Skip to main content
Sustainable Innovation
Wellbeing & Personal Development

What The Body Shop taught me about positive impact

Green leaf close up
Published: February 13, 2024
Share this article:

Ailie Shackleton is Head of Content Marketing at Impact and a once teenage fan of The Body Shop.

White musk or dewberry?

Ask anyone who was a teenage girl in the 90s, ‘white musk or dewberry?’*, and they’ll know exactly what you are talking about.

Hearing that The Body Shop have filed intent to appoint administrators has stopped me in my tracks and saddened my soul today. Dame Anita Roddick was a pioneer. A woman who forged a successful business and made beauty accessible and affordable to me and my friends. We spent many a happy hour in her stores, opening bottles, dousing ourselves in scent samples, and buying teeny iridescent bath pearls, all under the badge of cruelty free.

The Body Shop gave us awareness, as teenagers, that there was a different way of doing things, that we could happily spend our money on stuff we wanted AND do it with a sense of purpose – with the knowledge that our impact wasn’t harming anyone or anything. In fact, we were protecting animals from cruelty. Well done us!

In a conversation with a podcast guest this week, we got talking about the most effective way to drive change, sustainability and positive impact. Is it through government, business or individuals? This debate is ongoing… but one thing we all agreed on is that, if it is to be driven by individuals, it has to be made easy for people to engage. And that is exactly what Dame Anita Roddick did with The Body Shop.

The Body Shop were pioneers for positive impact 

The fact that The Body Shop has gone into administration says less about the brand and more about it’s private equity-owners, in my opinion. Founded in 1976, the brand was revolutionary, driven by a belief that business could be a force for good. The brand that I loved in the 90s was obviously not driven by profits. As David Williams, my CEO, puts it so beautifully: ‘Impact are not here to make money, but we will not be here if we don’t make money.’ His words could have been spoken by Dame Anita. 

Dame Anita grew The Body Shop to be one of the greatest businesses in the UK, and I still think of it with admiration because at the heart of her vision was love, kindness, respect and responsibility – values that too many organisations lack. Although I probably couldn’t have articulated this at the time, as a teenage girl I was inspired by her vision, her voice, and the way that she was empowering me (through my pocket money choices) to make a positive difference in the world.

Looking to the future

If you were a teenage fan of The Body Shop, like me, you’re probably feeling some guilt about the last time you popped to a store (heck, it's bigger than that... guilt about the last time you strolled down the high street rather than shopping online). But this cannot be about guilt. We have to learn from the past, reflect on the present and look to the future and what we can change. The Body Shop revolutionised beauty, shedding light on the impact that industry can have on the planet and the people within it. Their products were affordable to the masses, making it less about profit and more about accessibility. 

My reflections on hearing The Body Shop news are about my own organisation, and how proud I am to be part of Impact, to engage with clients, to have challenging conversations, and to be part of our mission to liberate human potential in organisations so that together we can solve the complex problems that challenge humanity. I'm not only going to honour Dame Anita's incredible legacy by making conscious choices in my own shopping habits, but also in the work that I do in my organisation, partnering proudly with other organisations to work on their positive impact and doing it in a way that is human-centric, not solely profit-driven. 

“Business shapes the world. It is capable of changing society in almost any way you can imagine.”
Dame Anita Roddick

* For reference, dear reader, I was most definitely a white musk gal.

You might like to find out more on Impact's approach to...

Positive impact

Human-centred organisations