Dame Anita Roddick: 1942-2007

Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop and life-long campaigner, has died at the age of sixty four.

Dame Anita started the ethical cosmetics company in 1976 with a loan of just £4,000 pounds. She claimed she copied her own mother’s war time mentality, which meant everything was recycled and nothing was disposed of. She was also adamant that nothing should be tested on animals. Anita later suggested that it was the honesty and simplicity of the idea that eventually made it so successful: ‘What was unique about it, with no intent at all, no marketing noose, was that it translated across cultures, across geographical barriers and social structures. It wasn’t a sophisticated plan, it just happened like that.’ (Third Way Magazine 1993)

Roddick controversially sold the Body Shop to L’Oreal in 2006 amidst accusations of hypocrisy over animal testing.

However, it is not only for her work with The Body Shop that Roddick shall be remembered. She was an active campaigner and public figure for both environmental and humanitarian charities. Following visits to Romanian orphanages, she founded Children on the Edge in 1990, a charity for disadvantaged children throughout Eastern Europe and Asia. She was also heavily involved in Greenpeace campaigns, specifically those against toxic waste and whaling for sperm whales. Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to her contribution to the environment:
‘She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to the mass market. She will be remembered not only as a great campaigner, but also as a great entrepreneur.’

In February of this year Roddick revealed that she had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2004, following a routine blood test. She believed she had contracted the disease from a blood transfusion in 1971. Roddick continued to campaign for greater awareness of the disease, even appearing on television a week before her death to talk about it.

Roddick was appointed DBE in 2003. She is survived by her husband, Gordon, and by their two daughters Sam and Justine.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist September 2007

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