“In the long history of humankind,” Charles Darwin observed, “those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” Change and disruption are the story of our times. The direct selling channel isn’t merely adapting by collaborating and improvising, but finding new opportunities to grow.
While ill-informed critics sometimes will question the values of the Direct Selling Association (DSA) and DSA’s self-regulatory and advocacy activities, the need for and values of our association have never been clearer. We are stronger together, and better able to shape our respective futures together. DSA promotes the interests of direct selling as a dynamic marketplace force, responsive to the challenges and opportunities of the times.
We have constantly evolved to adapt to changes in the marketplace and technology breakthroughs that affect our industry and the changes in regulatory approaches they’ve necessitated. DSA’s role is to support our membership by helping improve and elevate the direct selling channel. We do that with our active education efforts, by building relationships with lawmakers and by protecting consumers and focusing on channel-wide issues. While we cannot and do not act as legal counsel for any individual company, if a member’s regulatory issues have negative implications for the industry, DSA acts to defend the common interests of our members.
We engage with an often skeptical media to better inform public perceptions, address misunderstandings, and protect the values of our business model. We educate lawmakers and regulators about the popularity and integrity of our businesses. Proving our continued commitment to self-regulation strengthens consumer protection and our channel’s accountability. Our relationships with federal and state policymakers also serves to promote understanding of our industry. And to understand is to appreciate.
Because we are the premier national trade association for direct selling, the industry’s detractors sometimes target their criticism at our membership. Self-appointed “watchdogs” intent on policing our industry criticize our businesses, members and non-members. That’s why DSA membership is so important and why our expanding self-regulatory program is so valuable. Many of these critics harbor suspicions about our industry that mostly originate from a lack of appreciation for a retail channel they don’t see themselves wanting to engage in as consumers or as independent salespeople.
Fortunately, DSA is well-informed and well-positioned to rebut the negative stereotypes promoted by critics who don’t understand our industry. Our association has instituted a fully functioning self-regulatory program. We scrutinize new applicants for membership in our association to ensure their commitment to our high standards. Our Code of Ethics and independent Code Administrator as well as our members’ commitment to the Code’s strictures is our first line of defense against misconceived attacks on your practices. When criticism has merit, the Administrator can direct corrective actions be taken. Where criticism is unwarranted, the Administrator can explain why.
Of course, DSA membership is not a foolproof shield against unreasonable criticism, but it is an unequivocal statement by members that they are committed to doing the right thing by abiding by informed and viable standards for direct selling.
In a time of constant change, of proliferating challenges and opportunities, the integrity, efficacy and durability of our more than a century old association is attributable, as it always has been, to our able defense of those common interests, adapt to an ever-changing landscapes in the marketplace and our united advocacy of the interests, rights and aspirations of all legitimate direct sellers.
Joseph N. Mariano is President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation.