Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Socially Responsible Retailer Tackles Human Trafficking

The Body Shop, the pioneering socially responsible retailer, has unveiled a new approach to addressing the global issue of child sex trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative this week. Human trafficking is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world and the Body Shop has thrown the weight of its 2500 global stores behind this campaign.

With such high ethical credentials from the outset under Anita Roddick’s original masterful stewardship, the Body Shop has always held its head proudly above the parapet. They have always had a reputation for pushing way beyond the traditional corporate social responsibility definition and the latest campaign is no different. The initiative called the ‘Progress Card System’ scores countries on the depth of their governments efforts to stop sex trafficking. The next three years will see the partnership with EPCAT International raise awareness, generate funds and encourage active supporters to demand change.

Since the acquisition by the L’Oréal Group back in 2006 there have been questions over the implications over the Body Shop’s ability to adhere to its original strong ethical values, as the new parent does have one or two skeletons in their own ethics wardrobe. As yet there are no definitive signs of any reduction in their corporate social responsibility commitment but one particular blogger wasn’t too happy when a Body Shop assistant warned that she wasn’t allowed take photographs of the store, even from the street (quoting orders from management) when viewing the new campaign poster. What would Anita have said about that? Mrs. Roddick believed that selling The Body Shop to L’Oréal was the best way to guarantee the company values into the future.

She said, “I have not worked all these years to be satisfied to have pioneered a new way of doing business that nobody else ever tries. I want to make things happen, to spread human values wider in business if I possibly can. And this sale gives us the chance to do so.”

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then the Body Shop will forever have a smile. It helped change the way many people think about their purchasing power, where products came from, how they were made, and is undoubtedly still at the vanguard of socially and environmentally responsible business. There may be more questions yet to come about the integration into the L’Oreal Group but the Body Shop continues to keep the ethical bar beyond where most retailers dare to consider.

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