LONDON (AFP) — Tributes flooded in Tuesday for Anita Roddick, the British founder of The Body Shop cosmetics chain and "capitalist with a conscience" who has died at the age of 64 after a major brain haemorrhage.
Roddick died in hospital in Chichester, southern England, Monday night with her husband Gordon and two daughters by her side after collapsing with a sudden headache, her family said in a statement.
She announced in February that she had contracted Hepatitis C through a blood transfusion during the birth of her youngest daughter in 1971.
Roddick is best known as the driving force behind The Body Shop, a highly successful international chain of shops set up in 1976 which sold simple, ethical and environmentally-friendly beauty products.
The shop was also an early pioneer of recycling -- customers were encouraged to bring empty containers back to the store for refills after buying the products.
The Body Shop, which has over 2,000 stores in more than 50 countries, was bought by French cosmetics chain L'Oreal last year for 652 million pounds (957 million euros, 1.3 billion dollars).
Some campaigners were shocked by the decision to sell to a major corporation, but Roddick said she was confident she could be a "Trojan horse" by taking The Body Shop's principles to L'Oreal.
Roddick was also known as a campaigner and philanthropist for environmental, human rights and health causes -- she said in 2005 that she wanted to give away her entire 51-million-pound fortune.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the tributes, saying he was "deeply saddened" to hear of her death.
"She will be remembered not only as a great campaigner but also as a great entrepreneur," he said in a statement.
"As one of this country's most successful businesswomen, she was an inspiration to women throughout the country striving to set up and grow their own companies."
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace and a personal friend of Roddick, said that the Body Shop's green principles had blazed a trail for the eco-friendly ethos which major companies routinely embrace today.
"She was so ahead of her time when it came to issues of how business could be done in different ways, not just profit motivated but taking into account environmental issues," he said.
"When you look at it today, and how every company claims to be green, she was living this decades ago."
Britain's Independent newspaper described her as a "capitalist with a conscience", while the Sun tabloid said she was the "queen of green".
The Body Shop International's current chairman, Adrian Bellamy, added in a statement: "It is no exaggeration to say that she changed the world of business with her campaigns for social and environmental responsibility."
Roddick, a one-time teacher whose parents were Italian immigrants, was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II in recogition of her achievements in 2003.
She modestly played down her success, once saying that she had only started The Body Shop "to create a livelihood for myself and my daughters while Gordon was trekking across the Americas" and describing it as "a series of brilliant accidents".
Announcing earlier this year that she had contracted Hepatitis C, she said: "It's a bit of a bummer but you groan and move on."
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