'The reasonable woman adapts herself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to herself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable women.' Georgina Bernardette Shaw
I woke up on Sunday morning, bright and early, to discover that – apparently, and at some time during the night – I had ‘betrayed women’.
This is something that has happened to me only rarely in my life, thank goodness: reaching over for the Sunday papers and my reading glasses, only to find the headline ‘Oh, Anita, it's not worth it!’
Well, it hardly makes you welcome the day.
What had I done? Had my face-full of botox, had layers of flesh shaved off my thighs? Had I sponsored this year’s Miss World Competition?
None of these. The reason was that a great big cosmetic company wanted to buy us.
Having had a day or so to digest what was being said – mainly, for some reason, by women commentators – I have realised that, however much I believe their barbs were wrong, I am not the only one to feel an emotional protectiveness towards The Body Shop.
Those of us who helped nurture it from its early days, when we chose green as the corporate colour because it was the only paint capable of covering up the stains on the walls of our first shop, will always feel that, of course.
But I know that, because we broke all the rules – of marketing as well as the kind of nonsense they teach you in business schools – The Body Shop was always more than just shopping.
And those who have been customers at any time over the past quarter century must feel some of that sense of ownership as well.
So I know that I owe all of them – everyone who has ever bought from The Body Shop, everyone who has cheered us on when the business commentators (mostly male) poured scorn on the whole project – some account of why I feel so optimistic about the link with L’Oreal.
Of course I have made mistakes over the past decades. I certainly wouldn’t have employed any management consultants. I’m not sure I would have expanded in the USA in quite the way we did. But most of all, I was wrong to hurry to the stock market.
That was when we damn near sold out the values of the company. Because we handed over effective ownership to financial intermediaries who were contemptuous of what we were trying to do – creating a new business paradigm and showing that business can have a human face.
The fact that we continued to thrive in that environment – that we developed our community trade links with impoverished communities around the world – shows that it could be done. But let’s not pretend it was easy.
We then became ‘owned’ by people who were happy to downgrade our stock at the merest whiff of community trade, who believed that pioneering an end to animal testing in cosmetics was a threat to our share price.
That was, I now realise, selling out. To people for whom a brave, idiosyncratic, maverick, fighting for human rights or social justice in business was a threat to everything they stood for.
Because of that sale, we became vulnerable to being bought and sold, with absolutely no care of our history, values or our employees.
So for me it is absurd to complain that we are selling out our values by escaping from the direct clutches of the city traders. Because we are instead coming under the auspices of a company that has gone on record as saying that it will protect those principles.
I once described City financiers as dinosaurs in pin-stripes. I looked up as I said it and saw Robert Maxwell, of all people, walking out of the room in protest.
Instead of the dinosaurs in pin-stripes determining our future, we will be entering into a partnership where we will be teaching L'Oreal how to introduce community trade throughout their business.
Because community trade is really what I have been most excited by at The Body Shop. With partners like Teddy Exports in Tamil Nadu in Southern India.
We first bought massage items from their woodworking shops back in 1987. Our purchasing meant that Teddy Exports could expand to employ almost 500 people.
Most of the predominantly female workers were previously unskilled agricultural labourers, employed on a casual basis with little security. They were paid a monthly salary for safe, stable work, with no discrimination on the basis of religion, caste or disability.
Because of that community trade link, they were able to open a primary school for 200 pupils, with evening classes for children working in factories in the area. They were able to set up health workshops and a vet service. It made a difference there, and in the other community trade partnerships we set up.
Because of them, The Body Shop supports thousands of family farmers and women's co-operatives – the kind of small-scale economic initiatives that are a real, sustainable antidote to poverty.
It is wonderful that The Body Shop has achieved that. But far better if we can spread those methods to other companies and other parts of the world.
So yes, I have criticised the cosmetics industry for their fantasies in the past. I’m not going to stop doing so now, but that does not mean I’m going to be satisfied with a splendid but pure isolation.
Nothing on earth works quite as we expect it to. That is both a tragedy and a blessed relief. But there is absolutely no point in refusing to try.
So that’s what I would say to the columnists who accused me of betraying women. Many of them are happy to work for media empires not known for their business ethics. That’s fine, but they seem to want me to live a life of uncompromised and inactive purity.
Purity for its own sake is really rather pointless. If I can see a major opportunity to spread those community trade principles, and to influence the behaviour of the cosmetics industry, at least I have to take the risk.
I have not worked all these years to be satisfied to have pioneered a new way of doing business that nobody else ever tries. I want to make things happen, to spread human values wider in business if I possibly can. And this sale gives us the chance to do so.
So I have done what any founder ought to do. I have done all I can to protect the future for thousands of employees and community trade suppliers. But I am also tremendously excited about the future.
I am, of course, pathologically optimistic. But that doesn’t mean I am wrong.
I do not believe that L’Oreal will compromise the ethics of The Body Shop. That is after all what they are paying for and they are too intelligent to mess with our DNA.
But it is also the way the world is going. And if it is going that way, with customers and staff alike demanding more than the misery of the bottom line, it is doing so partly because of what we – founder, staff and customers old and new – have been doing at The Body Shop all these years.
Topic : About Anita Posted By : Anita Roddick Posted On : March 21, 2006
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6 results found
Re : Every Body Grows Strong By Antonette on May 19, 2007
I remembered I bought my first body shop eye gel when I was 16 of age middle school student studying in Hong Kong, I was so addicted to the colorful environmental, animal tested free products - I always feel upbeat when I enter the store I don't know why, but there's always this strong energy about the body shop...It's exciting not just because of the products but also what The Body Shop stand for. (To help and improve the world)
Tell you the truth Anita; I was a bit disappointed that The Body Shop was sold to L'Oreal. I was like hmm...they don't mix? Why? I wonder what L’Oreal knows about humanity, the environment and rights etc. well...except making money and celebrities.
I don't really use L'Oreal products, but hey who knows since they've been buying so many companies.
Who knows Anita, you might make the right or may be wrong decision who knows - I guess everybody takes risks once in a while in their life time. I believe this opportunity came by for a reason, and maybe it's a calling deep in you that made you made this decision, so I'll say follow your heart watch The Body Shop influence this huge Cosmetic empire to understand the true "BEAUTY" and "WHAT'S worth it". (But this takes time though...)
I guess at this point is to be optimistic about the situation, and let the positive energy flow to make everybody grow strong.
Re : Every Body Grows Strong By sangeetha on March 28, 2006
I remember the day I found out that half the cosmetics i used were animal tested. That was the event that converted me to a Body Shop lover. Then i started discovering more facts about these cosmetic companies and my admiration for it grew. Hearing about this merger between Body Shop and Lóreal does make me feel kind of sick. Because for me it is a clash between two different value systems- one where money comes before everything, and the other which sticks to its principles of doing business the ethical way. I hope Anita Roddick does succeed in her plans to change Lóreal. But it does have a long way to go to come anywhere close to what The Body Shop stands for.
Re : Every Body Grows Strong By Anne on March 22, 2006
I read the news article 'oh Anita it's not worth it' and can see how the writer and many others (including myself) could come to the wrong conclusion. I was in shock about the whole thing. Especially as I dabble in being an 'Avon lady' I mean Body Shop at Home. (in reference to Independant article!)
One of the TBSAH managers (who like me is a big Anita fan) said that Anita can only be doing this for the greater good as she has risked life and limb for The Body Shop. She also stated that Anita has never yet let us down!!!!
I do not sell The Body Shop products to earn money...I do it because I love it and have no other opportunity to talk about all the things I believe in whilst people will actually sit and listen!
I cannot say that I am not still confused but hope that my manager is right
Re : Every Body Grows Strong By Nzambimana on March 22, 2006
When it comes to lotions, shampoos, massge oils, present, etc..I always head to Body shop, because I support its commitments to business ethics.
I have to admit that I was slightly taken aback by the merger between Body shop and L' Oreal, a company whose values and cultures are very different.
However, I very mcuh support Body shop wish, through this merger, to spread its ethics to L' oreal, and subsequently to other companies. I wish you success in this initiative.
Only time will tell if that is the right decision...God knows I really want to be reassured that it is so.
Re : Every Body Grows Strong By kirsty on March 21, 2006
I have a long time feeling of attachment to the body shop, originally becasue of its stance against animal testing then later because of the focus on community activism and supporting women.
I absolutly appreciate that we all come to the end with things and that 'cashing in your chips' and relaxing in its rewards is not a betrayal, I just wish it was not L'Oreal!
L'oreal is part owned by Nestle and as such becomes yet another of this powerful multi-national's branches. Nestle is widely boycotted due to its aggressive marketing of baby milk and as such its undermining of breastfeeding - probably the most important factor which influences infant survival in the third world. Buying formula is a huge financial drain on women who cannot afford it, nor safely prepare it and leads directly to babies deaths. It sounds melodramatic, but unfortunatly it is true.
For this reason, I won't be able to shop at the Body Shop, which is sad, but far sadder is that a company which is so associated with ethical marketing practices, become associated with a company who is widely considered to be one of the least ethical!
Re : Every Body Grows Strong By awhitehouse on March 21, 2006
Loyal Body Shop customers, like myself, are still wondering why Anita continues to ignore the Nestle question. Interesting that, not only did the comment I submitted yesterday not get posted, my username/password for the site were rendered 'invalid'. Only one comment posted was actually published on the site and that a positive one. Since when did Anita become so terrified of criticism? The question will not go away and she only insults us by ignoring it. She often says Body Shop customers are intelligent but in the very next breath attempts to fob us off with yet more spin.
"In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith." -- Fullbright