Anita Roddick on being an ethical employer at The Body Shop

The Body Shop founder says you can motivate staff by giving them a voice

The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick explains how she gave her staff the opportunity to influence social change, and the “immense” motivating power this had.

Roddick explains that the socially-minded beauty products company was “searching for employees but found people instead” – staff “yearned for more meaning and purpose” than the regular 9-5 grind they would find in other jobs.

The Body Shop was known as the archetypal social enterprise, to the extent that one of its offices was turned into a dedicated Amnesty International ‘action station’ in which, every Friday afternoon, all employees were allowed to “down tools for a couple of hours” and write letters for the charity. “This was quite the most exciting thing,” recalls Roddick. “You had a place that was like an incubator – and I don’t use this word loosely – of the human spirit.”

Additionally, Roddick explains how The Body Shop would often get directly involved in human crises developing around the world, giving staff the chance to spend some time in strife-torn regions helping people on the ground. When the Romanian government under Ceausescu collapsed, the company sent staff to the country to help “clean up” orphanages. “Okay, it was just for a few weeks,” recalls Roddick, “but after a month we decided we had to set up an organisation, which we called Children on the Edge – now one of the most respected charities working with kids in war-torn zones.”

Roddick explains that company-wide policies like this added a profound sense of meaning and direction to employees’ lives. For a few hours every week, staff were not thinking about their own “comfort level”, or the numerous other benefits accorded to them as Body Shop employees, but were collectively striving in pursuit of a common social goal. “However expressed, these values carry messages of shared purpose, values and conception –  what it’s worth living for, what it’s worth striving for, and they have immense motivating power,” Roddick explains. “It’s actions like this that people who used to work for us will never forget.”

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