Philanthropy Impact

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Gordon Roddick

Born in Scotland in 1942, Gordon trained at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, England. Tin mining, sheep farming in Australia and canoeing down the Amazon all featured in his life before the age of 26, when he met and married Anita Perella.

Gordon Roddick

Personal story

Born in Scotland in 1942, Gordon trained at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, England. Tin mining, sheep farming in Australia and canoeing down the Amazon all featured in his life before the age of 26, when he met and married Anita Perella. "Travelling was the best education I could possibly have. I saw people in Africa and Latin America who were in extreme poverty but always willing to help. I came to realize then that life should be a trade-off between earning some security for one-self and helping others become secure as well."

After writing short stories, picture framing and running a hotel and restaurant, he helped found The Body Shop with his wife in 1976 as a one-shop venture in Brighton. Today, 28 years on, The Body Shop is a multi-local business with more than 2000 stores serving over 77 million customers in 53 different markets. As Co-Chairman of The Body Shop, Gordon devoted a great deal of energy towards providing assistance to disadvantaged groups around the world, through the company's programme of Trading with Communities in Need.

Gordon also supports several social enterprises, which he describes as "commercially successful ventures, as well as ethically sound and dedicated to serving society". In 1991, along with John Bird, he funded the launch of a social business to sell street newspapers as a means to fight homelessness. Today, The Big Issue is one of the most successful social enterprises in the UK. Its mission has expanded beyond homelessness to include jobs, education, training and health. Another business with a social enterprise that Gordon supports is Freeplay, an international business whose vision is to "make energy available to everybody all of the time" by creating and developing a global market for self-sufficient energy products.

"Travelling was the best education I could possibly have."

His involvement in promoting sustainability and Fairtrade extends beyond the UK. For example, as part of a consortium [drawn together by Twin Trading] which includes The Body Shop International, Comic Relief, Christian Aid and Kuapa Kokoo farmers co-operative, he supported the founding of The Day Chocolate Company. Its Fairtrade chocolate brand 'Divine' is made from cocoa of Kuapa Kokoo, a co-operative of 40,000 growers in Ghana, to which The Day Chocolate Company pays a guaranteed Fairtrade price, plus an extra 'social premium' that supports improvements in the farmers' living standards and farming productivity. More importantly Kuapa Kokoo owns 33% of the equity of the Day Chocolate Company. Gordon believes that "improving livelihoods of smallholder cocoa producers in West Africa is possible by establishing a branded proposition in the UK chocolate market, allowing them to be higher up the value chain".

Both Gordon and Anita believe that "businesses have the power to do good", and The Body Shop's Mission Statement opens with the overriding commitment, "To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change". Right from the start, they have used their stores and products to help communicate human rights and environmental issues. For example, the first issue championed through the company's 'shop windows' was Greenpeace's Acid Rain campaign. The two main issues they support are Human Rights, including social and economic rights, and the environment with particular focus on climate change.

Gordon considers that many of the causes for which they fight have grown with them due to their business. This entrepreneurial spirit, creative dissent, passion and radicalism are best described in the title of one of Anita's recent books: "Brave Hearts, Rebel Spirits".

(from A Guide to Giving, 2nd edition, 2005)

 

This personal story is tagged under

  • Business/corporate philanthropy
  • Environment
  • Causes
  • Inspirational donations