Besieged Body Shop comes out fighting

THE BODY SHOP issued a 32-page dossier attacking an American journalist yesterday, in an attempt to pre-empt criticism of its ethical practices in an article due out this week.

The embattled green cosmetics group circulated the file in response to news stories ahead of the most damaging piece, to be published in the Minneapolis-based Business Ethics magazine on Thursday.

Although The Body Shop is understood not to have seen the article, it gave a detailed defence of allegations that have surfaced during earlier investigations by its author, Jon Entine, who is a former producer with ABC, the US television network.

Mr Entine was accused by the company of using questionable methods, and making 'misleading statements which are seriously defamatory of The Body Shop'. It added that he 'has been engaged in a single- minded campaign of vilification against The Body Shop'.

Mr Entine is alleged to have described Anita Roddick, the company's founder, as a 'schizophrenic and a sociopath'.

He is said to have denounced the company in approaches to investors, franchisees and potential supporters. Yesterday's statement also accused him of pestering Anita Roddick at home, a claim Mr Entine denies.

Among allegations to surface in the past 10 days are claims that the company's 'Trade not Aid' policy of buying goods from indigenous peoples was not as vigorously pursued as The Body Shop had claimed, that Ms Roddick 'stole' the company's concept from a tiny American outfit, and that it had been responsible for pollution in New Jersey.

The company's share prices fell following the news that the US ethical investment fund Franklin Research and Development had sold 50,000 Body Shop shares and recommended its clients do likewise because of concerns over its green and ethical stances.

Yesterday, it was reported that the RSPCA had decided to remove the Body Shop name from a pamphlet of cruelty-free suppliers. There were concerns that its policy of not using ingredients tested on animals covered only the most recently developed products. John Grounds, Body Shop head of public affairs, refused to comment on the RSPCA story.

Meanwhile, Gordon Roddick, chairman and husband of Anita, said: 'The Body Shop can no longer sit, wait and allow pre-publicity hype to damage its reputation.' Mr Roddick said of Mr Entine: 'We have been the object of his obsessive campaign for over a year.'

Last night, Mr Entine, speaking from his home in California, said he stood by his investigations which were backed up by documents and tape recordings. He accused The Body Shop of carrying out personal attacks on him in order to deflect criticism. He said: 'When our story comes out the facts will speak for themselves.'

The Body Shop dossier, entitled Memorandum of Response to the Allegations of Jon Entine, includes a point-by- point rebuttal of the main allegations, and extensive details of projects that it has financed.

It says the company became aware of the allegations through research Entine did in preparation for a report for ABC's Prime Time Live programme, and an article for the US magazine Vanity Fair. Neither piece of work was used.

Among the counter-claims listed by the Body Shop are:

Trade not Aid - The company says figures relating to the percentage of goods it gets from developing countries are inaccurate. 'More importantly, his percentages are beside the point,' it adds, and goes on to detail projects in which it has invested heavily.

Plagiarism - It says it has previously disproved suggestions that Ms Roddick in effect stole the name from a company in California. The owners, Peggy Short and Jane Saunders, have testified that they never made such allegations.

Natural products - It says it cannot guarantee 100 per cent of its ingredients are 'natural', but that it makes no attempt to conceal that some are synthetic.

Animal testing - It rejects claims that it has used lack of animal testing as a marketing ploy and that it has resisted attempts to seek a complete ban on animal testing for cosmetics and pressured the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection to alter its campaigns to suit its marketing interests. It says its reputation on testing was vindicated when it won damages from Channel 4 and an independent production company in a libel action.

Environmental practices - It says discharges from its New Jersey plant were limited to two 'minor' spillages of shampoo, both during 1992. The company reported both.

Marjorie Kelly, publisher of Business Ethics, said publication would go ahead despite threats of libel action. As well as the first article on ethics, a second would focus on Anita Roddick's personality.

(Photograph omitted)

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