Pioneers 3 - How to use ethical values to build your business

Dame Anita Roddick was a true pioneer – a globally successful entrepreneur who campaigned for green causes long before it was fashionable to do so. As founder of ‘The Body Shop’, the world leader in manufacture and retail of plant based cosmetics, she campaigned endlessly for ethical business, turning her passion for environmental change into a social movement.

Dame Anita opened the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976, hoping to generate some money for her young family whilst her husband was abroad. She decided that her products should be natural, made in reusable containers and with handwritten labels. By 2004, the company had a loyal customer base of 77 million and was rated amongst one of the most ‘trusted’ brands in the world.

Her strategy was rooted in social and ethical principles

Dame Anita broke the mould by insisting that her products were both ethically sourced and not tested on animals. This became a differentiator and symbol for The Body Shop brand.

She was the first to develop a conscious capitalism strategy

Today, lots of businesses are awakening to the idea of ‘doing well, by doing good’. This wasn’t the case in 1976. Dame Anita’s strategy was unique, because she was as much focused on campaigning for human rights and environmental issues as she was on building a profitable business – and the two were intrinsically linked.

She knew that people aspire to more than just money

Dame Anita’s leadership style was very ‘personal’. She wanted her employees to engage with the vision and values of The Body Shop and to do that, she insisted on a ‘culture of personal growth’. She was often quoted on the importance of ‘the production of human spirit’ insisting that if a business wasn’t producing that, it was failing, no matter what the accounts may say.

She was different, she was daring and she was first

During The Body Shop’s highest growth years, Dame Anita didn’t spend any money on advertising. She used social activism to market her business – compelling consumers to care about issues they didn’t even know they had: ‘what, they’re torturing animals to make my face wash?’ No one wants that. In her shop windows, on flyers and through her ever increasing personal brand, Dame Anita was the ultimate marketeer and ambassador for her business, inspiring a whole generation of consumers to care more about where their products came from.

The legacy that Dame Anita leaves should continue to inspire

“Leaders should never be seduced into believing it’s not the role of business to tackle the big issues – because it absolutely is.”

As a challenger law firm, we have an enormous amount of respect for other challengers, innovators, and those people who are brave enough to take industries forward. In this series, we will celebrate these people and their achievements.


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