Video: Cosmetics founder dies

updated 9/11/2007 11:28:36 AM ET 2007-09-11T15:28:36

Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, who used her international cosmetics chain to promote eco-friendly practices long before they were widely fashionable, died Monday night after suffering a major brain hemorrhage, her family said. She was 64.

Roddick, known as the “Queen of Green,” was lauded around the world for trailblazing business practices that promoted environmentalism and other causes dear to her heart, from human rights to Third World debt relief.

“Businesses have the power to do good,” Roddick wrote on the Web site of the company, which was bought by the French company L’Oreal Group last year for $1.14 billion.

The Body Shop opposed animal testing and tried to encourage Third World development by purchasing materials from small communities in poorer countries. It founded a human rights award and invested in a wind farm in Wales as part of its campaign to promote renewable energy.

“Before Body Shop you could only find cruelty-free products in hippie shops — now they are everywhere,” said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals vice president Dan Mathews, who worked with Roddick on campaigns in the 1980s, when Body Shop became a global brand.

Modest start
The company grew into a global phenomenon with nearly 2,000 stores in 50 countries but Roddick, the daughter of Italian immigrants, said she opened her first outlet in 1976 in Brighton, southern England, with only modest hopes.

“I started the Body Shop simply to create a livelihood for myself and my two daughters while my husband, Gordon, was trekking across the Americas,” she wrote. “I had no training or experience ...”

She said she drew inspiration from women’s beauty rituals that she discovered while traveling in developing countries, and lessons that her mother passed on from life during World War II.

“Why waste a container when you can refill it? And why buy more of something than you can use? We behaved as she did in the Second World War, we reused everything, we refilled everything and we recycled all we could,” Roddick wrote.

She joked that the Body Shop’s trademark green color scheme came about by accident because it was the only color that could cover the mold on the walls of her first shop.

Made a dame
Roddick and her husband stepped down as co-chairmen in 2002 but she continued to work as a consultant. In recognition of her contribution to business and charity, Queen Elizabeth II made her a dame, the female equivalent of a knight, in 2003.

Roddick rejected criticism that Body Shop was compromising its values by becoming part of L’Oreal, which had not abandoned animal testing. She said it was a chance for Body Shop, which remains independently run, despite its new owners, to teach its new parent company.

Roddick who died at a hospital in Chichester, had revealed in February that she contracted hepatitis C through a blood transfusion while giving birth to a daughter in 1971.

She made the announcement after becoming the patron of the British charity Hepatitis C Trust. She had been carrying it for more than three decades, but it was detected only two years ago after a blood test.

It was not immediately clear if there was a link between the disease and her brain hemorrhage.

'Incredible woman'
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was deeply saddened by her death.

“She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market,” Brown said.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven called Roddick an “incredible woman” who would be “sorely missed.”

“She was so ahead of her time when it came to issues of how business could be done in different ways, not just profit-motivated but taking into account environmental issues,” Sauven said. “When you look at it today, and how every company claims to be green, she was living this decades ago.”

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