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Anita Roddick was a British environmental campaigner, business leader and human rights activist. Consider her story and read the challenge at the end.
Female Leaders: Anita Roddick
Anita Roddick is most famous as the businesswoman who built up the cosmetics business The Body Shop. However, she was also a leader in other areas. The Body Shop was started in 1976, in Brighton, UK, with the aim of making Anita an income while her husband was away in South America. By 2004 there were 1980 stores all over the world serving an estimated 77 million customers. The idea for the shop (and much of its original literature) was copied from an enterprise also called The Body Shop, which Anita had visited in San Francisco in the early 1970s.
The concept of the shop was to offer skin‐care products in refillable containers, marked with genuine information rather than ‘hype’. The Body Shop only used products that had not been tested on animals and promoted fair trade with developing counties. The concept struck a chord with British shoppers and in 2004 The Body Shop was voted the second most trusted brand in the UK and the 28th top brand in the world.
In 2006L’Oréal purchased The Body Shop for £652 million, causing controversy as L’Oréal is affiliated with Nestlé and both of these businesses are known for their less than ethical practices in terms of animal testing and for their treatment of developing‐country producers. However, Anita was retained as a consultant to The Body Shop brand and up to her death in 2007 was able to participate in corporate decisions and influence the direction of the company she once owned.
Anita was involved and active in environmental campaign group Greenpeace and The Big Issue, a publication sold by homeless people, and was a strong advocate for environmental issues. She worked as a member of the Demos think tank’s advisory council and with a group called Children on the Edge (COTE) that she founded in 1990 in response to the needs of disadvantaged children in eastern Europe and Asia who were affected by natural disasters, conflict, disability and HIV/AIDS. In 2005, Anita gave away a fortune (£51 million) and retreated from the world of commerce where she had had so much success.
Anita Roddick was the recipient of multiple awards, including Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2003.
Challenge: Here is the real question. Could you have given away your fortune? What could you give up or sacrifice for a better ward, better clinical environment, better way of life or better world? How is this question connected to the concepts discussed in Chapter 4 in relation to congruent leadership? Why does this even matter? Anita Roddick was incredibly successful and very wealthy, but was she driven by the desire to be wealthy or the desire to make the world a better place? Her shop, her charity work and her involvement with COTE all point to her being driven by her values and not by the pure pursuit of money. Or do you have to have money to be as gracious? Effective team work is about trust, listening, giving of our time and being present. How much of Anita’s success was based on her ability to build a team with her business? How much does this matter in the health service where you work, very often in teams?
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