Roddick was also involved in activism and campaigning for environmental and social issues including involvement with Greenpeace and The Big Issue. In 1990, Roddick founded Children On The Edge, a charitable organization which helps disadvantaged children in Eastern Europe and Asia.
Roddick was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis due to long-standing hepatitis C in 2004, and after she revealed this to the media in February 2007, she promoted the work of the Hepatitis C Trust, and campaigned to increase awareness of the disease.
After leaving school, Roddick trained as a teacher at Bath College of Higher Education (now called Bath Spa University), and travelled widely before her mother introduced her to Gordon Roddick, whom she married in 1970. The couple opened a restaurant, followed by a hotel. By the time they married, they already had one child and were expecting another. Roddick became the mother of two daughters, Justine and Sam, who following in her mother's footsteps, runs her own business the upmarket and ethical sex shop, Coco De Mer. Roddick worked for the United Nations, for which she traveled extensively and met people from a number of different cultures. She founded The Body Shop in Brighton, in 1976. The first The Body Shop was basic, offering only 15 products at first. The Body Shop's full range now has over 300 products.
The original Body Shop was a series of brilliant accidents. It had a great smell, it had a funky name. It was positioned between two funeral parlours--that always caused controversy. It was incredibly sensuous. It was 1976, the year of the heat wave, so there was a lot of flesh around. We knew about storytelling then, so all the products had stories. We recycled everything, not because we were environmentally friendly, but because we didn’t have enough bottles. It was a good idea. What was unique about it, with no intent at all, no marketing nous, was that it translated across cultures, across geographical barriers and social structures. It wasn’t a sophisticated plan, it just happened like that.
By 2004, the Body Shop had 1980 stores, serving over 77 million customers throughout the world. The Body Shop was voted the second most trusted brand in the United Kingdom, and 28th top brand in the world.
On 17 March 2006, L'Oréal purchased Body Shop for £652 million. This caused controversy, because L'Oréal is involved in animal testing, and because the company is part-owned by Nestlé which has been criticized for its treatment of third world producers. Anita Roddick addressed it directly in an interview with The Guardian, which reported that "she sees herself as a kind of 'Trojan horse' who by selling her business to a huge firm will be able to influence the decisions it makes. Suppliers who had formerly worked with the Body Shop will in future have contracts with L'Oréal, and working with the company 25 days a year Roddick will be able to have an input into decisions."
Upon seeing the conditions the children were in, she created COTE to help manage the crisis and worked to de-institutionalize the children over the course of their early life. COTE's mission focuses on disadvantaged children affected by conflicts, natural disasters, disabilities, and HIV/AIDS.
On 13 December 2005, the National Post reported that Roddick had decided to turn her back on the world of commerce and give away her fortune, worth some £51 million ($104 million).
On live television, Roddick explained that her hepatitis C was unexpectedly diagnosed in 2004, following a blood test that was part of a medical examination needed for a life insurance policy; the blood test indicated abnormal liver function and subsequent blood tests diagnosed hepatitis C. Roddick explained that she had a large blood transfusion in 1971, after the birth of her younger daughter, and that she is convinced that the transfusion infected her with hepatitis C. This was about 20 years before blood donors were screened for hepatitis C in the United Kingdom. She reported that she has developed cirrhosis of the liver, and that her main symptoms were itching and poor concentration. She briefly mentioned that medical treatment with interferon did not suit her. Roddick explained that she kept fit and active, and that she attended biannual out-patient hospital appointments in Southampton, as well as being under review by the liver transplant team at the Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.
Dame Anita Roddick was a close friend of Littlehampton Community School. In 2003, it successfully applied to become a Business and Enterprise specialist school. Much of the money that was required was donated by Anita Roddick. As a result of this donation, a new building that was built with this money was named 'The Roddick Enterprise Centre' (normally abbreviated to 'REC'). The Littlehampton College also hosts 'Roddick Days' such as 'Day of Action' and 'One World'; these events allow students to give something back to their local community and learn about what is happening around them.
The school is currently planning a future academy to be built. Following the death of Dame Anita Roddick, it has been widely suggested that any future academy should be given her name in memory of the local entrepreneur.
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