As its parent company turns 100, The Body Shop, L’Oréal's enfant terrible, is showing no signs of shedding the scrappy spirit that’s been its leitmotif for more than 30 years.
Founded by the late Anita Roddick in 1976 and acquired by L’Oréal in 2006, the brand and retailer, which has long been a flag bearer for ethically sourced and naturals-based cosmetics, is determined to continue to offer a vision of beauty that goes well beyond skin deep.
“That’s the magic of the brand,” says chief executive officer Sophie Gasperment, of The Body Shop’s tradition of offering products for personal use teamed with messages and actions that are meant to make a difference to the world, such as fair trade, which the brand refers to as community trade, and campaigns against climate change and violence in the home. “It’s why our people join. It’s why our customers come to the stores. It’s how our products are engineered from the start. It’s an integral part of the business.”
And the brand doesn’t shy away from delivering eye-opening messages alongside Deep Sleep moisturizer. In August, for instance, it will launch a global campaign dubbed “Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People” in association with ECPAT International, a collective of organizations working to end child prostitution, pornography and trafficking.
“Part of The Body Shop’s DNA is to help give a voice to those who don’t have a voice of their own,” says Philip Clough, The Body Shop’s global brand director. “That’s why we feel that it’s a burning obligation to bring this issue to the fore and put a sustained campaign behind it. It’s the third-biggest criminal industry and the fastest growing.”
“We knew [sex trafficking] was a theme that Anita was very keen that The Body Shop do something about,” says Gasperment, referring to Roddick, who died in 2007 at the age of 64. Gasperment adds that the company decided to focus particularly on the trafficking of children and young adults, as it felt it could have a significant impact on the issue by raising awareness and changing attitudes.
The Body Shop’s willingness to champion such difficult-to-digest causes and controversial issues — such as testing beauty products on animals, global warming ad the beauty industry’s seemingly homogenous perception of beauty — have been integral to the brand’s development. Indeed, when L’Oréal made acquisition overtures in 2006, the move was seen as controversial since Roddick had frequently railed about the beauty industry in the past.
“At the time of the acquisition, some customers had some questions about whether the things they loved about The Body Shop might change,” says Gasperment. “That is not much on the agenda now, as three years on they can see the values are stronger than ever and the commitment that the L’Oréal group took at the beginning — that it would be a ringfenced separate entity within the group to make sure the very specific side of this brand was retained — has been achieved. It’s not something we hear in our stores anymore.”
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