Over the past several years, natural disasters have struck every part of the world—from Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico to the 2004 tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, to the earthquakes in Haiti, China and Chile. Each time, direct selling companies were among the first to respond, offering money and supplies to those in need.
On March 11, northern Japan was rattled by a 9.0 earthquake, one of the strongest ever recorded. The tsunami that followed washed out entire communities in northeastern cities, leaving more than 12,000 dead, nearly 15,000 missing and millions without electricity and water. Again, direct selling companies responded.
Japan is the second largest direct selling market in the world, with more than 1,300 companies and 2.7 million salespeople. Since the disaster, executives from direct selling companies in the United States and Japan have galvanized efforts to support the victims, raising millions of dollars and providing much-needed products and services.
Amway, the second largest direct seller, responded with an initial pledge of $1.2 million, which has since grown to $4.4 million through the efforts of Amway corporate headquarters, global affiliates, employees, distributors and customers. The funds raised will go toward immediate relief and long-term recovery. Amway has a strong presence in Japan, with headquarters in Tokyo and eight distribution centers, one of which is located in Sendai, one of the hardest-hit cities. The center there has since reopened to serve as an aid center to distribute free Amway personal care and cleaning products.
Amway President Doug DeVos personally traveled to Japan to express the company’s support for employees, who were reported as safe, and distributors, some of whom have yet to be located. In addition, DeVos’ father Rich, the Co-Founder of Amway, recorded a video message with the same sentiment. “The human element is our first and our foremost priority in the midst of all of this,” he said via an Amway webcast.
Tupperware Brands Corp. also rallied its forces to help provide aid, creating a four-pronged relief program for victims of the disaster. Operated by the Tupperware salesforce members, the program will donate $2.6 million in Tupperware products via “Aid Packs” to be used to help in the collection, storage and use of food, water and valuables. The program will also contribute $400,000 to an emergency relief fund to assist the salesforce of Tupperware and NaturCare, who have been severely impacted, to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. In addition there will be a program to harness individual contributions from the Tupperware Brands salesforce, associates and customers through a secure online giving webpage. Social media tools will be utilized to foster dialogue, encourage information sharing and establish person-to-person links between global citizens and those in Japan.
“The devastation that has stricken Japan has affected everyone around the world, including those of us at Tupperware, though we are fortunate and grateful to report that none of our Tupperware distributors, managers or NaturCare sales directors have lost their lives. However, we are concerned about the many salesforce members who remain unaccounted for,” said Tupperware Chairman and CEO Rick Goings.
Other companies have launched relief efforts as well.
Neways created a special “Power of People” fund for donations from the company’s distributors, staff and others interested in helping those in Japan. The company made a $50,000 donation and a personal match of an additional $50,000 by Golden Gate Capital, as well as donated products to the affected areas. Neways’ goal is to raise $1.5 million, which will be donated to public-sector agencies in the areas hardest hit.
The Avon Foundation for Women is matching donations of U.S. associates up to $500,000.
Herbalife plans on donating 100 percent of its raised donations to Save the Children and the International Red Cross.
Nu Skin has donated VitaMeals to those in need and hopes to raise ¥100 million (approximately US$1.2 million) for those in Japan.
Vollara, a subsidiary under the umbrella of Aerus Holdings LLC, sent a team from Dallas to aid in recovery efforts on the ground in some of the areas significantly impacted. The company also sent more than $100,000 in FreshAir units to attack airborne and surface contaminants.
MonaVie joined with the American Red Cross and has contributed more than $200,000 worth of products, 1,000 battery-operated radios and 150 windbreakers and long coats to Big River Refuge shelter in Ishimaki City.
Tahitian Noni, which has seven offices in Japan, has donated $600,000 in products and cash to the Red Cross and Feed the Children for the Japan Disaster Relief Fund. None of its employees were severely injured, but many suffered transportation issues during the disasters. The company has not had any word on the status of its independent distributors.
Southwestern has raised more than $11,000 to help relief efforts.
XANGO LLC, which operates in Japan, teamed up with AmeriCares, a disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization, to provide assistance. The company established ongoing contributions to aid the massive recovery effort by providing much-needed water, food and medicine. XANGO also announced a program to match a portion of distributor and employee donations made through the XANGO Goodness Foundation.
Japan-based Noevir reported that all of its employees are accounted for and safe, and its operations and products have not been affected by the devastation. The company has raised $610,000 in monetary donations and has also provided a wide range of relief supplies, including 13,000 boxes of medication and 10,000 boxes of nutritional energy drinks.
Enagic reported that among the dead and the missing were many of its more than 12,000 independent distributors who once lived in the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures, the hardest-hit areas. On March 14, the company established a headquarters for disaster relief and support.
As with any disaster of this magnitude, ongoing recovery efforts and rebuilding will require sustained contributions, both in monetary donations and supplies. Many direct selling companies are committed to the continued support of the people affected, whether they are customers, distributors or simply citizens of Japan. It’s just another example of how, when the world suddenly comes to a standstill, the direct selling industry stands together.