Body Shop’s latest report demonstrates the retailer is still committed to championing social
change but, for a pioneer of social reporting, the latest offering is far from cutting edge
If the part of the purpose of social reports is to convince sceptical stakeholders that the
company in question really is committed to acting responsibly, then The Body Shop must
start in a far more favourable position than most other companies. Possibly more than any
other company, the firm is closely associated with a social justice agenda – indeed the line
between profit-making company and campaigning organisation has at times been blurred.
AdvertisementReading this report, it is easy to believe that the company means what it says,
and that the company’s strongly held values really go to the core of the organisation and
permeate through all its practices. Integrating values into an organisation is surely much
easier when a company holds them from its inception, rather than when it tries to tack them
on as an afterthought to mitigate risks posed by changing social trends.
But The Body Shop is not without its critics, and while the organisation has a distinguished
history as a pioneer of corporate responsibility, it is the first to admit it has neglected
meaningful social and environmental reporting for a number of years.
The Body Shop went from boom in the 1980s to close to bust by the end of the 1990s. Jon
Entine of the American Enterprise Institute and one of Body Shop’s fiercest critics during the
1990s has quoted founder Anita Roddick as characterising Body Shop as a “dysfunctional
coffin” in 2002. In the early part of the new century, Roddick took a backseat role as new
management made its priority re-establishing a sound financial footing.
But in the past couple of years, Body Shop has made a concerted effort to get back to the
cutting edge – it is even rumoured to have recently been recruiting for a director of values
with a whopping £200,000 salary....