Being Anita Roddick - Being The Body Shop

Power The Thought - Friday, April 02, 2004

A woman who once declared that it would be quite weird to die by leaving a priceless treasure behind and interviewed with Martin Lewis of BBC that her body is to be buried, just make sure that she is really dead!!!

The one who said so was a compact-sized woman, so active that it was hard to guess her age. She walked so fast that her spouse even teased her that he had never seen a small one with short legs who could walk this fact. Her powerful talk as a leading activist could spell the audience to speechless­ness. She had her own dressing style with high confidence manner without any fear for the public.

This can be interpreted that the one with her kind of soul dies hard. This is because what she has created is not a normal business kingdom but the business that has created staff members with the spirit of social and communal responsi­bilities. They are like the heir to the intention and spirit of the founder.

On March 3, 2004, the day she visited Thailand, the Auditorium of Chulalongkorn University was filled up with the network of this leading social activist woman. She opened the floor with the answer to a classic question of how she was successful in creating the business kingdom of The Body Shop with such uniqueness. Her retorting answer was that it was due to the fact that she had never passed the business administration course from any institution.

She is Dame Anita Roddick, who might not be widely known in our society. However, if we say she is the founder of skin care business, The Body Shop, the response should be roaring. Even though she made excuses that she did not finish any business administration course, the society is well aware of the finely refined reputation and value of her business.

Today it is obvious that Anita is proud of the success of her large kingdom. She wanted to specify that she has created the multi cultural and multi community business by integrating community way with economy to elevate the living of people before transferring into trade system and becoming products for the consumption of big cities.

She said that the first The Body Shop started in 1976 based on a simple reason of creating good life for her and her two daughters while Gordon Roddick, her husband, had been wandering in the South American forests. With barely any business experience but the simple advice of her husband to make the shop have only the revenue of f 300 per week, she had the only target to make the first shop progress until today. Today the shop has grown into almost 2,010 franchised shops in 52 countries worldwide using 25 different languages in trading.

It cannot be claimed that this success has come by unintentionally because it has been concealed with determina­tion to do the business with different conscience. It has thus become the core value that ultimately differentiates itself from others of the same kind.

It is the business style called 'Business as Unusual' which has become the title of her first book to tell how her kingdom was born and how to create corporate value differently from other businesses. (Her book available in bookstores now is Brave Hearts, Rebel Spirits.)

The difference of The Body Shop has arisen from different way of thinking of its founder. She has pushed her own deter­mination into one with corporate value. Dame Anita said that she has been a rebellion since the day she was born. Her idol was James Dean. With the status of Italian refugee daughter in Littlehampton in England, she was born in 1942. When she was ten years old, she found herself to do differently and felt like 'the outsider.'

She is self confident and believes that her DNA and Italian nationality have been significant in urging her to the success in life. Being a refugee in an alien society has taught her to care and share. Her mother taught her and instilled in her family to reuse, refill, and recycle even before these three words were widely known and the public did not know how to spell 'environment.' This tiny ethics nurtured by her family has become the nature and created her distinct business con­cept and message communicated through all shops.

She was educated to be a teacher as her mother's wishes. She wandered to teach in Kibbutz in Israel and visited local communities in various place as students. Such experience has become an inspiration in the concept of creating business and relationship with communities. Traveling has become her job as the business executive in searching for raw materials from local communities throughout the world to feed her business. It is in fact the differentiation of her business from others in seriously and sincerely supporting businesses with communities for 28 years.

“Business entities have the power that cannot be imi­tated by the public sector in pushing community business. Business sector shouldn't be a tool to create only benefits. It must play a part in social responsibility. Consumers should also have goad judgment in buying goods.”

This is the origin of target and mission that are walking hand in hand with the care for communities and environment. The Body Shop uses its facade and merchandise to create the spirit of ideology while transferring the message of human rights protection. Concurrently, the issues of animal life projection, environmental preservation from various communities accord­ing to her travel experiences have been presented. This is the attraction venues for people of the same conscience to join the ideology. Anita used to ask her staff about where they wanted to work for after leaving The Body Shop and they answered that other places may not want to accept them to work.

However, she also gave credit to the society that her enterprise was born at a suitable time. At its foundation, the United Kingdom was entering into the Green Economy period. The acceptance of goods with natural could be easily in trend. A part of her success was favorable opportunity not luck.

What Anita believes in and continuously does is being a rebellion against unfairness to protect the people, especially if the people are local or less privileged in developed countries.

For example, in the case of a large energy company encroaching the area of the Ogoni in Nigeria in 1993 for oil exploration, Anita and other NGOs pushed for the campaign against the giant multinational oil company. The Ogoni’s key persons were imprisoned but the campaign continued and eventually they were released. In 1997, under unrelenting pressure from several parties, Shell issued a revised operating charter committing the company to human rights and sustain-able development.

Anita is proud to be a part in getting such a giant business organization to think about what it really means to be a corporate citizen.

When talking about the beginning of her crystallized ideas naturally combined personal interest and community trade initiatives, Anita recounted back in 1989 when she attended the meeting at Altamira of Amazonian Indian tribes protesting against a hydro-electric project which would have flooded thousands of acres of rainforest, submerging native lands.

As she could not do anything to terminate the project, she thought that if the areas were damaged, what could be protected in advance was to preserve Brazil nuts, renowned native agricultural produce. Brazil nut is a perennial tree with hard-shell nut, of which special quality is when crushed, it will yield oil with moisture suitable to be an ingredient in skin moisturizing and hair nourishing cream.

This has become a reputable community trade of The Body Shop, with 42 projects in 26 countries, across the world. The philosophy of the project is that farmers or owners of materials must receive fair and stable prices.

In addition, The Body Shop also has the product of which ingredient is sesame seed oil of Chepang indigenous farmers in Nepal. Above all, several communities have become trade partners and run a subsidized store. The Body Shop employs a Cuban agronomist consultant specializing in organic production methods.

'The deal with The Body Shop isn't going to make the farmers financially rich, but it does enable them to maintain their chosen way of life, not in the no-choice and victimized status all the time. I'm immensely proud of our efforts to make fair or community trade relationships more mainstream today. We cannot separate corporate values from social responsibili­ties, respect for human rights, care and protection of animal life and nature, all of which is integrated and combined.'

What can't be omitted is that the giving mission of The Body Shop shares 25% of profits to communities with trade relationships in terms of public utilities development, educational center development, baby care center.

Infinite giving is the mission Anita wants to do and must be continuously executed because she does not want to leave this world as the rich addicted to external treasures.

N.B.: This article is not meant to be advertorials for the mentioned products but to present the real value of the corporation.