CORPORATE GOVERNANCE: 'Use trade to force change'

The Nation - Tuesday, March 02, 2004
MBA schools do a poor job, says Body Shop chief
Trade relationships need to be tied to compassion, respect for human rights and gender equality, says Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop and the UK Ambassador for British Business.

Roddick, who is currently in Bangkok, told a press conference yesterday the world market does not have any 'feelings' and that business schools, with their MBA programmes, are churning out 'greedy' people who have the 'potential to become criminals'.

She attacked the MBA system and its textbooks by saying that nowhere does one find words like justice, human rights or spirituality in it?

She said economies can be made more humane if people realise that some businesses are directly or indirectly fermenting violence, distrust and conflicts around the globe, and try to do something about it.

”For the first time in our cultural history, economics overrides everything,' she said.

Although she is one of the world's most successful businesswomen, having established 2,010 shops in 52 countries - including 30 in Thailand - Roddick spoke as a 'renegade business leader, an activist for peace, trade justice and human rights'.

'I think there has to be a change. There are attempts to bring things like 'ethics' to the curriculum but they will not discuss the [evil] of the oil industry, child slavery, [and] sweatshop labour,' she said with regard to MBA schools.

>Her visit here was part of a series of lectures called 'Bridges: Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace', organised by the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation.

Although a growing number of business school curricula offer courses on social enterprise, Roddick discounted them as mere 'tokenism' because students are still taught to become overly obsessed with profits.

'I think there has got to be a Trojan horse. You go in, challenging by lecturing, set up [your] own master degrees. That's the first start,' said Roddick who helped set up a new business school course called 'New Business and Responsibility' at Bath University in the UK.

Roddick criticised existing corporate culture as being dictatorial, as it emulates the military model of hierarchy.

She said a new breed of consumers called 'vigilante consumers' in the West are not just boycotting certain corporations but also campaigning against them.

Given the choice, she would like to do away with words like 'brand' and 'consumer', saying that for the past four years, she had tried to ban them from being used at her shops because she found them 'boring and dehumanising'.

'God, that's driving me crazy,' said Roddick about the attempt, adding that many people now believe that their purpose in life is not to be good citizens or good parents but to be good consumers.