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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 December 2005, 00:08 GMT
Anita Roddick's new wealth agenda
By Guy Robarts
BBC News business reporter

Anita Roddick
Money means nothing to me, says Dame Anita
The multi-millionairess who made her fortune from selling body scrubs and ethical beauty products, Dame Anita Roddick, says she is ready to close the door on her business life.

The founder of The Body Shop, has vowed, in a pre-Christmas bout of philanthropy, to turn her back on the world of commerce and ditch half of her 100m fortune.

"I don't want to die rich," she has proclaimed.

Business life, she says, is "boring", so it is time to offload bundles of cash on the doorsteps of deserving charities instead.

Dame Anita is cashing in her 18% share of the company she started in 1976 with her husband Gordon.

What material success does is provide you with the ability to concentrate on other things that really matter
Oprah Winfrey

She now joins the Carnegies, Gettys and Gates's of the world in her latest venture as she sets her eyes on creating a financial foundation to help the poor and needy.

"My intention is to give my money away," says Dame Anita.

"The worst thing is greed, the accumulation of money. I don't know why people who are extraordinarily wealthy are not more generous."

An American art

That may be the case in the UK, but in the US the culture of philanthropy is much more ingrained.

Bill Gates
Billionaire Bill Gates is the most famous modern day philanthropist

The world's richest man, Microsoft-founder Bill Gates, has already pledged 15bn ($26bn) to good causes through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Set up in 2002 by Mr Gates and his wife Melinda the foundation promotes greater equality in global health and learning, with millions of dollars being pledged to fight TB, malaria and HIV in developing countries.

The foundation currently leads the world in charitable giving. In fact, Bill Gates has given away more money to charity than anyone else in history.

I think the rich have to look after the poor
Anita Roddick

He follows in the slipstream of other US philanthropic trailblazers such as Andrew Carnegie, Eli Lilly, J Paul Getty, Oprah Winfrey and Ted Turner, who have all set up foundations to release their wealth to those who need it.

Cultural split

Despite recent evidence of a shift in attitudes, the UK has traditionally had a different cultural approach when it comes to giving.

This is partly because Britons tend to believe it is the government's job to look after the poor through the welfare state or for companies to take advantage of tax breaks from charitable giving.

Andrew Carnegie
Bill Gates
Henry Ford
JD Rockefeller
George Soros
Oprah Winfrey
Anita Roddick
J Paul Getty
George Peabody
Richard Branson
David Sainsbury
Tom Hunter

Under the growing belief that the state no longer provides the safety net it once did, pressure is growing for the wealthy to step in and avoid a return to Dickensian standards of living for the poor.

"I think the rich have to look after the poor," Anita Roddick has said.

"I don't think in our society we have any understanding of that."

Selling the doctrine

Several projects are underway aimed at helping to flush out the pockets of Britain's wealthy.

One of these, the Institute of Philanthropy, was established in 2000 to find ways to allow financial generosity to flourish in the UK.

"There a lot more overt giving in the US," Les Hems, director of research at the Institute of Philanthropy, said. "But I think we've entered a new period in the UK where wealthy people are conspicuously giving money away."

However, he said, it often takes a major event such as the Asian tsunami or the Pakistani earthquake to get people to cough up the cash.

The problem is a general lack of information, Mr Hems said. To tackle the problem, the Institute launched its the Guide Star website this week to help introduce people to local, national and worldwide charities.

"If people have relevant information on what charities do, then they will be much more willing to give and to continue to give," Mr Hems said.

The site can be used to access thousands of small charities that are active in every community.

Bill Gates once said: "Is the rich world aware of how four billion of the six billion live?

"If we were aware, we would want to help out, we'd want to get involved."

Parliament hosts philanthropists
04 Oct 05 |  Scotland
Tycoon honoured for philanthropy
10 Aug 05 |  Scotland
Dame Anita's radical approach
17 Jul 03 |  Business

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