Body Shop founder Anita Roddick dies


Tuesday September 11, 2007

Body Shop founder Anita Roddick dies (updated)

LONDON: Anita Roddick, founder of the international Body Shop cosmetics chain, died Monday night after suffering a major brain hemorrhage, her family said. She was 64.

Roddick, who died at a hospital in Chichester, had revealed in February that she contracted hepatitis C through a blood transfusion while giving birth to a daughter in 1971.

She made the announcement after becoming the patron of the British charity Hepatitis C Trust. She had been carrying it for more than three decades, but it was detected only two years ago after a blood test.

The business woman was lauded as the "Queen of Green’’ for trailblazing business practices that sought to be environmentally friendly and won her renown in her native England and around the world.

"Businesses have the power to do good,’’ she wrote on the Web site of the company, which was bought last year by the French company L’Oreal Group for US$1.14 billion.

Roddick opened her first Body Shop outlet in 1976 in Brighton, southern England, before fair trade and eco-friendly businesses were fashionable.

She said drew inspiration for her business from women’s beauty rituals that she discovered while traveling in developing countries and lessons from closer to home that her mother passed on from life during the hard years of World War II.

"Why waste a container when you can refill it? And why buy more of something than you can use? We behaved as she did in the Second World War, we reused everything, we refilled everything and we recycled all we could,’’ Roddick wrote.

But the environment was only the beginning: she gained international recognition for championing many causes closest to her heart, from body issues to human rights and Third World debt.

The Body Shop opposed product testing on animals and tried to encourage development by purchasing materials from small communities in the Third World.

It also invested in a wind farm in Wales as part of its campaign to support renewable energy, and it set up its own human rights award.

"She was the most courageous, progressive pioneer, who risked her business to be the first corporation to announce boldly in letters a foot high in her store windows: ‘Against Animal Tests,’’’ said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals vice president Dan Mathews who worked with Roddick on campaigns in the 1980s when Body Shop became a global brand.

"Before Body Shop you could only find cruelty-free products in hippie shops - now they are everywhere,’’ he said.

The company has grown into a global phenomenon with nearly 2,000 stores in 50 countries and remains independently run despite being owned by L’Oreal Group.

Roddick rejected criticism that Body Shop was compromising its values by becoming part of L’Oreal, which had not abandoned animal testing. She said it was a chance for Body Shop to teach its new parent company about community trade.

In recognition of Roddick’s contribution to business and charity, Queen Elizabeth II made her a dame, the female equivalent of a knight, in 2003.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was deeply saddened by her death.

"She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market,’’ Brown said.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven called Roddick an "incredible woman’’ who would be "sorely missed.’’

"She was so ahead of her time when it came to issues of how business could be done in different ways, not just profit motivated but taking into account environmental issues,’’ Sauven said.

"When you look at it today, and how every company claims to be green, she was living this decades ago,’’ he added.

She was an inspiration, said Brendan Cox, the executive director of Crisis Action, a charity dedicated to helping those affect by international conflicts that Roddick funded.

"She showed the scale of what you can achieve when you fight for it,’’ Cox said.

"Her energy, ambition and idealism will be an inspiration to thousands for years to come.’’

Roddick, the daughter of Italian immigrants, said she opened her Brighton store with only modest hopes.

"I started the Body Shop simply to create a livelihood for myself and my two daughters while my husband, Gordon, was trekking across the Americas,’’ she wrote.

"I had no training or experience … .’’

Roddick and her husband stepped down as co-chairmen of the company in 2002, but she continued to contribute as a consultant.

She joked that the Body Shop’s trademark green color scheme came by accident because it was the only color that could cover the mold on the walls of her first shop.