As always, Mum was right

On LinkedIn yesterday an article appeared with the headline; The Body Shop launches in-store take-back scheme for plastic packaging The comments section was filled with young bucks praising the multi-national company for their radical new environmental initiative.

Till a couple of gobby older ladies pointed out that they had simply gone back to their roots. Planet earth.

Reduce, reuse, recycle wasn’t just part of the Body Shop’s mantra – it was their whole philosophy. When we first bought our precious little bottle of potions as teenagers, we took it back when it was empty and got another.

I was excited to think that the ethical Brazilian cosmetics company, Natura (who bought the Body Shop in 2017) were finally going to undo the damage L’Oreal (who bought the BodyShop in 2006) had wrought to Anita Roddick’s legacy. Especially in this age of environmental enlightenment and a planet full of young activists. I hoped they had finally woken up to how important their foundation story is and were going back to all the principals that made the company so great.

But then I read the article and the decision wasn’t made by choice. The Body Shop’s packaging wasn’t being accepted at council recycling depots. They were being forced to offer a buy-back scheme.

Anita would chuckle at that.

Sadly, she left us a year after selling the company. She contracted Hep C from a contaminated blood transfusion administered after the birth of her daughter, it lay undiscovered for years and took her way too early.

It also wiped out her vision. Without a powerful woman at the helm, one of the world’s greatest matriarchal businesses became like every other patriarchal global high street chain. Boring.

It was as if everything she had ever said was ignored. Especially on ageing.

Moisturisers do work, but the rest is complete pap. There is nothing on God’s planet, not one thing, that will take away 30 years of arguing with your husband and 40 years of environmental abuse. Anything which says it can magically take away your wrinkles is a scandalous lie.

You would be better off spending the money on a good bottle of pinot noir.

I have always said that if they ever consider putting one on the market, I am out of here like a bat out of hell.

It’s a good job she’s not here to see their ‘Youth Drops’ range that promises (or rather, creatively alludes to) youthful-looking skin.

We may have lost a matriarchy, but we don’t have to lose the matriarch.

Because a world that only fetishises youth is doomed to repeat itself ad infinitum.

There’s a lot to learn from older women. There’s a huge push to get women into the history books, but no one seems interested in recent living history.

A whole pool of wise women’s wisdom is ignored. Fortunately, Anita wrote everything down before she left.

Business as Unusual is the perfect guidebook on how to set up a matriarchy that changes the world. While other startups ‘fail fast and fail forward’, a sensible business could start off where genius left off and build something that will not only make a difference, but will be something that lasts.

Or comes back around again. Anita’s quote below would fit neatly into almost any 2019 brand statement.

In terms of power and influence, you can forget the church, forget politics. There is no more powerful institution in society than business, which is why I believe it is now more important than ever before for business to assume a moral leadership. The business of business should not be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.

It’s not too late to start looking at beginnings again. Even for the Body Shop. Women over 50 would happily buy 47% of everything they sell (like everything else on the market). All it would take to bring us back. Would be to bring Anita’s spirit back.

She left the full instruction manual!


Image: Anita Roddick founder of the Body Shop