No More Soapbox; Anita Roddick Sold the Body Shop So She Could Dedicate Her Time to Fighting for Radical Causes
Roddick, Anita, Newsweek International
Byline: Anita Roddick (Roddick is the founder of the Body Shop and a human-rights activist and campaigner.)
The first time I really knew I was finished with the Body Shop, which I founded in 1976, was when the United States led the invasion of Iraq in 2003. If I had still been in control of the company at that point--if we hadn't gone public back in 1984, which I still regret--then every Body Shop in the world would have campaigned against the war. But since I was only on the board of directors by that point, I wasn't able to make it happen. I did, however, write an editorial in a national British newspaper, in which I said that due to the injustice of the invasion and the resulting erosion of civil liberties, many of us in Europe no longer aspire to be American. Thanks to this one little editorial, the New York Post went crazy. It labeled me a terrorist sympathizer and called on its readers to boycott the Body Shop. Imagine what would have happened if the business had done what I'd actually wanted it to: the result would have been an unmitigated financial disaster for the company.
That's when I realized that while stores can be an incredibly effective way of getting certain types of messages across, they weren't the right delivery system for me anymore. The campaigns that profitable public companies like the Body Shop can back--the ones that don't upset the balance sheet--just aren't the radical types of messages that I'm interested in today. When people get older they get more radical; at least some of them do. I'm 64 now, and I want to fight against big, ugly things, like unjust wars, and the sexual trafficking of women, and the abuse of human rights in the U.S. penal system. The Body Shop just wasn't the way for me to fight those fights.
So when L'Oreal approached me about buying the Body Shop last year, I was thrilled. It was nice of them to ask, since the company is now public and my permission wasn't required. At first the whole thing felt kind of funny, since the Body Shop and L'Oreal had been battlefield enemies for decades. But L'Oreal has changed a lot in recent years. …