Green made good


Sep 13th 2007
From The Economist
Anita Roddick, pioneer of green capitalism, died on September 10th

THE only kind of entrepreneur who becomes famous in Britain, a nation sniffy about business people, is the flashy personality who embodies the brand. Think of the bearded Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, grinning at his incessant photo-calls, or the foul-mouthed Michael O'Leary of Ryanair cocking a snook at stodgy old British Airways. Or Dame Anita Roddick, a true child of the 1960s, whose Body Shop cosmetics chain blended sensuousness, environmentalism, feminism and glamour with a whiff of political correctness.

She was into green capitalism long before it became mainstream. Her cosmetics were not tested on animals and her materials were mostly natural, bought directly from producers in the developing world. Yet her products were cleverly packaged and promoted to capture a premium price, while making customers feel good about their supposed ethical purity—a formula the established cosmetics firms subsequently emulated.
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How it all started

To begin with, Dame Anita was not an activist or campaigner, simply a born trader who saw a business opportunity and opened her first shop in Brighton, on the English south coast, in 1976. Her bodycare products sent a refreshing message to women: nothing will make you stay young or grow more beautiful, but this stuff will make you feel better about yourself in the meantime. It tapped into a contemporary counter-culture removed from the sleek, sophisticated marketing of the beauty-product firms. By the time she sold the business last year to L'Oréal for £652m ($1.1 billion), of which she received £118m, Body Shop had 2,000 shops in 53 countries.

Many of Body Shop's younger customers were disgusted that this beacon of green and fair trade could sell out to a French multinational. But Dame Anita hoped that the Body Shop ethos would permeate L'Oréal. She believed that “businesses have the power to do good.”

In later years Dame Anita had less to do with her firm, though she kept its name in the media with her ubiquitous views on matters green and ethical. She became Britain's fourth-richest woman, financing a range of pacifist, ecological and human-rights causes, and planned to give away her remaining fortune. But her real legacy was to pioneer greenery as a marketing tool, and bring the harnessing of environmental and ethical concerns into the business mainstream, for good or ill.

The original article can be read here. To read more about Anita Roddick click here.




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