Anita Roddick was the founder and chief executive officer of The Body Shop, which sells environmentally and socially sensitive skin care products. Now free from management responsibilities—though she remains a major shareholder and board director—Roddick devotes her time to social change. This spring she published two books, A Revolution in Kindness (as editor) and Brave Hearts, Rebel Spirits: A Spiritual Activists Handbook (with Brooke Shelby Biggs). Sojourners executive editor David Batstone interviewed Roddick in San Francisco.
David Batstone: The message from your new books is not what you expect to hear from the CEO of a major retail corporation.
Anita Roddick: Once I separated myself from The Body Shop, I wanted to get some ideas out. It's very hard in business to be listened to when you talk about revolutionary ideas; it's even more difficult to do so as a woman. The market found it hard to believe us, for example, when we claimed that business has to move beyond an obsession with the bottom line.
Batstone: Was that just rhetoric at The Body Shop?
Roddick: Absolutely not. I was never interested in how big our company could grow, but how brave we could be. The investment bankers talked about profits, but we talked about principles. It all comes down to where you put your material resources and energy.
Batstone: What lessons did you learn while building The Body Shop that are relevant to social activism?