Anita Roddick of The Body Shop on why you should get networking now

The female entrepreneur esposes the benefits of making contacts

The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick talks up the myriad benefits good networking can bring, and how partnerships with the disadvantaged represent the way forward.

Calling networking the “business buzzword of the decade”, the successful entrepreneur puts it in frank terms – “We don’t network well in this country”. She points to the example of the National American Women’s Business Association as an example of networking done right, calling it an “unbelievable” organisation. “They support each other, they share ideas – and they mentor the poor and disadvantaged,” Roddick enthuses. “Business networks at any local level are truly important.”

Seeking to clarify then-recent comments she made on MBAs and other business school graduates, Roddick explains that whatever business subject you are studying, academic prowess comes second – “the most important thing is your networking during that time”.

Roddick goes on to explain that businesses are all about partnerships. Not a new concept, you might think, but Roddick takes a more holistic view – they are not just about partnerships with your staff, suppliers and customers, but “also with other like-minded people”. Her message is clear; networking is king.

On the topic of partnerships, Roddick enthuses about one of her favourite topics – that of working with the disadvantaged and giving something back. She describes The Body Shop’s community trade project, a purchasing programme where the company looks for local co-operatives and the like in developing countries, whose products they will purchase and “shove in” to their own. “Many businesses and politicians don’t put poor people as active participants,” complains Roddick. “They know the answers! We need to collectively support these groups as we have been doing.”

Roddick finishes by sharing some good news on the topic, revealing she has just come back from spending some time with L’Oreal and successfully convincing them to engage in a community purchasing programme of their own, buying in products such as sugar, cocoa butter and aloe from sustainable sources for the first time. “If a big organisation like that can start working with fragile, weak communities, it’s time for celebration,” she says.

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