Letter: Nigeria's ills cannot be healed by Body Shop prescriptions

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The Independent Online
From Mr D. van den Broek

Sir: The future as dictated by Anita Roddick has seldom looked so unattractive. With her harsh call that "political awareness and activism must be incorporated into business", she must raise shivers among lovers of democracy.

The world she advocates would be a grim one indeed; a world where business turned its economic impact into a political weapon, bringing down a government here, installing an administration there. This, if it were possible, would match the worst nightmare of an Orwell or Huxley. But, of course, this is not what Mrs Roddick really wants. The business activism which she demands would naturally have to be acceptable to her personal world view, politically corrected and approved, perhaps, by the Body Shop.

Mrs Roddick writes of transnational corporations "roaming from country to country in search of lowest wages, the loosest environmental regulations, the most desperate workers". This may be the case in the world of trading and franchises, but it is not the way a company like Shell does business. We believe in long-term commitment. In Nigeria, the focus of Mrs Roddick's present campaign, Shell has operated for more than 50 years. I am not sure, on the other hand, if the Body Shop has invested a single penny in the area.

A religious order working in Ogoniland has commented that without Shell's humanitarian aid following the Ogoni/Andoni conflict, one third of Ogonis would not be alive today.

Mrs Roddick would have us pull out of Nigeria. But this would simply be a gesture; a damaging, politically correct, Body Shop-blessed gesture; a gesture that would hurt the very people Mrs Roddick says she cares for.

Mrs Roddick calls on Shell staff to become activists in her cause. But we prefer action to activism, performance to protest. And surely this must be the best way forward.

Yours faithfully,

D. van den Broek

Regional Co-ordinator

Western Hemisphere and Africa

Shell Centre

London, SE1

29 November

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