Anita Roddick: The Legacy
I assume that anybody reading this blog will already know that Body Shop founder Anita Roddick sadly died on Monday night at the age of 64.
I never met her personally, but I have spoken to several people who had worked for her at different times. “Force of Nature” seems to sum her up on many different levels – her unwavering commitment to the environment and trade justice, and her personality and business style. Rumours abound of multiple teams of Body Shop staff doing the same project because she had simply forgotten she had already asked someone to do it. She was also withering to anyone who dared question her or her business’s integrity.
But none of this detracts from her colossal achievement – to put a ‘green’ business emporium on almost every high street across the Western world and beyond (2000 stores in 55 countries), mainstreaming environmental and ethical concerns into the life of the ordinary consumer. No one has done it since.
I believe her success is down to one of the key rules of running a green business – grasp the environmental agenda as an opportunity, but don’t forget you are still running a business. She may have been chaotically disorganised but I am told she surrounded herself with people who really knew how to run a business. She then focussed her efforts on her strengths – particularly public relations. I heard an anecdote from one of her ex-employees that when she opened her first store in Brighton she would empty a bottle of essential oils over the pavement every morning to entice in passers-by. Not exactly eco-friendly, but very effective salesmanship.
She could never be accused of being afraid to make money – the press reported that events organisers at the Rio Earth Summit in 2002 were told an appearance by Mrs Roddick would cost them £30k plus 5 star hotel accommodation and a first class air fare. She saw no contradiction between such a lifestyle, being the figurehead of a global brand (which she then sold to L’Oreal), and joining anti-globalisation protests.
Love her or loath her, we’ve lost a true maverick genius in Anita Roddick – and green entrepreneurs could do worse than copy her wholesale.