Published on Monday, April 10, 2006 by the Independent / UK
by Cahal Milmo
The sale of the Body Shop to the French cosmetics giant L'Oréal last month has dented the reputation of the British high street retailer once vaunted as the champion of ethical beauty products.
An index that tracks public perception of more than 1,000 consumer brands found that "satisfaction" with Body Shop had slumped by almost half since the deal by its founder, Dame Anita Roddick, to sell the company to L'Oréal for £652m.
Dame Anita, who vowed to give away the £130m she made from the sale, was accused of abandoning her principles by accepting the deal with L'Oréal, which is the world's largest cosmetics producer and has not abandoned animal testing.
Campaigners against animal testing and the Swiss multi-national Nestlé, which has a 26 per cent share in L'Oréal, called for a boycott of Body Shop.
The daily BrandIndex found that since the announcement of the deal three weeks ago, Body Shop's "satisfaction" rating has dropped by 11 points to 14.
The chain's "buzz" rating, a measurement of a brand's trendiness, fell by 10 points to -4while its general impression fell by three to 19.
By comparison, L'Oréal's rating in the latest published version of BrandIndex were eight, four and 16 for satisfaction, buzz and general impression respectively.
Campaigners against Nestlé, which has been criticised for its alleged role in promoting baby powder in the developing world and was recently voted the world's least responsible company in an internet poll, said Body Shop was paying the price of allying itself with the Swiss giant.
Mike Brady, co-ordinator of Baby Milk Action, which campaigns against Nestlé, said: "This brand has been damaged, perhaps terminally, by linking itself to the world's 'least responsible company'.
"As people abandon Body Shop for companies with higher 'ethical scores', rather than put money in Nestlé's coffers, it is ethical business, their suppliers and employees who are the winners."
Dame Anita last month justified the sale by saying that L'Oréal wanted to learn from Body Shop's commitment to the environment and human rights in business.
The French company has insisted its record on vivisection is above criticism since it has not carried out or commissioned tests on animals or products or ingredients since 1989. But it admits that a "very small amount" of ingredients used in the manufacture of some of its products have been tested on animals to meet safety standards.
While Body Shop and its "cruelty free" brands have signed up to a benchmark introduced by mainstream vivisectionists to allow consumers to ensure their products have not been tested, L'Oréal has refused to follow suit.
A pressure group, Ethical Consumer, announced after the deal that it would downgrade its own rating from 11 out of 20, to 2.5.
Body Shop yesterday declined to comment on its sales since the announcement of the L'Oréal deal.
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