Body Shop ally quits magazine: Attack 'was unbalanced and questionable'

BEN COHEN, founder of the Ben and Jerry's ice-cream firm, resigned yesterday from the advisory board of Businesss Ethics magazine in protest at its attack this week on the Body Shop.

Mr Cohen, whose company gives 7.5 per cent of its profits to social projects, is a close friend of Anita and Gordon Roddick, Body Shop's founders. He said in a statement: 'This unbalanced questionable piece of journalism does not advance a constructive dialogue about social responsibility.'

He told BBC Radio Five Live's Wake up to Money programme that the Roddicks 'believed in' and were 'passionate about' their ideals. 'What people think about them is important to them. After they've struggled so hard to create a company that has a caring attitude, to see all this press that it's not true, that they're hypocrites, affects them deeply.

'I'm convinced their heart's in the right place. I feel like what the Body Shop has done has worked a change in the paradigm, you know, has helped to show that it is possible for business to be concerned about the community and to be profitable at the same time. And that's the major thing. That's the major contribution the Body Shop has made. That's a really big break.'

Trade unions in Britain complained yesterday that the Body Shop had refused to recognise them. John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB general union, said his union had begun to recruit at the Littlehampton factory at the request of a group of employees. Body Shop management had refused to meet the union to say why it would not grant negotiating rights.

A Body Shop spokesman confirmed that the company did not recognise any unions, because it was 'open and participatory'. He would not discuss how pay rises were reached, but he said the GMB approach had been made three years ago.

The allegations in Business Ethics, a small US magazine, were repeated yesterday in the New York Times and on CNBC, the all-business cable-TV channel that reaches the offices of many American investors.

The CNBC report was particularly negative, suggesting the Body Shop 'is quickly becoming the dog of Wall Street,' and citing market specialists concerned about the effect of the charges on the company's UK share price.