I've finished reading 'Body and Soul' - Anita Roddick's first autobiographical business book - and honestly, I don't know how I feel. Sneaking off to the Sainsbury's canteen in my lunch break to spend time reading about her experiences has been like lunching with a mentor every day, and I'm sad to let that go (but I already have a handful of people in line to read it after me, so let it go I must).
Three things stand out for me:
Everything is relevant - I mentioned this in my earlier post, but as the book progressed I continued to be amazed and encouraged by how much of the greatness demonstrated by the Body Shop as an organisation flowed from Roddick's own life experience. Each day can teach me something that contributes to my overall capacity to live a meaningful life.
Everyone is responsible - There's absolutely no escaping Roddick's insistence that we all take responsibility for the type of society and global community we want to live and work in. She comes across as believing passionately in the power of the enlightened (demanding) employee to change the nature of business, and in the power of consumer and business working in tandem to create social change.
Real change is elusive - 'Body and Soul' was first published in 1991, and it's more than a little depressing to realise how few of Roddick's predictions have materialised over the years. She anticipated a very different business landscape, and we are only making incremental (and arguably superficial) progress towards that vision.
The Times called this book "A manual for the 21st century"; the Financial Times said "Her determination is inspirational", but in the end Anita Roddick admits to being frustrated that 'to this day there have been high streets full of companies that copied our packaging or products, but not one of them copied our basic stance.'
There's a saying: 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'. I believe it's true, and instead of espousing my admiration for the things Anita Roddick and the Body Shop stands for I want to get on board and become a little bit more alert every day to the action I can take in my own life - the ways I can choose to be principled in my work and in my leisure, the ways I can live and learn.
"So now it's over to you - it's your turn
to weave the stories of
the next generation
and make the apparently impossible come true."
Dame Anita Roddick - Body and Soul (Preface, 2008)