The collapse into administration of The Body Shop is another sad milestone in the history of a company once seen as a pioneering force in ethical capitalism.
The late Dame Anita Roddick, who founded the company in 1976, was included in the recently published Book The Rebellious CEO, authored by former US presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who lauded her as “the most spectacular” CEO of the 20th century.
“She’s the most spectacular of them all,” Nader said in an interview with City A.M. “She was such a multivariate human being with a tremendous grasp of injustice and what needs to be done by business. She would push her employees to pick an injustice and work on it on company time. She paved the way [for subsequent CEOs] but not many followed.”
The Body Shop was bought earlier this year by private equity firm Aurelius but reported worse than predicted trading over Christmas, leading to administrators being brought in.
It had grown from a single shop in Brighton to a 200-store empire, while Roddick became famous for her stance on animal testing, helping to drive through the practices now adhered to by the cosmetics industry.
It is unlikely we have seen the last of the Body Shop brand but the administration process is almost certain to result in store closures and job losses.
“It’s about the way business should operate. The strategies they should use to make a good profit… by first treating workers right and consumers right and the environment respectfully. The overall thrust of the book is to answer the question ‘How do we judge the behaviour of giant CEOs running multinationals?’ What’s the standard? If you don’t know about CEOs who did it right, you don’t have a standard of comparison.”