Body Shop Founder Anita Roddick Dies at 64

Anita Roddick"s store, The Body Shop, has long been viewed by environmentalists as a model sustainable business.

Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, a an ethical cosmetics firm that was a pioneer in socially conscious business, has died suddenly after suffering a brain hemorrhage in England on September 10.

Roddick, a former teacher, launched the Body Shop with a single outlet selling cruelty-free cosmetics in Brighton, England in 1976. "I started The Body Shop simply to create a livelihood for myself and my two daughters while my husband, Gordon, was trekking across the Americas," Roddick said. "Now 28 years on, The Body Shop is a multi-local business with more than 1,980 stores serving over 77 million customers in 50 different markets in 25 different languages and across 12 time zones. And I haven’t a clue how we got here!"

But Roddick was being overly modest. The Body Shop chain, sold to the French company L"Oreal Group in 2006, was very much made in her image. The stores are chic, smartly run and upscale, but the message about animal rights and environmental action was always represented on literature tables and signage.

Per Roddicks" decree, the Body Shop has always opposed product testing on animals for its products and tried to encourage sustainable development by purchasing materials from small communities in developing countries. The company also invested in a wind farm in Wales as part of its campaign to support renewable energy, and gives out an annual human rights award to deserving activists. Although under new owners, the company is still run as an independent (and profitable) entity, and has long been viewed by environmentalists as a model sustainable business.

"[Roddick] was so ahead of her time when it came to issues of how business could be done in different ways, not just profit-motivated but taking into account environmental issues," says John Sauven, executive director of the nonprofit Greenpeace UK. "When you look at it today, and how every company claims to be green, she was living this decades ago," he adds.

Roddick’s hemorrhage was related to Hepatitis C, which she said last February had been contracted from a blood transfusion she received in 1971. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Roddick "campaigned for green issues many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market. She will be remembered not only as a great campaigner but also as a great entrepreneur."

Sources: The Body Shop;