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Photo: A Haitian farmer harvests vetiver, a fragrant grass, dōTERRA sources for one of its essential oils.
Headquarters: Pleasant Grove, Utah
Top Executive: David Stirling, Founding Executive and CEO
Products: Essential oils and related personal care, nutrition and gifts
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become an integral part of company missions everywhere, both inside and outside of our channel of distribution. Direct selling companies are in the unique position, however, to create maximum impact by engaging not only their own employees, but also thousands (and sometimes millions) of independent salesforce members and customers in their charitable efforts. One direct selling company that illustrates that potential is dōTERRA.
For the founders of Utah-based dōTERRA, a direct seller of therapeutic grade essential oils, CSR and philanthropy were always the plan. In fact, even in their earliest days as a company, dōTERRA’s team of seven founding executives were earmarking funds and making plans for what would become their first CSR initiatives. A direct selling business model, coupled with a firm belief in the power of essential oils to enhance well-being and vitality, has led to a significant philanthropic focus on women and children. Specifically, dōTERRA founders wanted to give women a means to improve their own health and that of their children. That’s a message that resonates strongly with dōTERRA’s global independent salesforce of 3 million Wellness Advocates, 94 percent of whom are women.
Established in 2008, dōTERRA, a Latin derivative meaning “gift of the Earth,” was founded by David Stirling, Emily Wright, Gregory Cook, Dr. David Hill, Robert Young, Mark Wolfert and Corey Lindley, a group of health care and business executives who understand the therapeutic benefits of essential oils, and also know that oil purity is critical. Back in 2008, the essential oil industry didn’t require a set standard for quality, so dōTERRA’s founders set out to create their own. The result of their efforts was a new testing process: CPTG Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade®. In a nutshell, CPTG meticulously screens for fillers, synthetics or harmful contaminants that would compromise product efficacy or potency. Relying on a world-class team of more than 30 scientists, 2,200 square feet of cutting-edge laboratory space, and more than 115 partnerships with top researchers and practitioners around the world, dōTERRA has established robust analytical and testing processes, ensuring each batch of essential oils is consistently pure, potent and effective.
As you can imagine, sourcing high-grade essential oils that meet the CPTG standard from nearly every corner of the globe is no easy task.
Commitment to sustainability
“From our earliest days as a company, we have been relentlessly committed to ensuring the best possible growing conditions for each essential oil we source, even though it means going to the ends of the earth,” says dōTERRA CEO David Stirling. “We also knew, right from the beginning, we needed to ensure the long-term supply of essential oils. With our commitment to philanthropy as a backdrop, we were determined to develp a supply chain initiative that created shared value.”
Accordingly, dōTERRA created a Global Botanical Network, including the expertise of local growers and distillers throughout the world, to develop a robust and seamless supply chain. When looking for sourcing partnerships, dōTERRA deliberately chooses locations where the company can improve the quality of the lives of its partners while simultaneously producing the highest quality essential oils. Establishing such partnerships requires a great deal of trust; farmers and distillers in developing countries are often at the mercy of third parties, and can be taken advantage of or paid unfairly. dōTERRA’s ongoing objective is to forge relationships with growers to ensure they are paid fairly and on time, and to provide them with the resources, trainings, and tools required to develop a profitable business and ultimately help them escape poverty.
dōTERRA calls this supply chain initiative, which seeks to create shared value throughout its Global Botanical Network, Cō-Impact Sourcing®. While these are mutually beneficial partnerships, they are also designed to keep power and ownership in the hands of the farmers.
Emily Wright, Founding Executive, Sales and Marketing, explains, “Cō-Impact Sourcing provides the tools needed to help lift these families out of poverty and promote economic development. We recognize the tremendous opportunity we have to considerably improve lives and reduce extreme poverty through the ethical production of essential oils, and we take that very seriously. Before we enter into any partnership, we make certain our sourcing partners will observe strict Sourcing Guiding Principles. After a partnership is formed, we regularly review and inspect all partners to ensure they are truly adhering to our Sourcing Guiding Principles.”
Some growers and harvesters within these areas have formed cooperatives in an effort to share benefits and increase bargaining power. Today, dōTERRA nurtures Co-Impact Sourcing partnerships with farmers and distillers around the world, and sources from more than 40 countries. Approximately 15,000 people worldwide are employed through the initiative.
“By intentionally striving to improve the lives of our partners, we secure the continued supply and quality of essential oils for decades to come, all while creating shared value with our growers and distillers,” says Kirk Jowers, Vice President of Corporate Relations and European Markets. “These suppliers are integral to the success of the company.”
Emily Wright, Founding Executive, Sales and Marketing, shares a moment with children in Madagascar where dōTERRA’s Healing Hands Foundation has helped with economic and medical needs.
A Hand up for Global Communities
The company took its commitment to sustainability several steps further in 2012 with the founding of the dōTERRA Healing Hands FoundationTM, a 501(c)(3) organization that conducts humanitarian projects in Cō-Impact Sourcing locations with the aim of eradicating disease and poverty. The Healing Hands Foundation has contributed funds and sweat equity to construct schools and orphanages in Guatemala and Bulgaria, install solar power water pumps in Haiti, and set up a mobile health clinic in Madagascar, to name a few projects.
dōTERRA covers all overhead and administrative costs for the foundation, enabling 100 percent of donations to be channeled directly to those in need. Along with on-the-ground projects, Healing Hands also maintains a microcredit lending fund through its partner, Mentors International. Entrepreneurs in developing communities, including areas in which financing is either not available or offered through unethical or even dangerous means, may apply for small business loans and education to help maximize their chances of success.
All proceeds from the sales of two dōTERRA products, Rose Oil Lotion and Hope Oil, go directly to the foundation. Hope Oil proceeds are earmarked for the nonprofit organization Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R. Rescue), dedicated to rescuing young victims of sex trafficking and slavery. Healing Hands also maintains a partnership with Days for Girls, which to date has distributed sustainable feminine hygiene kits and promoted education, sanitation, greater self-worth and community participation among girls and women in 75 countries.
|Founders David Stirling and Emily Wright greet the Napalese when visiting the Himalayan country to help rebuild after a 2015 earthquake.|
Perhaps the biggest life force behind the Healing Hands Foundation, however, is the company’s independent salesforce. dōTERRA actively encourages its Wellness Advocates to seek additional opportunities to help others, either locally or globally, and through its Wellness Advocate Partner Project initiative offers matching contributions for those who qualify. Wellness Advocates have taken the ball and run with the offer, paying their own way to travel throughout the U.S. as well as to places such as Nicaragua, Bolivia, Haiti, Slovakia, Ghana, South Africa, Greece and Mozambique to complete service projects including disaster relief, well construction and literacy education. Customers, too, are welcome to support the various causes represented by dōTERRA; donations may be added to a single order or set up on a recurring basis. At the corporate level, the company’s headquarters in Pleasant Grove, Utah, spearheads CSR events at least once per quarter, participating in everything from house builds to blood drives.
For employees and Wellness Advocates alike, there’s simply no better way to immerse themselves in dōTERRA’s distinct culture than to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Jowers, who joined dōTERRA after serving as the University of Utah’s Chief Advisor to the Office of Global Engagement, Director of Federal Relations and Director of the university’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, believes that humanitarian aid could provide significant and measurable benefits for our world economy. Already a believer in the company’s products, he was struck, he says, by dōTERRA’s commitment to layering their sourcing partnerships with the construction of schools, hospitals and other projects to encourage sustainability.
Shortly after joining the company’s leadership team, Jowers and his family traveled to Guatemala, where they joined the dōTERRA Healing Hands Foundation at a Cō-Impact Sourcing site where Cardamom essential oil is sourced. Local families were living on dirt floors and cooking over open fires, which presented a host of potential health risks due to smoke inhalation. Jowers and a team of volunteers built stoves with ventilation for simple homes, allowing for clean, safe, breathable air in the home. The experience made an impact on him and his family. “After my family and I went to Guatemala,” he says, “I was fully invested in this company.” So was Jowers’ daughter, Lucy, who chronicled her trip with a blog and video.
CEO David Stirling and his family routinely attend company mission trips—his wife, Laurea, attended the Guatemala Cō-Impact Sourcing Expedition in 2015—and Emily Wright recently spent time in a Mexican sanctuary for victims of trafficking. For leadership, employees and distributors, this is an all-in commitment, and it’s personal. “We try to be more than just a donor,” Jowers says. “We also participate.”
Abby, a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate and participant at the conclusion of the Guatemala Cardamom Cō-Impact Sourcing Expedition was equally impacted by her experience. “If you’d asked me a week ago if I truly knew myself and my whole actual worth… I’d have thought I did. I would have said yes. Now I know how wrong I would have been.”
Volunteers in Action: Nepal
The company’s work in Nepal, among its most recent initiatives, provides a vivid example of dōTERRA’s hands-on approach to addressing need in developing communities. Through its Cō-Impact Sourcing initiative, dōTERRA obtains its Wintergreen essential oil from Nepalese farmers. In April 2015, however, the region was stuck by a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake and a series of damaging aftershocks. Homes belonging to wintergreen growers and harvesters were largely destroyed, as many wintergreen distillation units were damaged. Wellness Advocates rallied to raise nearly $318,000 for aid. dōTERRA matched that donation for a total of nearly $650,000 for earthquake relief. Over the next several months, the company funded temporary housing tents for earthquake victims, the construction of earthquake-resistant permanent homes and Nepal’s first earthquake-resistant school. dōTERRA also led the rebuilding of distillation units, latrines and additional schools. Collectively, these efforts helped families in the region regain their economic footing and rebuild their lives.
Essential oils now represent a $7.5 billion global market, a figure to which dōTERRA’s employees and Wellness Advocates have in no small way contributed. dōTERRA ships product to customers in nearly 100 countries and maintains corporate offices in 17 countries, including its newest offices in Mexico, Singapore and Canada. The company employs nearly 2,000 people worldwide and opened a new 400,000 square-foot corporate headquarters in Pleasant Grove, Utah, in 2014, where more than 1,700 of those employees are based.
Impact on Retention
Last year, the dōTERRA Healing Hands Foundation donated nearly $3 million for the betterment of impoverished communities around the globe. Consider this: Every week from November 2016 through May 2017, dōTERRA and its salesforce are conducting a humanitarian project somewhere in the world. When a company walks the talk, so to speak, actively participating in causes beyond its walls and inviting others to do the same, what does that do to its retention rates, both from a corporate and salesforce standpoint? For starters, Forbes magazine named dōTERRA among America’s best midsize employers, ranking it No. 10 on its 2016 list, and the No. 1 enterprise in the state of Utah. It was also named International Company of the Year in 2016 by the World Trade Association of Utah.
According to company statistics, 68 percent of dōTERRA customers reorder, continue to share dōTERRA products or build a dōTERRA business. The company’s year-over-year retention rate among all of those categories is currently 83 percent. Eighteen percent of dōTERRA’s customer base comprise its distributor base, and 98 percent of those Wellness Advocates remain active in their businesses. “Among the salesforce, they say that our emphasis on service is one of the things they love most about dōTERRA,” says Jowers. “The ability to get funding for causes they believe in fuels their passion for this company. And it’s a big part of the fulfillment we feel as employees. None of us got into this for financial gain.”
At a recent meeting for its top-level salesforce members, dōTERRA featured guest speaker Karen Dillon, co-author of the New York Times Best Seller How Will You Measure Your Life? A line from Dillon’s book sums up the responsibility we all share, both as representatives of this channel and as human beings: “The only metrics that will truly matter to my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people.