Anita Roddick, a 'Green' Business Pioneer

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A brain hemorrhage cuts short the life of Anita Roddick — environmentalist, businesswoman and animal rights campaigner. Roddick, 64, founded the Body Shop, an eco-friendly cosmetics company.


She was called the queen of green - one of the first to introduce environmental and social concerns into business. Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop cosmetics chain, has died in Britain at the age of 64. She died last night in a hospital in the south of England after suffering a major brain hemorrhage.

NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.

ROB GIFFORD: Anita Roddick founded the Body Shop in the southern English town of Brighton in 1976, selling toiletries made from natural ingredients that were not tested on animals. The brand soon became a byword for socially and environmentally responsible business.

The daughter of Italian immigrants, Roddick saw her business grow into an empire of more than 2,000 stores, serving more than 77 million customers in 51 different countries.

John Sauven is the executive director of Greenpeace and was a close friend of Roddick's.

Mr. JOHN SAUVEN (Executive Director, Greenpeace U.K.): She was an amazing bowl of energy - very creative. And I think her lasting legacy will really be not just as a human rights activist, as an environmental activist, but really how she transformed attitudes in the business community. And, I mean, it's funny today because we read about all the environmental and social reports that corporations bring out, but these words were hardly in the dictionary when Anita set out on her crusade.

GIFFORD: As well as her environmental activism, she campaigned against human rights abuses around the world and supported many different charities. The mission statement of the Body Shop was to dedicate her business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.

Roddick was the antithesis of the conventional business leader, with her unruly hair and her combat boots. But her well-cultivated hippie image belied a sharp business mind.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown called her one of Britain's true pioneers. Women's Minister Harriet Harman called Roddick an icon of 21st century women.

Ms. HARRIET HARMAN (Minister for Women): One of the things she was a great champion for was the campaign against domestic violence. She was looking, always looking, to help other women. And what she did is she knitted together the recycling and tackling domestic violence by getting young women Body Shoppers to drop off their used mobile phones, they would then - they have an emergency line put on them and given to women who'd previously suffered domestic violence, so you could just press a button and the phone would be an emergency line.

GIFFORD: Roddick became a multimillionaire. But in recent years, she said she didn't want to die rich, and started to give her money away. Then, she revealed last February that she'd contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in the 1970s and had been carrying the virus round with her ever since.

Ms. ANITA RODDICK (Founder, The Body Shop): It's 30 years I lived, I traveled, I set up a company. I was - and still very energetic. But, you know, all the time, that doesn't mean to say that it isn't destroying or having a huge havoc on your own liver. So, I have a new currency, which is time. And so I'm spending a lot of time thinking what don't I want to do and what - is time wasting, so that you get to be really focused.

GIFFORD: Roddick surprised many of her admirers when she sold the Body Shop to French cosmetics giant L'Oreal in March 2006 for more than a billion dollars. Critics accused her of literally selling out. She said it was a chance for the Body Shop to teach its new parent company the principle she espoused.

Anita Roddick died last night, surrounded by her family.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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