You ask the questions (Such as: so, Anita Roddick, what's so great about the rainforest anyway?)

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The Independent Online

Businesswoman Anita Roddick, 57, was born and brought up in Littlehampton, the daughter of Italian immigrants. Her father, a café owner, died when she was 10, leaving her to run the business with her mother. She opened the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976 as a means of earning a living for her and her two young daughters while her husband Gordon was trekking across the Americas. The timing coincided with the beginnng of European interest in green issues, and her trademark green-liveried shops quickly placed environmental issues firmly on the high-street agenda. Since then, she has been the recipient of countless awards, and there are now 1,740 branches of the Body Shop worldwide.

Your Mostly Men product line has always bemused me. Is it that it's mostly men you use the line? Or is it a slur on their masculinity? (I've always been partial to the jojoba products myself.) P Collins, Belfast

I loved Mostly Men but I guess not enough other people did because we changed it to For Men. Less ambiguous, More predictable. Sad, that.

Don't you think that The Body Shop is helping to perpetuate neo-colonialist trade patterns, thus undermining the internal, political and economic stability in Asia, Africa and Latin America? Kristine Stave, London

Give me a break! Our expanding Community Trade partnerships are built on mutual respect and mutual benefits. They get a fair deal and we get a great product. Supporting local economic self-reliance is a light at the end of the poverty tunnel.

What's so great about the rainforest anyway? M Robinson, by e-mail

They're the lungs of the planet. They're home to millions of people whose indigenous wisdom probably holds the key to our future well-being, And they're amazingly beautiful. Anything else?

What advice would you offer Martha Lane Fox? Kay Bishop, Eastbourne

The market eats its young.

What's the most unwholesome thing you've ever done? R Beecroft, Cheltenham

Unwholesome? Me? I'm as pure as the driven slush. But if you want disgusting, I have eaten things I'd have been better off not knowing about - like fermented yak-butter tea in a hut in the Humla in Nepal.

Did you feel passionate about the environment as a child, or was it something that struck you later in life? Eileen Bradshaw, Nottingham

Feel passionate about it? I couldn't even spell it! But my antennae were always up, so groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth inevitably got through to me. And travel was my university without walls.

You will go down in history as a pioneer for women in business. How does this make you feel? Tara Wiseman, by e-mail

Happy to have done that much, sad that there was so much to do in the first place and challenged that there is still so much to do.

Ethical businesses seem to attract more than their fair share of detractors. Do you find it hard to stay motivated? P Symes, by e-mail

Absolutely not. The system is still antithetical to ethical businesses, but I'm an entrepreneur, which means that I'm a pathological optimist - and my main cause for cheer is the growth in vigilante consumerism.

What do you do with the phenomenal amounts of lolly you earn? Nick Gough, Swindon

Wealth obliges you to be generous, and for me that generosity means supporting the men and women - the grass-roots activists - who are campaigning to bring about positive social change. This means anything from investing in a hemp farm in Ontario to helping fund Mother Jones, a radical magazine in San Francisco, to getting The Big Issue started here in the UK.

What makes you happy? Lisa Fraser by e-mail

My grandchildren, a day off, a good movie, a job well done.

Mingling as you do with the tribes people of the earth, have you ever feared for your life? T Hopkins, Bracknell

No, never. Many of these tribal people measure their greatness by how they treat strangers. Where I have felt fear is in the Balkans.

How do you see the future of The Body Shop in the face of increasing competition from the rest of the high street? S McAndrew, Portsmouth

The answer is simple. New forms of distribution. Direct selling, which is still our best-kept secret. Body Shop Digital, which is launching today. And every new form of distribution gives us an opportunity to strengthen our message and underline what makes us different from all the dime-a-dozen cosmetics companies.

Would you be pleased to receive a Body Shop gift basket for Christmas or your birthday? Claire Dalby, Tottenham

I've never, ever got one in my life - I've always bought them. So I would be very happy to get a basket, as long as it included Vitamin E Face Mist, Hemp Hand Cream, and everything in the Sensuous Aromatherapy body range.

What was it about American Express that convinced you they needed your face for their advert? J Power, Brighton

I thought it was a great idea, particularly as I got them to double their fee on the proviso it went to fund refuges for battered women in the United Kingdom. But I got a hammering in the press. The big mantra here was that I'd sold out. Still, I absolutely loved doing it.

Have any of your potions gone horribly wrong? Kay Saunders, Ipswich

If they do, they're not allowed out of the lab. But I'll never forget the rancidity of Lettuce Lotion in the early days.

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