Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop and environmental campaigner, died yesterday at St Richard’s hospital, Chichester, UK, after suffering a major brain haemorrhage.
Mrs Roddick was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit and her husband Gordon and two daughters, Sam and Justine, were with her when she died.
In a statement, her family said she collapsed after complaining of a headache on Sunday evening. ‘Gordon, Justine and Sam Roddick are very sad to announce that, after suffering a major brain haemorrhage, Anita Roddick died at 6.30 this evening at the age of 64’.
Last night the British prime minister paid tribute to Dame Anita. “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 a mass market,’ he said. ‘She will be remembered not only as a great campaigner, but also as a great entrepreneur.’
The daughter of Italian immigrants to Britain, Dame Anita opened the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976. A former teacher who had previously worked for the UN, she had no business training, but had decided that the products should be natural, sold in recyclable containers and have handwritten labels. By 2004, the chain had more than 77 million customers round the world and was the second most trusted brand in the UK.
The Body Shop phenomenon coincided with the gradual emergence of global green consciousness and Dame Anita espoused a number of environmental and humanitarian causes including Children on the Edge, a charity she set up for children in eastern Europe and Asia affected by conflicts, disabilities and HIV/Aids. She claimed her sense of natural justice was triggered by reading a book about the Holocaust at the age of 10. ‘Campaigning is in my DNA,’ she once claimed.
Anita Roddick was also a friend of Slow Food, and in 2004 she contributed an article to the SlowArk magazine (no. 38) recounting her collaboration with the Kuapa Kokoo Ltd cocoa farming company in Ghana, an early example of a Fair Trade business scheme.
Cinzia Scaffidi, director of the Slow Food Study center, recalls that, ‘The community of intent between her work and ours was clear right from our very first meeting, which took place in her house, and at which Paolo di Croce, director of Slow Food International, was also present. The force and the fascination of what she said and what she did lay in the equal urgency and ‘right of citizenship’ she gave to apparently very distant needs: ethics, development and sustainability alongside beauty, poverty and culture’.