-it-all said I was bound to fail, I found myself doing a three-week executive guest lectureship at Stanford Business School. Even among the MBA students, I sensed a collective energy and intelligence and deeply felt belief that the business models at the foundation of most MBA programs was flawed, not because of what was taught, but what the curricula left out. Classic MBA programs teach about the bottom line, about P&Ls and earnings ratios, but not about environmental or social responsibility.
Entrepreneurs are, as I have said before, pathological optimists, and always see circuitous ways around problems. So I came up with an idea, a totally different sort of business education, based on ethical and socially responsible business practice. I helped found The New Academy of Business in 1995. Its aim was -- and is -- to change business education for good.
The New Academy runs a masters degree program, in partnership with the University of Bath School of Management, leading to an MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice. I lecture there, and love doing so; the student body comes from the four corners of the globe, all eager to learn a different way of doing things. And they are graduating and emerging into the world as an enthusiastic network of professionals who are working together in new enterprises and inquiry, changing business for the better.
Do check out the New Academy of Business; it's one of my proudest accomplishments.