Editorial: Roddick still has the flair to walk the walk

'It's about reputation, reputation, reputation,' argues Anita Roddick in a revealing interview in this week's issue. Granted, it is hardly a revelation to PROs, but we can learn a great deal from someone who has taken a huge amount of flak over the years, on both corporate and personal fronts.

During the 1980s Roddick was lauded as a female - and, more unusually, an ethical - exemplar of that decade's go-getter culture. But the backlash inevitably took place in the 1990s as her Body Shop empire came under harsh scrutiny, and found its once unique selling point eroded by supermarkets and other non-specialist retailers.

Roddick is an example of Britain's questionable 'build 'em up, knock 'em down' culture and has found herself accused of everything from false ethical claims and egotism to hypocrisy for accepting a civil honour.

Fortunately her enthusiasm for business and comms remains undimmed and, though clearly a complex and contradictory character, she continues to innovate in the area of corporate behaviour.

Entrepreneurs are by their nature instinctive marketers, a breed we tend to underrate in this country. That said, there has to be a time when entrepreneurs listen to some of the (constructive) external voices and allow their creations to evolve in order to survive.

This now seems to be happening at The Body Shop, where a new generation of marketers and PROs are being allowed to develop their own ideas. After years of faltering sales growth, a complete rethink of its retail experience in early 2004 generated a nine per cent increase in sales, and a 21 per cent boost in profits, for the last financial year.

But Roddick is no passenger in this evolutionary process. She is tireless in developing programmes around the world that link The Body Shop to social issues and community initiatives. In short, she is a corporate communicator who continues to walk it, rather than just talk it.

View From the Top, p24.

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