In Washington, D.C. and across the country, there is an association for everything. Each industry, product or interest group has its own agenda. And there is an association to advocate for each one of those agendas on all levels of government.
For Americans, it seems only natural to stand together and advocate for a point of view. And of course, associations were formed to affect the common good by advocating for their particular point of view and petition the government. This might sound familiar to members of the Direct Selling Association (DSA).
DSA has been part of this ingenious and uniquely American tradition for more than 100 years, all the while advocating on behalf of diverse, yet unified interests. Whether party-plan or door-to-door, big-ticket or value-priced, the companies selling products and services came together to create and sustain the Direct Selling Association. The DSA began with relatively humble roots in Winona, Minnesota, eventually moving the headquarters to Washington, D.C. to advocate more forcefully for the future of direct selling.
Our predecessors understood that it was not good enough for direct sellers to come together and advocate only for themselves. These visionaries knew that it was critical to work for a greater good, beyond the interests of one company or industry segment and, in fact, beyond the interests of the business model alone. It was in our interest to serve the public interest. This commitment to the public interest, while working to support our extraordinary business model, has guided DSA’s legislative and self-regulatory efforts since then. These were recently reaffirmed in DSA’s ongoing strategy, “Plan 2020.”
Now DSA is embarking upon bold next steps to serve the joint interests of the public and its members through a renewed and vigorous self-regulatory program. We will build upon the long, effective history of our existing Code of Ethics to create an even more robust and credible self-regulatory system. This new program, to be implemented later this year and into 2019, will look to incorporate the fundamental principles of effective self-regulation as described by the Federal Trade Commission: full transparency of process, independent and credible third-party adjudication, sufficient resourcing, and possible application to non-members.
This ambitious and bold initiative will be complemented by an equally bold legislative initiative in Washington, D.C. and state capitals promoting consumer protection and individual entrepreneurship. We will fight for the independence of our salesforce and their flexibility to build businesses and to assist their families with a bit of extra income. Similarly, we will continue to support laws that clearly prohibit marketing scams, while allowing direct selling to provide quality products to customers, including our own salespeople.
There will no doubt be some differing opinions along the way. We are not immune to the various aspects of our culture and politics that seem to work to push people apart rather than together.
Yet the solidarity of DSA membership and volunteer leadership in working toward a better marketplace, effective consumer protection law, and the betterment of our communities has never been more clear. The common interests of our members, the wisdom of our founders, and the commitment to protect our customers and salespeople will undoubtedly propel the association and the business model in the coming months and years.
Direct sellers have united and our actions will serve as an example and a power that will be heard for the betterment of millions of people. I have no doubt.
Joseph N. Mariano is President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation.