As written in my previous post, today’s article will be about a UK brand you’ve all probably heard of – ” The Body Shop “. You’ll be able to learn a bit more about the establishment of the company and its founder, human rights activist, environmental campaigner, writer, and one hell of a businesswoman – Dame Anita Roddick. So, let’s begin ! 🙂

Who – What – When – Where

Where should this story start? Well, let’s back it up a few decades, to 1976 Brighton, England. A young woman found a way to provide for her family, while her husband was travelling across America. Her name was Anita Roddick (née Perella). Hardworking teacher by trade, with strong sense of social responsibility and enormous empathy for world hardships since a very young age.

Did It all start with a bang ? Yep, you bet your ass it did. The concept, the fruity and floral scents filling the street… In addition, the location, together with the shop’s name, caused some turmoil and a lot of media attention. Why? Well, Anita named her store ˝The Body Shop˝ (as in a car repair shop) while being positioned between two undertakers. Those funeral directors didn’t like that at all. 😀

She called her business a ˝ result of brilliant accidents˝. For instance, the shop’s trademark green color was chosen out of necessity – They were trying to mask the shop’s recurring damp problem. In addition, the whole ˝reusable containers˝ idea, was also because they didn’t have enough jars & bottles – Not because they were into recycling at that time. In short, Anita found ˝no muss, no fuss ˝, witty & innovative ways to attract new customers.

Anita at her shop making skin care goodies 🙂

Of course, the business started to expand rapidly. Their first overseas franchise was a kiosk opened in Brussels, Belgium in 1978. After that, by 1982, they were opening two shops a month.

Ban Animal Testing

Now, what actually made them stand out from the crowd? – The shop’s products. This is a brand that was ˝green¨, spreading social & environmental awareness before it became a trend. They used natural ingredients with emphasis on not testing on animals and (now also 100% vegetarian). Skin care lines were simple but packed with quite interesting ingredients at the time, like Shea butter, Azuki beans, ylang-ylang, as she was inspired by her travels around the world.

Even though she was a successful entrepreneur, she still had the heart of a very opinionated hippie. As TBS’s popularity and influence grew, Anita realized it was time to put her ideas into fruition. She started to use her brand, money & media influence, as a way to spread awareness of the real issues in this world. As a result, in 1986, TBS and Greenpeace launched their first ˝Save the Whale ˝ campaign together. Later that year, a ban was introduced that made commercial whaling illegal worldwide. From this moment forward, Anita was on a roll.

The Idea of Community fair trade

As the business was expanding, so did Anita’s activism. At this time, she was already well aware of different forms of exploitation. Adults and children, daylong working in poor conditions, paid miserably, while companies cashed in millions on their work. It was time to make a change, to speak up for the underprivileged.

In 1987 they launched ” Community Fair trade” designed to insure fair trading with suppliers. The system basis is that they partner with local farmers & traditional artisans that are respectfully paid, in exchange for their work and products. Since then, a lot of other companies have followed their path as well.

Enrich not exploit

The way Anita was passionate about human rights and animals, similarly was her fight for a better environment. She decided to base her business on the concept of ” Enrich not Exploit” which became their trademark. The company determines specific targets they want to achieve, divided into 3 categories :

  1. Enrich our people 95% of their product formulas contain community trade ingredients, working to level up to 100%. Also, ensuring employment possibilities for the underprivileged.
  2. Enrich our products – To have the best possible product quality.
  3. Enrich our planet – Committed to reducing the environmental footprint of their products. Furthermore, develop new eco-friendly packaging and switch to use of renewable energy.

Notable campaigns

Let’s just say the list of award winning campaigns is hella long and quite impressive. I’ll just mention some of the most influential in my opinion, ones that paved the way for social responsibility movements we know today.

  • 1986 – “Save the Whale “ – ban of commercial whaling
  • 1989/1996/2013/2017 – Against Animal testing – Managed to Ban animal testing in the UK, next petition prohibited testing in the EU, last campaign is to ban testing on an international level. The petition was presented to the UN – Fingers crossed they do ! 🙂
  • 2002 – Choose Positive Energy – A global campaign with Greenpeace to promote renewable energy.
  • 2003 – Stop Violence in the Home – Raising money to help victims of domestic violence.
  • 2009 – Stop Sex trafficking of Children and Young People – Partnered with ECPAT to raise awareness. The petition was submitted to the UN in 2012.
  • 2016/2017- World Bio-Bridges Mission – worldwide programme to regenerate forests & protect them from exploitation poaching and unsustainable harvesting.

Charitable organisations

As a huge company with a lot of money and power, Anita realized there are far more groups and communities that need their help and support. Because of that, in 1990 ” The Body Shop Foundation” was born. The charity was seen as a way to fund other smaller human rights, animal and environmental protection groups.

In addition the same year she founded “Children on the Edge ” (COTE) – a charitable organisation that helps disadvantaged kids in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.

Anita’s husband, Gordon Roddick is also the co-founder of 38 Degrees charitable organisation & an independent business magazine focused on employment opportunities for underprivileged called “The Big Issue” .

Alleged Plagiarism ?

Like with a lot of successful businesses, there is a bit of a shady story surrounding The Body Shop’s concept origin. Supposedly, Anita Roddick’s store idea, didn’t quite just pop into her head…

There was an actual store in the 1970s by the same name in Berkeley, California. Anita’s husband Gordon had a best friend named David who’s ex-wife spilled the tea a decade ago. She said she took Anita to show her a local beauty shop called “The Body Shop” when they came to visit. They say that the brochures, recycling concept, range of products…everything was allegedly copied from the US store.

Furthermore, in 1987 when the UK company decided to expand to the US, they paid the US Body Shop owners Peggy Short and Jane Saunders $3.5 million dollars for the name, while allegedly signing a non-disclosure agreement. That company then continued to work under the name “Body Time” till their closing in 2018. The Body Shop UK denied all allegations. Some people believed that it was the US shop who copied the UK one.

What do I think of this ? Personally, I think that there isn’t a single highly successful business person in this world, who hasn’t had at least one small stain on their corporate white collar. We are humans. We make mistakes. This is also the Early Digital Age & Pre-Internet Era, which makes everything a bit harder. Bottom line, what actually happened here, we’ll never know.

Selling the company

Unfortunately, The Body Shop had to change its owner a few times. In 2007 it was sold to L’Oreal for £ 652.3 million, which caused a lot of backlash since L’Oreal company isn’t known to be always cruelty-free. But in 2017, L’Oreal decided to sell the company to Natura & Co, a Brazilian cosmetics company. At last, TBS found an adequate owner once again. This company is known to be against animal testing, using only the best ingredients. They are focused on building cruelty-free brands, already having Australian Aēsop and Natura cosmetics under its belt. As of May this year, they own Avon as well.

Gone But Never Forgotten…

Sadly, in 2007 Anita Roddick died from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 64. Prior to that, she was battling Hepatitis C (which she probably got from a blood transfusion in the 1970s) and liver cirrhosis. She donated all of her fortune to charity (£ 51 million).

What Anita did for today’s society is immense. This was a woman who managed to build an empire at a time when we didn’t have as many female entrepreneurs as we have today. Being able to be “on a par” with the “Mr.Big”-s of the business world. It takes balls, determination, talent and hard work. Pioneer in many ways, ahead of her time, just as Elizabeth Sigmund, Estee Lauder & Elizabeth Arden. Someone who made us look around us & think about the bigger picture. To realize we can’t take this planet for granted. She made young girls like Greta Thunberg able to be heard in front of the UN. She paved the way for women like Tata Harper, Vicky Tsai, Emily Weiss, Huda Kattan, Farah Dhukai, Nancy Twine , and so many more, to become the epitome of #girlboss.

References :

  • The Body Shop website
  • Entine, Jon. (2002 May 31 updated 2018 April 17) ” Body Flop “ Retrieved from The Globe and Mail
  • (2007 September 11) “Anita Roddick, capitalist with a conscience, dies at 64 ” Retrieved from The Independent
  • Moore, M. (2008 April 16) “Anita Roddick’s will reveals she donated entire £51m fortune to charity” Retrieved from The Telegraph
  • (2007 September 12) “Dame Anita Roddick” Retrieved from The Independent
  • Weng, J. (2018 April 27) “Body Time Longtime Berkley Skincare company, closes after 5 decades” Retrieved from The Daily Californian
  • Reuters, (2019 May 23) “Natura agrees to buy Avon, creating cosmetics powerhouse” Retrieved from CNBC

Disclaimer : I bought these products with my own money, all opinions are solely my own. I’m not affiliated with the mentioned brands or companies. Keep in mind I’m not a dermatologist, chemist or pharmacist. Also, what worked for my skin, won’t necessary work for yours.

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