Body Shop

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  • Topic: The Body Shop, Anita Roddick, L'Oréal
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Harvard Business School

9-392-032
Rev. July 13, 1995

Business people have got to be the instigators of change. They have the money and the power to make a difference. A company that makes a profit from society has a responsibility to return something to that society. Anita Roddick, founder and managing director of The Body Shop

“Let’s face it, I can’t take a moisture cream too seriously,” Anita Roddick was fond of saying, “What really interests me is the revolutionary way in which trade can be used as an instrument for change for the better.” This heretical statement by the head of the fastest-growing company in the cosmetics industry reflected her habit of going against the tide of the industry’s established practices.

The Body Shop did not advertise, avoided traditional distribution channels, spent as little as possible on packaging, and used product labels to describe ingredients rather than to make miraculous claims. Its products were based on all-natural ingredients, and were sold in refillable, recyclable containers. But the most unconventional of all, was The Body Shop’s strong social message. As Roddick explained: “There hasn’t been an ethical or philosophical code of behavior for any business body ever, and I think it’s going to have to change.”

Do

No

From a single storefront in 1976, The Body Shop had grown to 586 shops by 1991, trading in 38 countries and 18 languages. Worldwide retail sales from company stores and licensees were estimated at $391 million. Along the way, The Body Shop was voted U.K. Company of the Year in 1985, and U.K. Retailer of the Year in 1989. In addition, Roddick had been the Veuve Cliquot Businesswoman of the Year in 1985, and Communicator of the Year in 1987. In 1988, she was awarded the prestigious Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth (who herself was rumored to use The Body Shop’s Peppermint Foot Lotion).

The world of business has taught me nothing. . . I honestly believe I would not have succeeded if I had been taught about business. Anita Roddick

Professor Christopher A. Bartlett and Research Associates Kenton Elderkin and Krista McQuade prepared this case with an additional contribution by Myra Hart, as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Copyright © 1991 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685 or write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.

Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Permissions@hbsp.harvard.edu or 617-783-7860.

tC op y
The Body Shop International
Anita Roddick: The Entrepreneur
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The Body Shop International

Returning to England, she met Gordon Roddick, a Scots poet and adventurer who shared her love of travel. The birth of two daughters forced the Roddicks to settle down, and the couple decided to convert a Victorian house in Brighton into a hotel. In 1976, however, they sold their business so Gordon could fulfill a lifelong dream of riding on horseback from Buenos Aires to New York City—a journey that would take up to two years. Anita agreed to the plan (“Gordon never was a boring man”) and, at 33, undertook to support the family. She had an idea for a shop.

With a £4,000 bank loan (approximately $6,000), Roddick developed a line of 25 skin and hair care products based on natural ingredients. Sourcing exotic ingredients like jojoba oil and rhassoul mud from a local herbalist, she prepared the first product batches on her kitchen stove and packaged them in the cheapest containers she could find—urine-sample bottles. Handwritten labels...
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