Saint Francis of Assisi
Rachel Carson
  Dorothy Day
  Mohandas Gandhi
  Jiddu Krishnamurti
  Dalai Lama
  Martin Luther King
  Nelson Mandela
  Anita Roddick
  Eleanor Roosevelt
  Albert Schweitzer
  Mother Teresa
  Desmund Tutu
Chair in Ethical Management
HEC Montreal

CHOSEN LEADERS AND THEIR RESEARCHERS

We learned that feminity and love were no longer dirty words, that financial profit was meaningless without spiritual profit, and that being successful did not necessarily mean being soulless. If we say we have given more of ourselves than we have taken from others, we have made a spiritual profit.

Anita Roddick is one of the most outspoken, controversial and successful business women. Paradoxically, she has built through the years an ethically responsible company within the superficial sector of cosmetics and beauty. She is showing us through her experience that an international company can be socially responsible, conscious, ethical towards the environment, the society, its partners, and that a company can avoid the usual business patterns while being very successful, and popular with the clients.

Anita Roddick put herself and her own values as the heart of this company, The Body Shop.

She is considered an integral leader. One can follow her personal evolution path and draw the parallel with the development of her company. The impact she had and still has on other people’s life such as her employees, clients, and investors, on various communities such as the Kayapo Tribe in Brazilor the Nepalese for better looking recycled paper, and on the business sector that started using some of her methods such as recycling or getting involved in environmental issues, is amazing.

Anita:

  • Is part of the first generation of an Italian family born in Britain , in 1942. She is the third child of a family of four;
  • Used to challenge everything she was told even as a kid;
  • Started trading with her school colleagues even when she was as young as 8 years old;
  • Started her career as a professor, but left this path to discover herself through various international experiences: she worked for the international Labour Organization at the UN in Switzerland , she worked as a weatherboard in Australia , etc;
  • She meet the man of her life, Gordon Roddick, at her mother’s bar once she is back from South Africa ;
  • They had their first child in 1969, before getting married;
  • They got married in Nevada 15 months after she gave birth to their first daughter;
  • In 1971, their second daughter was born;
  • The couple worked together for every project, they were complementary in their abilities: they had a Bed and Breakfast, they started a shelter in Little Hampton, and they opened a restaurant;
  • As Gordon decided to go on a long journey in South America , Anita decided to start a shop: she saw an opportunity in the beauty industry as it was the only one that did not offer various format to buy the products;
  • According to her values, she looked for natural ingredients that could be the basis of her beauty products. She found her answers from her souvenirs of different places in the world where women use fruits and vegetables to make their oil and take care of their hair, skin, and body;
  • The 27 th of March 1976 , the first Body Shop opened its doors;
  • Out of economic necessity, the shop offered its clients to reuse their bottles starting the era of recycling materials;
  • She sold half of the parts of the company to the husband of her female friend that has lent her the money to start a new shop;
  • The second shop opened in September 1976;
  • The first franchisee to open its doors outside the UK was in Bruxelles in 1978;
  • In 1984, the company became public;
  • In 1985, the Body Shop training School, opened its doors to employees;
  • Throughout the years, the company got involved in consciousness-raising business;
  • Body Shop was the first company to hire an anthropologist full time;
  • The first social statement, part of the values report, was out in 1996;
  • The company is now present in more than 49 countries throughout the world.

However, as great of a leader as she was and still is, Anita is a human being. Therefore, like all the leaders that have been on this planet in the past and will be in the future, one can make a list of moments, or decisions, or actions that were not totally integral as understood by this research on integral leaders. It is part of our theory that everyone has a potential to reach integrality in their life and one does so through everyday choices. Any individual can make new empowering choices at any given moment. The developmental psychology theories explicit quite well this phenomenon underlying the fact that no one is perfect.

Many of these “unperfect” events have even been mentionned by Anita in her books and articles. So, like many of us, Anita Roddick:

  • Spent too little time with her children;
  • Had to fight to convince some franchisees of the benefit to get involved in certain community issues;
  • Had to defend herself against accusations regarding the truth of being such an ecological and healthy company;
  • Let the company in the USA change her way of doing business degrading her business image in the meantime;
  • Took many decisions alone especially concerning the implication with various non for profit organizations;
  • Could not transmit all her values regarding energy consumption to all her employees that sometimes leave the office with the lights still on;
  • Had to admit that the company was lacking internal consistency;
  • Had to face major problems of employees' confidence in the organisation when they hired a directing manager who cut jobs for the first time in the company history and did so without giving time to Anita to inform her people;
  • Used her corporate power to influence the writing of negative articles regarding the company when the message in the article was considered unfair.

Anita Roddick’s crucibles

  • Anita got to know when she was relatively young that the man she thought to be her real father was not, her mother had had a long term liaison with her husband’s cousin with whom she was madly in love. They eventually got married once Anita’s mother succeeded to divorce her first husband. This event marked an important day for Anita as she had never felt close to her mother’s first husband and much more with this uncle. She learned to trust her intuition.
  • Her mother’s divorce in order to marry her lover- for Anita it meant that love really existed;
  • The reading of a book on the Holocaust when she was about 10 years old;
  • Her journey on the hippy trail that started with a journey in Israel for which she received a scholarship (1960).

Her priorities:

  • Employees’ education regarding environmental issues or composition of their product in order to know their beneficial effects;
  • Investing in community action;
  • Employees’ personal growth and discovery;
  • A company that is representative of her values and beliefs;
  • Change is important, it keeps people flexible and creative;
  • Traveling to find new products, new communities to save and help.

Her beliefs:

  • Work must be an incubator for employees’ spirit;
  • Work must be fun, and passionate;
  • Dialogue is very important;
  • Business must be a force for positive social change;
  • Visionary leadership style and entrepreneurship;
  • Power of intuition in business;
  • We have only one chance in life, so make it happen;
  • As an individual, be special, be anything but mediocre;
  • Aesthetics rule everything, we should be obsessed with details and style;
  • Be chaotic, it creates new ideas;
  • We respond to needs rather than creating them;
  • Beauty is about vivaciousness, energy, commitment, and self-esteem;
  • It is immoral to make women feel dissatisfied with their bodies
  • The art of story-telling is very important to entrepreneurs if they wish to convince.

Important facts:

  • The company never invested in publicity and never had such a department;
  • Body Shop had a department for environmental projects assistance;
  • Packaging was irrelevant;
  • They did not spend millions in market research;
  • They banished the word beauty from their vocabulary;
  • No product was tested on animals;
  • They never had a meeting to discuss profits;
  • They had a department of DODGI, Department of Damned Good Ideas.

“I think all business practices would improve immeasurably if they were guided by “feminine” principles-qualities like love and care and intuition”Anita Roddick

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Books

Business as Unusual cover photo Business as Unusual:
The Triumph of Anita Roddick
(Published in 2000)
By Anita Roddick

In this part-autobiography, part manifesto, Anita traces the last decade in her life and the evolution of the The Body Shop. As one reviewer put it, Business as Unusual is a "clarion call for business to tackle the big issues of life alongside the pursuit of profits, with heart, soul and conscience."

 

Body And Soul cover photo Body And Soul:
Profits with Principles — The Amazing Success Story of Anita Roddick and The Body Shop
(Published in 1991)
By Anita Roddick

Part One of Anita's personal and professional autobiography (Part Two was "Business as Unusual," above), "Body and Soul" tells of Anita's wild youth as the child of Italian immigrants in a small English seaside town, her hippie adolescence and early adulthood, and the strange circumstances which brought her to start the tiny handmade cosmetics shop in Brighton which would become one of the most successful retail operations in the world. The book also details the foundations of The Body Shop's foray into corporate activism for fair trade, human rights, and against animal testing.

Key Websites on Anita Roddick

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Pictures

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