In praise of.…Dame Anita Roddick

Posted by on May 13, 2024 in Blog, Consumer issues, Dame, Environment, Living today, society | 0 comments

Anita Roddick/Woman’s Hour

Earlier this year I read with some sadness that The Body Shop chain of shops had gone into administration.  This is not the first retail group to cease trading in the current climate and no doubt will not be the last, but a wave of nostalgia washed over me with this particular one.

Who can forget walking into your local Body Shop and holding out your empty bottle of White Musk body lotion or Rose shower gel and having it refilled, at a time when recycling was a new concept?  Those cute bottles, with their black screw caps, colour coded and arranged invitingly on shelves, exuded scents that made you feel quite heady.

And who dreamed all this up long before it became mainstream? Ethical consumer champion Anita Roddick, whose products were some of the first not to be tested on animals and who pioneered the concept of fair trade with developing countries. She was passionate about buying key ingredients from small scale suppliers in remote areas, and the company worked with 18 community fair trade suppliers, providing Brazil nut oil from Peru, sesame oil from Nicaragua and handmade recycling paper packaging from Nepal.

For most people, that would be a significant enough achievement, but after the Body Shop was listed on the Stock Exchange in 1984, Roddick started her philanthropic activities.

She supported Greenpeace and in 1990, after visiting orphanages in Romania she created Children on the Edge (COTE). Its aim was to help manage the crisis of poor conditions in the overcrowded orphanages and worked to de-institutionalise the children over the course of their early life. COTE’s mission is to help disadvantaged children affected by conflicts, natural disasters, disabilities, and HIV/AIDS.

Roddick died in 2007, but her legacy lives on in the form of the Roddick Foundation. I have learned that there is a recycling firm in India that owes a lot to Body Shop; Shifrah Jacobs is the co-founder of Plastics for Change, which was set up in 2015. The aim was to create the first fair trade verified recycled plastic platform. It would connect waste pickers with scrap merchants and turn discarded plastic into high quality recycled packaging. Alongside the environmental contribution, it would provide a regular income to some of the estimated 2 million waste pickers who clean India’s city streets.

The Body Shop helped the founders of Plastics for Change establish their programme, supporting and also sharing lessons from smallholder famers that they could apply when connecting waste pickers with global brands. The result is a responsible supply chain that is helping create a social impact through recycling, based on a ‘trade, not aid’ philosophy.

It is a mutually beneficial enterprise: global cosmetic companies who work with the company know that the recycled plastics they are using for packaging their products are produced ethically and without exploiting a work force thousands of miles away. In the works of their co-founder: ‘The Body Shop held our hand; taught us, guided us, trained us in everything.’

Anita Roddick is no more, and short of a miracle rescue, neither are her shops. But her inspiration lives on through her foundation. What a dame!

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