A bit of danger and excitement in a good cause

Share
Related Topics
It's Borneo all over again! My daughter Sam has terrorised me into doing something that goes against my natural grain. Here I am, absolutely terrified of water, and she's got me rafting the wild rivers of northern British Columbia. Studying the promotional literature for our expedition on the Taku, Sheslay and Inklin rivers, the phrases "a complete river safety talk", "a couple of exciting rapids" and "a swift dance through an occasional boulder garden" leap out at me. So do the qualifications of the River League's guides: certified in whitewater manoeuvres and rescue, trained in first aid. Why does that not reassure me?

The River League specialises in trips through an area that has been labelled the Serengeti of Canada for its wealth of animal life. The League won international recognition in 1994 with a campaign on behalf of Kitlope, an 800,000-acre area that may be the largest intact temperate rainforest left on earth, which was under threat from loggers. The League took in a team of researchers, writers, photographers and wilderness advocates and helped ensure Kitlope's classification as a class-A park. It was Sam's idea to get a handful of The Body Shop's franchisees together to raft the Taku River, another pristine environment that needs protection from loggers and miners.

I'd be a hard-hearted Hannah if I didn't admit to being thrilled by the sound of Chunk Mountain (the purple promo prose talks about "blue-hued glaciers draped on deeper blue rock"), or the Canyon of Raptors with its wheeling flocks of falcons and eagles, or Goat Haunt Mountain, or even the promised gourmet wilderness cooking. But there is an awful lot of water between me and them. You won't have to wonder where I am if I'm not back next week.

As it is, I'm fronting up late on the Taku, because this week I went to the inaugural conference of the NHS Confederation in Brighton. Two thousand National Health managers gathered to discuss how to deal with the changes the NHS must make to modernise. I was roped in as a guest speaker to talk about how The Body Shop manages change and marries non- economic values with business.

The match of the NHS with The Body Shop isn't as incongruous as it sounds. I believe we have a lot in common: the tensions and turmoil that come with transitions, corporate anguish during the process of change, and the constant need to shape the leadership role of management to balance awareness, persuasion, diplomacy and resolution. Like a cosmetics company, the NHS has to keep faith with its public. But it also needs to keep faith with its health workers, many of whom are motivated by the desire to help others, which is simultaneously one of the NHS's greatest assets and a real tyranny for the service.

And it's not the only tyranny that any company or organisation trying to be socially responsive will encounter. I know them all well: the tyranny of time (no time for reflection); the tyranny of assumption (you shouldn't assume, yet sometimes you have to try); the tyranny of inadequate measurements (how do you measure the development of the human spirit?). Change is a tyrant, too. It usually looks and sounds much simpler than it is. Just establish your vision. But in the real world the vision mutates, especially when new leaders come into play and business realities impose themselves.

That is the situation the NHS finds itself in. But what better time or place to meet the challenges of the future than under a new government that has already shown an intelligent and healthy commitment to change!

When I look back at the growth of my business, I see that working without a net was an asset for The Body Shop. We broke ground, I've had enormous freedom to experiment in bringing social activism alongside commercial activity. Obviously the NHS cannot experiment with people's health, but it has an opportunity to explore new ways to communicate with people, to convey its commitment and care.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears