Resting on it’s L`oreals
08 October 2006
Barry Ronge If you haven’t heard the term ’ethical consumerism’ before, relax, because here are some examples of what it means to buy things made ethically.
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The trendy phrase "ethical consumerism" has always sounded like a contradiction in terms. Like the verbal equivalent of a magician’s trick, where a bold flourish or a loud noise distracts the audience’s attention from a deceptive switch, so that when the result of that switch is revealed, we all think it is a magical event. - P1
Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop in 1976, on a tide of morally uplifting "green business" jargon. Her business would nurture the environment, just as her products, all natural and not tested on animals, would nurture your skin and your soul, depending on where you applied them. Thirty years later, Roddick has sold The Body Shop to cosmetic giant L’Oréal for £652-million (R9-billion) a sum that brings the heartening reassurance that sometimes ethical consumerism can pay almost as much as organised crime does. P2
The L’Oréal corporation is not beloved of the world’s eco-activists and many Internet voices have expressed a sense of sadness and disillusionment about what they call "The Body Shop sell-out." P3
L’Oréal insists it is nothing of the sort. In an official press release it asserts "the acquisition of The Body Shop would broaden L’Oréal’s existing portfolio, adding a complementary brand with a strong identity and values. L’Oréal is committed to preserving and upholding those values. Dame Anita Roddick will remain in her current role as a consultant to The Body Shop and has accepted L’Oréal’s invitation to become a consultant." - P4
The environmental lobby is calling it a "greenwash", the application of an attractive external coating to conceal the weathering underneath, and they are calling for a boycott. - P5
Will it materialise? It seems unlikely. The tree-hugging "friends of the Earth" who so fervently embraced The Body Shop concept back in 1976 have never really been a cornerstone of the international fashion trade. Have you ever seen a conservationist in a couture frock? - P6
The Body Shop’s strawberry body wash was a great favourite of mine, as was that wonderful coconut-scented brilliantine and its various vanilla-scented products. They made me feel both posh and virtuous in my bathroom, a room not notably associated with virtue of any substantial kind. L’Oréal assures me that nothing will change. I’ll have to wait till my next shopping excursion to see if my heart offers me a similar assurance. - P7