Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Womens day

Today is the 100th anniversary of International womens day!
Originally called International working womens day the day ensures that for at least one day a year political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner.

At University I was very interested in both environmental and feminist issues and I believed that if only I could tell people what was really happening things would change. By the end of my 4 year degree I was aware of exactly how many people there were in the world shouting about the very same issues at the top of their lungs and still no one paid any attention.

My Grandfather used to always say "Don't criticise something unless you have a solution of your own" and after stumbling upon an article about Anita Roddick founder of the Body Shop I made the decision to stop telling other companies what they are doing wrong, stop shouting about child labor and slave wages, stop complaining about pesticides and toxins. If you really want to change things then own the companies, make the policies, take the responsibility. So on this International Womens Day I want to tell you a little about my role model, Anita Roddick.

British born to Italian parents in 1942 Anita started the body shop to try and support her two children by selling all-natural beauty products using ingredients that she’d seen local women use on her many travels. Starting up wasn't easy as, in her words:
“No bank wanted to go into a business with a hippie chick dressed in a Bob Dylan T-shirt who made her money selling cocoa butter cream,”
but a loan from a friend got her on her way and By 2004, the Body Shop had 1980 stores, serving over 77 million customers throughout the world. The Body Shop was voted the second most trusted brand in the UK, and 28th top brand in the world. Much of this came from the body shops focus on ethical business as this story told by Anita Roddick herself shows:

"For me, campaigning and good business is also about putting forward solutions, not just opposing destructive practices or human rights abuses. One key area where my business and personal interests naturally combine is through The Body Shop community trade initiatives. It all started in 1989 when I attended the gathering at Altamira of Amazonian Indian tribes protesting against a hydro-electric project which would have flooded thousands of acres of rainforest, submerging native lands. There had to be something practical I could do to help these people preserve their environment and culture. Nuts? Specifically brazil nuts, which the Indians gathered sustainably from the forest and which when crushed produce a brilliant oil for moisturising and conditioning. This first trading relationship with forest people, unused to any real commercial activity, was fraught with pitfalls and dangers. But 13 years on we’re still trading with them and have even set up a Green Pharmacy project producing remedies based on traditional knowledge of forest plants – reducing dependency on inappropriate and expensive modern pharmaceuticals. Every year I travel to a number of our projects. In November 1999 I visited our long-term partners Teddy Exports in southern India and GPI in Nepal and our new partners, the Chepang indigenous people who grow herbs for our Ayurvedic range. In January 2001 I visited the 130 sesame seed oil farmers in Nicaragua who receive a fair and stable price for their seed. As a result the farmers have built up a sustainable business that as well as offering marketing clout, runs a subsidised store, a credit union, and employs a Cuban agronomist specialising in organic methods. The deal with The Body Shop isn't going to make the farmers financially rich, but it does enable them to maintain their chosen way of life and through co-operation achieve autonomy. I’m immensely proud of our efforts to make fair or community trade relationships more mainstream. The Body Shop now has 29 such projects in 23 countries and we aim to develop more."

The Body shop also focused on presenting a more realistic view of women and in 1997 launched the brands advertising campaign using Ruby a naked, red haired, size 16 doll.

The lists of awards below shows just how much influence one ethically minded business owner can have and serves as daily inspiration for me to keep going with my small business that hopefully will one day blossom.

  • 1984 - Veuve Clicquot Businesses Woman of the Year
  • 1988 - Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • 1988 - Honorary Doctorate from the University of Sussex
  • 1991 - Center for World Development Education's World Vision Award, USA
  • 1993 - Banksia Foundation's Australia Environmental Award
  • 1993 - Mexican Environmental Achiever Award
  • 1993 - National Audubon Society Medal, USA
  • 1994 - Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics, USA
  • 1994 - University of Michigan's Annual Business Leadership Award, USA
  • 1995 - Women's Business Development Center's First Annual Woman Power Award, USA
  • 1996 - Women's Center's Leadership Award, USA
  • 1996 - The Gleitsman Foundation's Award of Achievement, USA
  • 1997 - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Honouree, Eyes on the Environment
  • 1999 - British Environment & Media Award
  • 1999 - Chief Wiper-Away of Ogoni Tears, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Nigeria
  • 2001 - International Peace Prayer Day Organisation's Woman of Peace
  • 2003 - Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE)
  • 2004 - Honorary Doctorate of Public Service, The Sage Colleges
  • 2005 - Shell liveWIRE survey of inspirational role models, third place after 1) Richard Branson 2) Friends/family 3) Anita Roddick 4) James Dyson 5) Sahar Hashemi
  • 2006 - Spirit of the Rainforest Award, Rainforest Action Network
Most of all (having no official training myself) I love Anita's views on formal business education:
“This notion that to be in business you’ve got to go to a business school is crap; business schools only shape you to be a very efficient person working in a very traditional system – but the most exciting things are what’s being done untraditionally."

More women in business and politics = more diversity in our world

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