Body Shop faces further criticism: Former manager of environmental affairs in the US accuses company of 'hypocrisy and putting manufacturing priorities before 'green' concerns'

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A FORMER US Body Shop environmental officer has accused the company of hypocrisy and putting manufacturing priorities before environmental concerns.

Last week it emerged that Body Shop, which prides itself on its green credentials, was responsible for two spills of shampoo and shower gel from its Hanover, New Jersey, plant in 1992.

David Brook, who was manager of environmental affairs at the time, last night said he only learnt about the spills from Hanover sewerage officials, who traced sudsing problems at a water treatment plant back to the Body Shop plant. 'I found out about it when they appeared at our door,' he said.

Local sewage officials said yesterday that the company was slow to act on the complaints. 'When it got to the point that the company was doing nothing to solve the problem and we were ready to issue some corrective orders, they said they were moving to North Carolina,' said Michael Wynne, the executive director of the Hanover Sewerage Authority.

After the first spill, Mr Brook asked that floor managers report any spillage to him immediately.

Mr Brook was a member of the management team that prepared for the move to North Carolina, and resigned when he discovered the choice of the site.

Body Shop's new US headquarters are on a site whose groundwater is contaminated from emissions by a previous owner. Its drainage is handled by a septic system, instead of flowing into the city sewer system.

Body Shop said last night it moved to North Carolina because of 'quality of life' issues, and to provide a measure of environment leadership to business there.

Mr Brook said that during his seven months at Body Shop 'environmental concerns consistently took a back seat to manufacturing'. 'What I saw did not parallel what we were saying publicly'.

When he was hired to monitor the Body Shop's environmental compliance, he felt his task was 'to bring the hypocrisy level to zero. I failed.'

The Body Shop has also run into regulatory problems at its new plant in Wake Forest, North Carolina, which was visited last autumn by US Food and Drug Administration inspectors. The FDA officials recommended the firm correct certain practices after finding problems with product samples and plant-cleaning records.

The inspectors also said they were obliged to return to the plant a month later when they realised they had not been told of a separate warehouse and storage trailers in the nearby town of Raleigh.

Body Shop spokesmen emphasised the FDA did not cite the plant for the violations, and said the inspection had been instigated by John Entine, a television producer whose 25,000-word investigation of the company is to be published next week in several US publications.

The FDA documents said the allegations were made by 'former and current employees at this firm (who) contacted the informants', who are unnamed.

The Body Shop spokesman said it was Mr Entine who tipped the agents off about the off-site warehouse.

Body Shop has been embroiled in a furore over its 'green credentials' since it emerged that a US ethical investment fund had sold 50,000 of its shares because of concerns over its environmental record.