Early to the contemporary trend of corporate responsibility in business management practices, Anita Roddick's innovative UK-based corporation responded to a niche in the hair and skin beauty product market when no one else had even conceived of combining activism with ecological product development and social cause networks. Offering consumers a complete social responsibility package as stakeholders in support of free trade and planetary resource management, The Body Shop® International, Plc and its global network of online and franchise retailers continues in its timeless appeal to the now several generations of conscious consumers seeking "Nature's Way to Beautiful."
Combining activism with marketing and the culture of beauty, entrepreneur Anita Roddick's The Body Shop International, Plc retail corporation sells organic-based hair and skin products infused with the brand's promotion of "self-esteem as well as social and environmental causes" (Hoovers, 2010). The United Kingdom-based company, operates about 2,550 stores, in some 60 countries; most of which are franchised. Despite increased horizontal control over operations, and acquisition by parent corporation Unilever, the owner of the subsidiary's controlling interest L'Oreal, The Body Shop continues to sustain vertical control over brand image through constant articulation of its mission and product development in support of Social Responsibility to stakeholders, customers and the planet. Since its inception in 1976, the company has expanded its reach though online sales and The Body Shop at Home, an in-home sales program for the UK market.
Now in her 50s, Founder, Roddick's celebrity akin to rock star status in her home in England, supplies the visionary voice to The Body Shop's brand identity. Known to have transformed herself from her earlier state as a "penniless hippie" to one of the richest women in the UK, Roddick is a standout in her business model parallel to others of her generation whom hit it big by combining strong business sense with social advocacy. Indeed, a tireless promoter of charitable and other worthy causes, the impetus to her own decision making is often seen as primogeniture to the trend in Social Responsibility; from ethical platform to value chain operations management strategies.
A virtual font of wisdom where the Social Responsibility centered company is now discussed as common expectation, Roddick was also instrumental in the incorporation of the 'sustainable growth' model into the retail environment. Using her own stores for events such as voter-registration centers in the U.S., her alternative approach to meeting customer demand is reflected in the longevity of The Body Shop's presence within a growing market niche (Elmer-Dewitt and Lea, 1993).
What goes into Roddick's effective businesses strategy from the position of demonstrated responsibility is the other half of The Body Shop's story. Linking a strong sense of corporate citizenship to sales prospectus, the company is highly dependent upon the capacity of the organization to translate well designed systems management, and sales operations into revenue where a clear public statement about the outcomes to the corporation as social cause are not factored into the equation continuously.
The Body Shop's early entrance on the Social Responsibility scene where change management practices are concerned put the company in a strong position as they were clearly making the rules back in the 1980s. Driven by a belief that customer loyalty was somewhat plastic in this sense, Roddick's strategic planning crew knew that they were betting on a long-term force in the 'think global at local' credo, where local natural resource partner benefitted from supplying the corporation with an ecologically sound product line. With full cost pricing mitigated by the Company's streamlined, small item turnover, consumers benefitted and came to recognize the political advocacy behind the product as a guarantee of quality.
Although some critics dismiss the Company's use of natural and fair-trade ingredients as a trendy fad respective only of Roddick's passion for the "green movement," The Body Shop has staked its claim in the hair and skin products market on its adherence to an ethical and environmentally friendly package of desires. Despite the Company's first year of real losses in 2009 due to the devolution of the global economy in 2008, consumers still seek the beloved cosmetics and personal care products for their rejection of animal testing, and high quality oils and other organic ingredients. While its home markets in North America and the UK reported lower earnings during this period, the company was helped by higher returns in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region.
In The Body Shop's "Nature's Way to Beautiful" slogan on the company website, the vision of the corporation's social responsibility platform is expressed in a one paragraph commitment to customers,
"For many years, The Body Shop® has constantly sought out wonderful natural ingredients from all four corners of the globe, and brings you products bursting with effectiveness to enhance your natural beauty. While doing all of this The Body Shop® also strives to protect this beautiful planet and the people who depend on it -- not because it's fashionable, but based on the belief that it's the only way to do business (The Body Shop International, 2010).
The implied nature of advocacy within The Body Shop message is furthered by the prevalence of the concept of "magic" in beauty and health advertising in general, where customers are promised that they are achieving all kinds of better for the environment, the plant and themselves through purchase of brand identified products. Encapsulating social responsibility in the term "Activism," Roddick's own promise to customers is that it "isn't listed on The Body Shop® labels as an ingredient, but it is there as surely as the bergamot and hemp oil" (The Body Shop International, 2010).
Each step in the value chain is accounted for through comprehensive, not to mention "slick" coverage of an entire social cause network of contemporary commercial and policy-based social cause public education campaigns and environmental management programs. Customers are also reminded of their participatory activities as supporters of The Body Shop initiatives, which are presented as a coherent logic about their impact as "leaders" and stakeholders in a number of important cause networks, illustrated in Table 1.
We became the first cosmetics company to source sustainably harvested palm oil and introduce the ingredient into the beauty industry, working in partnership with a certified organic producer in Colombia, in 2007.
In early 2008 we introduced 100% PCR bottles (post consumer recycled) while all our PET bottles (polyethylene terephthalate) currently contain at the minimum 30% recycled material, with a target to convert to 100% within the next 12 months.
Our unique Community Trade program creates sustainable trading relationships with disadvantaged communities around the world and provides essential income to more than 25,000 people across the globe.
The Body Shop® continues to raise awareness and funding for women across the world affected by domestic violence in 2008. Our Stop Violence In The Home campaign runs in more than 55 countries and has raised in excess of U.S.$4 million.
In 2008 we continued to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS among young people, working with MTV Networks International. This campaign funds the Staying Alive Foundation, a grass roots organization supporting young people internationally.
We have committed to becoming Carbon Neutral by 2010, ensuring that carbon dioxide emissions from the company's core retail business worldwide are reduced.
We're committed to trading ethically - our sourcing team is trained in ethical audits and we only trade with suppliers who are committed to our Code of Conduct for Suppliers.
Table 1. The Body Shop® social cause public education campaigns and environmental management programs (The Body Shop International, 2010).
Part of The Body Shop's success as a multi-scale organization is the result of the Company's capacity to attract high profile investment from other visionary business gurus like Roddick. Investors interested in capitalization on the Social Responsibility trend looked to The Body Shop as a seminal force in this brand marketing strategy, and found earnings to reflect the potential in those convictions. An assessment of The Body Shop's two tiers of 'value' in channel operations determines the relation between advocacy and retails sales through analysis of the: 1) internal organizational; and 2) external or environmental analysis. Instrumental to interpretation of the 'total' company picture, is the translation of those elements in Six Sigma assessment, made possible through application of tools like the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) used in this situation analysis in Table 2.
Early model to SR corporate platforms
Global market presence
Value chain requires new products
Niche dependent market
Full cost pricing inputs
Less control over distribution due to acquisition by L'Oreal, and franchising
Limitless potential in SR causes
Unilever investment support
Growing markets in Middle East and Asia/Pacific regions
Competitors like Burt's Bees and Body & Bath Shop -- product and price
New models of SR recognized by younger customers may not translate
Supplier networks in politically challenging circumstances