Heroes And Heroines

We all have them, don’t we? In business mine are the people of passion and principle who never let their morals, core aims and beliefs, be sacrificed by an easier, compromised route to growth, and they refuse to be bullied. You don’t have to change the world, you don’t have to grow. But I firmly believe if you are principled and dedicated it brings, as in all aspects of life, respect and trust, and these are cornerstones of a good existence, a good business.

Anita Roddick died five years ago. She started with one little shop in Brighton (between two funeral parlours), offering just 15 products, and went on to create the vast cosmetics company that shaped ethical consumerism.

She is a heroine, who never stopped trying to change her world for the better, whether for her family or for her customers or for the Third World. In November 1999 this chief executive officer of one of the biggest retailers was tear-gassed on a Seattle street while peacefully protesting at the failed summit of the World Trade Organisation. One of the last articles she wrote was about that experience, for the magazine Resurgence. I have kept it.

Her Body Shop mission statement reflected her belief that businesses have the power to do good. It begins with the commitment “‘to dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change’ and she wanted her stores and products to help communicate human rights and environmental issues.

Another inspirational quote from Anita. “If you can create an honourable livelihood, where you take your skills and use them and you earn a living from it, it gives you a sense of freedom and allows you to balance your life the way you want.”

I have other heroes and heroines too. At the forefront of my thoughts right now are the wonderfully diverse, richly colourful, honourable life-blood small businesses of Sheringham, the Norfolk seaside town of my youth, a business community facing up to the reality of Tesco moving in.

Well done to the local daily newspaper the EDP for their long-term campaign for people to buy local, and well done to fellow blog writer and founder of Enterprise Rockers, Tina Boden, for her campaign to highlight the immeasurable value of local businesses.

Footnote (not a political statement, but a social one):

So, The Shard, Europe’s tallest building with five star restaurants and 10 super-luxurious, rooms-with-a-staggering-view, £30-50m apartments, is officially unveiled in London, at the same time as thousands of people are heading for the capital to attend Marxism 2012, a five-day festival with a long list of speakers from around the world, including Tony Benn. There was a time when one of these events would have been considered far more uncomfortably extreme and out of kilter with society than the other, but now one wonders if the reverse is true.

Discuss.

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