Anita Roddick, Nestle, and Dissenting Approaches to CSR

Last month, I blogged about the potential Merger of Corporate Values implied by L’Oreal’s takeover of the Body Shop.

Today’s Independent reports on the on-going controversy over that particular corporate acquisition: Roddick targets Nestlé after corporate ‘sell-out’

Dame Anita Roddick has admitted that she harbours concerns over the ethical record of Nestlé, a major shareholder in the French cosmetic giant L’Oréal, which bought the Body Shop for £652m.

She also suggested campaigners, determined to stage a consumer boycott, should target the Swiss multinational’s leading brands such as Perrier, Kit-Kat and Nescafé, rather than the company she founded.

The entrepreneur has been repeatedly forced to defend herself over the controversial sale in March, announced amid a blaze of allegations that she had morally and financially sold out.

Wow, even a whiff of betrayal — even deviation, or difference of opinion as to methods — is apparently enough to bring out the knives! This sort of in-fighting between the faithful is unseemly, at best. Obviously, not everyone is going to agree with Roddick’s contention that corporate behaviour is best changed from the inside, but it’s hard to fathom why those who disagree about her method can’t at least see that she’s “on the right side.”

Perhaps the answer is a sociological one having to do with the psychology of groups. More than 20 years ago, sociologists Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky wrote about how groups of all kinds (but especially small, isolated groups like the Old Order Mennonites) maintain their cohesiveness by portraying the outside world as fraught with peril, and portraying those who deviate from shared values (or worse, choose to leave the group) as sinners. So, it may well be that some corporate watchdogs are going to see value in harsh criticism of non-conformists like Roddick, as a way of enforcing internal order and adhesion to the one true faith.

Book Links:
Business As Unusual: My Entrepreneurial Journey, Profits With Principles, by Anita Roddick
Anita!: The Woman Behind the Body Shop, by Jules Older & Lisa Kopper
Risk and Culture : An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers, by Mary Douglas, Aaron Wildavsky

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