In March 1976, the late Dame Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop in Littlehampton – a small seaside town on the South coast of England. Fast forward 34 years to the present day and The Body Shop now boasts the second largest cosmetic franchise in the world.
I went along to The Westbury Hotel in Mayfair last week to hear a presentation on behalf of The Body Shop who are currently celebrating 22 years of community trade across the globe. From India to Namibia, Guatemala to Samoa the world is their garden and as a company, they want us to know that they’re taking measures to protect it and the lives it supports.
It’s currently Fairtrade Fortnight (22nd Feb – 7th Mar) and The Body Shop were keen to highlight and explain exactly what Community Trade (CT) means and what it involves.
4 of the 6000 women that make up the Eudafano Women’s Cooperative (EWC) in Namibia. The EWC supplies The Body Shop wih Marula Oil (used in nearly all their cosmetics).
Community Trade works along the same principles as Fair Trade, but was established back in 1987 before the Fair Trade mark was available or had indeed become fashionable. From what I understood, the main difference is that the foundations of fair trade are laid much deeper in the CT program and work to support the producer’s whole community, not just the producers themselves. The Body Shop also made it clear that they never enter CT relationships for the short term and only commit to sustainable trading relationships that help affect real social change.
Click play on the video below to learn more about The Body Shop’s involvement with Community Trade:
Two of The Body Shop’s major CT suppliers were in attendance and it was a rare and interesting opportunity to hear how their involvement with The Body Shop affects the communities and co-operatives they represent. It became clear very quickly that the democratic relationship between the ‘industries’ was a precious one to both parties.
Whilst I was sitting there, the antagonist in me kept thinking “What do The Body Shop get out of these CT arrangements when it means they have to pay more for their ingredients?”. Thankfully, Christina from The Body Shop didn’t shy away from that subject and explained that it is simply expected of them to uphold the core values that, as a company, they’ve always claimed to represent. Community Trade allows them to continue their commitments to trading with a conscience whilst benefiting from the (often ancient) knowledge of real experts and assured quality products.
I’m willing to admit that in the past, I’ve accused The Body Shop products of being overpriced and in comparison to products I can buy in other high street stores, they are. I still may only be able to afford to treat myself to my Olive Glossing Shampoo & Conditioner when I’m feeling flush, but I will now hand over my money with a degree of contentment. It’s good to know that every purchase made contributes to making a real and sustained difference to communities. Communities that without the CT backing by The Body Shop would be powerless to break into global markets or risk plundering by unethical industry.