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Social Performance of “The Body Shop” Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Mar 26th, 2020


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) involves different obligations that vary from company to company depending on the industry. These include the mandatory responsibility of providing quality products and services at reasonable prices while following set laws and providing adequate compensation to employees in addition to providing them with decent working conditions.

Other social responsibilities that are ‘not mandatory’ considered as those leaning towards ‘good corporate citizenship, include going beyond set minimum environmental responsibilities, not partaking in bribery, anti-corruption and respect to human rights. Companies also are expected to be philanthropic to society, develop the community and also volunteer for communal activities.

The Body Shop is a cosmetics company whose core value is to sell beauty products ‘inspired by nature’[1]. In this report, I will show how the Body Shop has faired in meeting its corporate social responsibilities.

The Negative

The Body Shop has had numerous campaigns on its perfect record. They claimed from their numerous citations that they were the most honest cosmetic company in the world. However, after an expose done by Jon Entine[2], their claims were disputed and were subjected to major criticism.

One claim that fundamentally stands out is the fact that Anita Roddick, who claims to be the founder of the Body Shop “decided to open a small shop in England selling the kind of simple, natural skin and hair care preparations she had seen being used by women of other cultures on her travels around the world.” (The Body Shop brochure: “The Business of The Body Shop”).

The claim was disputed because the Body Shop actually originated in America in San Francisco, started by Sisters-in-law Jane Saunders and Peggy Short who sold cosmetics with ‘natural-sounding names’.

It was later when Anita Roddick traveled to San Francisco that her friend took her to the Body Shop to buy shampoo and body cream. The claim is that she copied her entire concept from the Body Shop at union square san Francisco which was the third shop in that line. In addition, she copied even the illustrations of plants and advice on how to use the products on her catalogs from those of the original Body Shop. The plagiarism was so severe that she even copied grammatical errors[3].

Anita Roddick further suggests that her shop in England was the first to start the cosmetic recycling movement when she offered her customers discounts if they came with their empty bottles for refill[4]. This is disputed because the original The Body Shop used the terms “you might bring an empty bottle for a price reduction” in their 1971 brochure. It was much later in 1976 when Anita Roddick opened her first shop in England.

Roddick’s early executives admitted as to how they fabricated numerous myths, with some innocence at first as to how she built the Body Shop for the sake of selling products and press attention. The original the Body Shop was renamed to ‘Body Time’.

The Body Shop claims that they use natural ingredients in every product. However it has been discovered that they mostly use synthetic compounds combined chemically with sprinklings of natural ingredients. The word natural in itself is vague and does not always depict the full picture. Some synthetics are far safer than the natural ones.

In fact, most natural foods and cosmetics have synthetics preservatives in them. When Roddick opened her company, she used nonrenewable materials like mineral oils, petrolatum, carbomers, isopropyl myristate and other petrochemical–based ingredients[5].

Most of these ingredients are still in today’s products. Her perfume oils were made by adding synthetics fragrances to ordinary cooking oil. The most innovative part of her products was the use of natural sounding names rather than the extensive use of these natural products in her cosmetics.

Aggressive marketing is the prime reason why some products from the Body Shop, exported out of the U.S.A. do not show contained ingredients. They state a falsehood when they claim that the only nonrenewable chemicals in their products are only mineral oils, which the media blindly quotes creating a ‘green’ aspect of the Body Shop. They further justify the use of dyes and fragrances by using the word ‘fun’ overlooking the fact that these products block skin pores which could lead to mild or severe reactions depending on the skin type.

The Body Shop irradiates their Japanese Washing Grains and other products to kill microbes. Irradiation utilizes nonrenewable uranium which cannot be safely disposed off and has a half-life of millions of years. The use of these nonrenewable materials can be avoided, which contradicts their recurrent claims of use of only renewable materials. This simply is a deception to consumers and stakeholders and is a breach of their social responsibility.

After much complaining by some of its own franchises in areas where the green movement is more aggressive like Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavia, the Body Shop decided to drop the phrase “natural products” from its promotional literature and use “naturally-based” instead. An example of this deception is in their hair gel; they claim that it was inspired by girls from southern Ethiopia who used with ochre, butter and acacia gum to style their hair.

On close scrutiny however the hair gel contains PVP/VA. PVP is a polyvinyl-pyrolidone made from petrochemicals whereas VA is vinyl acetate which are both nonrenewable. The hair gel also contains Triethanolamine (made by reacting ethylene oxide and ammonia), Benzyl Alcohol, Carbomer 940 and a fragrance all made from petrochemicals which are nonrenewable. The product does not contain even one of the ingredients from South Ethiopia as they claim![6]

The Body Shop owners claim they have commitment to the highest quality control standards. They have cultivated the impression that they have a state of the art firm which guarantees quality products. Contrary to this opinion, they have invested little on quality control especially in comparison to their competitors.

Mark Constantine who was charged with the formulation of products claims: “the Body Shop is renowned in the cosmetic industry for its use of outdated, industrial, off-the-shelf recipes filled with unnecessary petrochemicals – despite claims it will never use non-renewable resources when renewable alternatives are available”.

In 1992, 167 complaints were sent to the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), about the Body Shop’s eye gel in New Jersey which prompted a visit. In 1993, the FDA made another visit to their North Carolina facility and found that they had knowingly sold tainted shampoos and foot lotions. No action was taken by the FDA however since the health of the consumer was not directly threatened – but it was an industry violation.

Several other trips were made to the facility and the information uncovered included: the use of improper bacteria sampling procedures, skipping microbial tests on raw and bulk cosmetics, knowingly using contaminated banana shampoo and foot scrub, recurrent problems in their Elderflower Eye Gel, Bacteria on filling machines, Rancid products, Heat-treated products (Contaminated Chamomile Shampoo (#L253N, 8.4 oz. and 4.2 oz. and #L288N, 2 oz.), Seaweed and Birch Shampoo (#M057N, 16.8 oz.), and Raspberry Ripple Bubble Bath, rejected and returned to the UK in 1991), Formaldehyde in cosmetics, Improperly filled bottles and Mishandled mail order products.

On March 4, 1994 in a tape interview, Mark Constantine admitted that they couldn’t afford to pull contaminated products off the shelves so they tried to reformulate them, or add preservatives, or do what ever they could[7].

The Positive

The Body Shop foundation has a consolidated fund for all charity work undertaken by the Body Shop. The Body Shop has given £12.5 million to date in grants which has gone into over 3,500 projects according to their website (www. thebodyshopfoundation.org). The foundation began in 1989 and mainly focuses on animal protection, human rights and environmental protection. Most of the projects they finance are usually nominated by their staff and franchises and therefore do not fund individuals.[8]

In October 2009, the Body Shop was awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Britain for being in the frontline in the fight against testing of cosmetics on animals.

According to Roddick, her business has declined to sell overseas its products, mostly to China because beauty product there have to be tested on animals. The organization funds campaigns based on research into animal testing alternatives. They have developed EpiSkin which is artificially grown human skin for use in skin irritancy tests

The Body Shop has created, a program known as “Trade Not Aid” which focuses on helping people in the third world benefit from trade by utilizing their own resources. They started a number of initiatives including: a paper factory in Nepal employing people to produce bags, notebooks and scented drawer lines, a soap factory in the Glasgow suburb of Easterhouse.

The Trade Not Aid programme focuses on fair labour practices, safe working environments and equality in pay. The Body Shop claimed that 65% of their products contained community traded ingredients by the end of 2008, according to www.Wikipedia.com

The Body Shop has invested in reducing its carbon footprint and has taken various steps towards realizing this goal[9]. They have started by rolling out refits in their stores to improve their energy efficiency by installing new lighting, have decreased air voyage and are at present converting their car fleet to lower-emissions models.

They have also reverted to use of renewable sources of energy for their stores. Another initiative is the introduction of plastic bottles made from 100 per cent recycled material. They aim at making 30 million bottles a year.


Every company must meet its corporate social responsibilities if it is to stay afloat. There are different levels at which CSRs are classified. This does not mean therefore that a company should lean more towards the important ones, but must strike a balance so that all issues are addressed and all stakeholders are happy.

In the case of the Body Shop, there seems to be a consensus among their customers that they meet the required goals[10]. This coupled by the fact that they seem to be making positive strides towards reducing their negative environmental impacts leads to the conclusion that depending on where you are, the Body Shop seems to be fulfilling their corporate social responsibilities.


Blomeley Alex. “Body Shop report”. Web.

Bronstein Zelda. “” the Berkeley Daily Planet, 2004. Web.

Entine, Jon. “Anita Roddick and the Question of Character” A Social and Environmental Audit of the Body Shop, 2003. Web.

Entine, Jon “” Mail Online, 2007. Web.

Roddick Anita. “The Body Shop” Growing Business, 2003. Web.

Taufiqurrahman. “Anita Roddick: Staunch campaigner sees life after The Body Shop” The Jakarta Post, 2006. Web.

The Body Shop website. “Values and Campaigns”. Web.

The guardian. “Interview: Anita Roddick, Body Shop Founder” 2006. Web.


  1. The Body Shop website. “Values and Campaigns”.
  2. Entine, Jon. “Queen of Green Roddick’s ‘unfair trade’ started when she copied Body Shop formula”.
  3. Bronstein Zelda. “Made In Berkeley: Berkeley’s Body Time the Original Body Shop” the Berkeley Daily Planet, 2004.
  4. The guardian. “interview: Anita Roddick, Body Shop Founder” November 3, 2006.
  5. Entine, Jon. “Anita Roddick and the Question of Character” A Social and Environmental Audit of the Body Shop.
  6. Entine, Jon. “Anita Roddick and the Question of Character” A Social and Environmental Audit of the Body Shop.
  7. Blomeley Alex. “Body Shop report”.
  8. Blomeley Alex. “Body Shop report”.
  9. The Body Shop website. “Values and Campaigns”.
  10. Taufiqurrahman. “Anita Roddick: Staunch campaigner sees life after The Body Shop” The Jakarta Post, 2006.
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