It is hard to think of a more iconic brand for ethical investors or
consumers than The Body Shop, which was founded by Anita and Gordon
Roddick almost 30 years ago and has grown to 2000 stores in 53
countries selling products that have no animal testing and are sourced
under “fair pay” arrangements when developing countries are involved.
Therefore, the outrage was hardly a surprise in March when it was
announced L’Oreal, the world’s biggest cosmetics company, was buying
The Body Shop for $1.5 billion in an agreed takeover.
The Roddicks will collect $325 million from an outfit that might have
not have been directly involved in animal testing since 1989, but still
sources products that have been tested on animals, although this will
be banned under European law from 2008.
As you can see from this passionate explanation
on her blog, Roddick is selling the deal on the grounds that L’Oreal
will adopt her company’s system throughout its global empire.
However, there is one small problem here. L’Oreal is 24.6% owned by
Swiss multi-national Nestle, which happens to be the most boycotted
company in the world thanks to its appalling record pushing powdered
baby milk in third world countries and ripping off coffee growers
across the globe, just to name a couple of its indiscretions.
Dame Anita appears to be getting the message as she’s now expressing
reservations about Nestle’s ethics based on a report in The Independent two weeks ago which included the following:
She also suggested campaigners, determined to stage a consumer boycott,
should target the Swiss multinational’s leading brands such as Perrier, Kit-Kat
and Nescafe, rather than the company she founded.
The Body Shop reported a 5% rise in pre-tax profits to $100 million in
the year to 25 February and L’Oreal has just released some figures
claiming revenue is up 5% since the sale was announced in March,
suggesting there has been no consumer boycott.
However, Mark Constantine, the founder of Lush Cosmetics, which used to
be The Body Shop’s largest supplier and pioneered those early campaigns
against animal testing, is really starting to crank up the pressure. He
was quoted as follows this month:
“Anita was such a lovely person,” he says. “I loved working with her.”
Has he spoken to her since? “I don’t want to speak to her.”
Posters will soon appear in Lush shops proclaiming: Absolutely No Ingredients
Tested on Animals. The bolded capital letters spell Anita.
It doesn’t matter how you look at this: the Nestle connection is a
complete sell-out of everything Roddick has preached over the years. It
would be like selling Crikey to Rupert Murdoch or Kerry Packer. Let’s
hope she sticks to her word and gives away her fortune before she dies.