My life at The Body Shop and why every business needs to know who they are and what they stand for.

In the news…

I was shocked to learn about the demise of The Body Shop in the UK. On the day the news broke I wrote a post on LinkedIn about my memories of working with Anita Roddick and what life was like in those crazy pioneering days. I didn’t need the likes of ChatGPT to generate the content, it came bursting from the heart. Here is what I wrote…

I was lucky to get to know Anita Roddick. The first time we met was for my job interview as a designer in 1988, well actually she interviewed me twice because I turned down her offer. Fresh out of college I wanted to gain some more experience but I returned six months later and ended up staying for 12 years. I worked closely with her for the following few years and watched how the company grew to the global success it eventually became.

I cherish the friendships made and have so many more stories to tell. When I started my job friends would ask, ’Is it really as good as they say?’ I’d say ‘No, it’s better’. It was exciting back then, to be part of a maverick business. I remember one day rushing to meet a deadline when Anita burst into the design studio, we all put down our tools and joined her on the ‘Stop the Burning’ protest outside the Brazilian Embassy.

The business grew and changed as time went on. But we were still encouraged to be involved in community projects and lucky for me I was chosen to be involved in a pioneering women’s network. I was made Environmental Officer for the design department, and one of my duties was to instruct freelancers recycle paper and which bins to use, they had to be told back then, imagine that!

Many years later I now realise that what I learnt then has shaped me and is possibly the reason I believe so passionately in my business today.

Anita often used quoted this African proverb, ‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito’.

Bea Thackeray working in The Body Shop design studio in the early 90's and a photo of her outside a Body Shop store with the first animal in danger posters in the windows.

Me at my desk in The Body Shop design studio and outside a shop on Oxford Street London, early 1990’s.

On reflection

It is fantastic that so many green initiatives and policies to do with CSR are now becoming the norm, in fact a prerequisite for running a successful business. But what upsets me is when I hear comments directed at older generations causing all the damage and just not getting it. Well I don’t stop myself from saying, ‘That’s not new, we did that in the 1990’s’.

Some might remember the refill stations where customers could bring back bottles to refill. Or maybe the ‘Stop The Burning’ campaign, the very public fight against animal testing in the cosmetics industry and the early ‘Trade not Aid’ projects as they were called back then. I had the privilege to visit and work at the GPI paper factory in Nepal as well as Teddy Exports in Southern India. Work I am still most proud of apart from spending eight years on various incarnations of the ‘Animals in Danger’ range. Who remembers that one?

In later years the focus was on campaigning to end violence against women. Self esteem was always a key issue. I’ve still got the t-shirt with one of my favourite slogans, ‘What’s so vital about statistics?

The ethos was not to sell just another face cream but to do so much more. Bring awareness, affect change and make a difference. Oh, and to not take yourself too seriously.

So what happened next is a lesson for us all on how important it is to;

  • Stay ahead of the game and ride the crest of what ever wave we are on,
  • Stay true to our principles,
  • And don’t water down our message.

And finally

Another thing I learnt in those early days came from visiting trade shows. For me, it wasn’t about what I saw, instead I instinctively searched for what was missing. What was it that no one else was doing? My approach hasn’t changed.

And so fast forward a couple of decades and here I am, designing and selling reusable alternatives to common disposable products. Watch this space for more…

Keep This Cracker red Christmas design shown open with ecosnaps

* The ecosnap is exclusive to Keep This Cracker and approved stockists
Ecosnap is a registered trademark and a registered design.
Keep This Cracker construction is patent protected.

© 2024 Bea Thackeray
(written from the heart with HI, human intelligence.)