Anita dared to speak truth to power in the world of business while still growing a very entrepreneurial corporation.
My vision, my hope, is simply this: that many business leaders will come to see a primary role of business as incubators of the human spirit, rather than factories for the production of more material goods and services.
Values matter. She goes on:
There is more to all this than measurement and that brings us back to the word “reverence.” There is a spiritual dimension to life that, for me, is the real bottom line. It underpins everything. . . . To me it is a very simple attitude that has nothing to do with organized religion. It means that life is sacred and awe-inspiring. In my travels around the world, I have been grounded — as millions also have — in the most fundamental of insights: that all life is an expression of a single spiritual unity.
She recognized that
…we are not, as humans, above anything…instead we are part of everything. This interconnection has to be sacred, reverent and respectful of different ways of knowing and being.
She preferred the common good to the private good.
The business of business should not just be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.
She writes about the role of conscience in our work worlds:
There is no more powerful institution in society than business. It is more important than ever before for business to assume a moral leadership in society. Business must move away from commerce without conscience.
Her biggest concern?
My biggest fear is seeing not just the planet’s business, but also the planet, being controlled by a handful of gigantic transnational corporations. You can see the beginning of this in the way that global brands are starting to raise our children by entertaining, feeding, clothing, medicating and addicting them…This kind of global monoculture wreaks a soulless kind of destruction.
She warns that these “large faceless organizations” need careful watching lest they accomplish evil deeds in the cover of darkness.
Speaking personally, she confesses that
…the accumulation of wealth has no meaning for me; neither has the acquisition of material riches. I believe we impoverish ourselves by our tendency to undervalue all the other riches that come from our life experiences — the ones that can’t be bought.
Much of her philanthropy has been directed to birth social and environmental projects– such projects are “more significant than money.”
Anita felt that growth and the pursuit of profits become bad “when they become an end in themselves,” especially when multinationals “just trade, make money and gobble up other companies.” Consumers themselves must be leaders in a new and sustainable consciousness.
Anita was a spiritual warrior and a giant in the world of business — fun, original, womanly, earthy, passionate, brilliant, and with a real conscience with which she challenged business and economics as usual. It was a privilege to know her.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 244-248.
Banner Image: Anita Roddick with her medal as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 2003. Photo uploaded to Flickr by openDemocracy
Queries for Contemplation
Roddick calls for business putting the public good over private greed. How right is she? What would that change in our economic system require to come about?
Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time
While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward