We can ask the same question of the
gleaming towers of Wall Street or
the City of London - and the
powerful men and women who tinker
with the money system which drives
world trade. Who is this system for?
Let's look more closely. Every day,
the gleaming towers of high finance
oversees a global flow of two
trillion dollars through their
computer screens. And the terrifying
thing is that only three per cent of
that - that's, three hundredths -
has anything to do with trade at
all. Let alone free trade between
It has everything to do with money.
The great global myth being that the
current world trade system is for
anything but money.
The other 97 per cent of the two
trillion is speculation. It is froth
- but froth with terrifying power
over people's lives. Reducing
powerless communities access to
basic human rights can make money,
but not for them. But then the
system isn't designed for them.
It isn't designed for you and me
either. We all of us, rich and poor,
have to live with the insecurity
caused by an out of control global
casino with a built-in bias towards
instability. Because it is
instability that makes money for the
"The great enemy of the truth is
very often not the lie - deliberate,
contrived and dishonest," said John
F Kennedy, "- but the myth -
persistent, persuasive and
unrealistic." Asking questions can
puncture these powerful myths.
I spend much of every year
travelling around the world, talking
to people in the front line of
globalisation: women, community
farmers, children. I know how
unrealistic these myths are. Not
just in developing countries but
right under our noses.
Like the small farmers of the USA,
500 of which go out of business
Half a century ago there were a
million black farmers in the US. Now
there are 1800. Globalisation means
that the subsidies go to the big
farms, while the small family farms
- the heart of so many American
communities - go to the wall.
Or the dark, cramped factories where
people work for a pittance for 12
hour days without a day off. "The
workers are not allowed to talk to
each other and they didn't allow us
to go to the bathroom," says one
Asian worker in that garment
factory. Not in Seoul. Not in Sao
Paulo. But in San Francisco.
We have a world trading system that
is blind to this kind of injustice.
And as the powers of governments
shrink this system is, in effect,
our new unelected, uncontrollable
world government. One that outlaws
our attempts to >make things better.
According to the WTO, we don't have
the right to discriminate between
tuna caught without killing dolphins
and tuna caught by those who don't
care, don't worry and don't try.
According to the WTO, we have no
right to hoard patented seeds from
one harvest to plant the following
According to the WTO, we have no
right to discriminate against beef
with growth hormones.
According to the WTO, the
livelihoods of the small-scale
banana farmers of the Windward
Islands are worthless - now facing
ruin as the WTO favours the big US
The truth is that the WTO, and the
group of unelected trade officials
who run it, are now the world's
highest court, with the right to
overturn local laws and safety
regulations wherever they say it
'interferes with trade'.
This is world government by default,
but it is a blind government. It
looks at the measurements of money,
but it can't see anything else. It
can recognise profits and losses,
but it deliberately turns its face
away from human rights, child labour
or keeping the environment viable
for future generations.
It is government without heart, and
without heart you find the
creativity of the human spirit
starts to dwindle too.
Now there will be commentators and
politicians by the truckload over
the next week accusing us of wanting
to turn the clock back. They will
say we are parochial,
inward-looking, xenophobic and
But we must remind them what free
trade really is. The truth is that
'free trade' was originally about
the freedom of communities to trade
equally with each other. It was
never intended to be what it is
today. A licence for the big, the
powerful and the rich, to ride
roughshod over the small, the weak
and the poor.
And while we're about it, let's nail
Nobody could be more in favour of a
global outlook than I am.
Internationalism means that we can
see into the dark corners of the
world, and hold those companies to
account when they are devastating
forests or employing children as
bonded labour. Globalisation is the
complete opposite, its rules pit
country against country and workers
against workers in the blinkered
pursuit of international
Internationalism means we can link
together at local level across the
world, and use our power as
consumers. Working together, across
all sectors, we can turn businesses
from private greed to public good.
It means, even more important, that
we can start understanding each
other in a way that no generation
has managed before.
Let's be clear about this. It's not
trade we're against, it's
exploitation and unchecked power.
I don't pretend for a moment that
we're perfect at The Body Shop. Or
that every one of our experiments
work out - especially when it comes
to building trading relationships
that actually strengthen poor
We are absolutely committed to
increasing our trade with
communities around the world,
because this is the key - not just
for our future, but the planet's. It
means that they trade to strengthen
their local economy for profit, but
not because their very survival
depends on it.
Community trade will make us not a
multi-national, but a multi-local. I
hope we can measure our success in
terms of our ability to show just
what's possible if a company
genuinely opens a dialogue with
Heaven knows, we're not there yet.
But this is real life, and all any
of us can do is to make sure we are
going in the right direction, and
never lose our determination to
The trouble is that the current
trading system undermines anybody
Businesses which forego profits to
build communities, or keep
production local rather than
employing semi-slaves in distant
sweatshops, risk losing business to
cheaper competitors without such
commitments, and being targeted for
take-over by the slash-and-burn
corporate raiders. Reinforced by the
weight of the WTO.
It's difficult for all of us. But if
we are going to change the world
then nobody - not governments, not
the media, not individuals - are
going to get a free ride. And
certainly not business, because
business is now faster, more
creative and far wealthier than
governments ever were.
Business has to be a force for
social change. It is not enough to
avoid hideous evil - it must, we
must, actively do good. If business
stays parochial, without moral
energy or codes of behaviour,
claiming there are no such thing as
values, then God help us all. If you
think morality is a luxury business
can't afford, try living in a world
So what should we do at this
critical moment in world history?
First, we must make sure this week
that we lay the foundations for
humanising world trade.
We must learn from our experience of
what really works for poor
countries, poor communities around
the world. The negotiators this week
must listen to these communities and
allow these countries full
participation and contribution to
The rules have got to change. We
need a radical alternative that puts
people before profit. And that
brings us to my second prescription.
We must start measuring our success
If politicians, businesses and
analysts only measure the bottom
line - the growth in money - then
it's not surprising the world is
It's not surprising that the WTO is
slash-and-burn corporations but not
the people they destroy.
It's not surprising that it values
flipping hamburgers or making
sweaters at 50 cents an hour as a
valuable activity, but takes no
account of those other jobs - the
caring, educating and loving work
that we all know needs doing if
we're going to turn the world into a
place we want to live.
Let's measure the success of places
and corporations against how much
they enhance human well-being. Body
Shop was one of the first companies
to submit itself to a social audit,
and many others are now doing so.
Measuring what really matters can
give us the revolution in kindness
we so desperately need. That's the
real bottom line.
And finally, we must remember we
already have power as consumers and
as organisations forming strategic
and increasingly influential
alliances for change. They can
insist on open markets as much as
they like, but if consumers won't
buy, nothing on earth can make them.
Just look at how European consumers
have forced the biotech industry's
back up against the wall.
We have to be political consumers,
vigilante consumers. With the
barrage of propaganda served up to
us every day, we have to be. We must
be wise enough so that - whatever
they may decide at the trade talks -
we know where to put our energy and
our money. No matter what we're told
or cajoled to do, we must work
together to get the truth out in
co-operation for the best, not
competition for the cheapest.
By putting our money where our heart
is, refusing to buy the products
which exploit, by forming powerful
strategic alliances, we will mould
the world into a kinder more loving
shape. And we will do so no matter
what you decide this week.
Human progress is on our side.
Anita Roddick Speech
Trading With Principles