May 01, 2013
Amway: Growing by Giving
by Jeremy Gregg
The Amway One by One Campaign for Children is marking its 10th anniversary having helped millions of children live better lives, including children near its world headquarters in Ada, Mich.
- Founded: 1959
- Founders: Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel
- Headquarters: Ada, Mich.
- Leadership: President Doug DeVos and Chairman Steve Van Andel
- Products: Nutrition, wellness, beauty and home products
The direct selling industry is home to some of the most generous people on the planet. From distributors all the way up to the founders of the industry’s largest companies, direct selling attracts people who define their success by what they can do for others.
It is therefore fitting that the industry’s newest leader, Amway, would much rather talk about its corporate giving program than its ascent to the top spot in the industry as recognized by Direct Selling News.
For Amway’s leaders, that number is most significant because of what it equips the company to do through its signature charitable initiative: the Amway One by One Campaign for Children. In fact, when asked about how Amway sales growth affected the company’s ability to launch the campaign, Jesse Hertstein, Senior Corporate Citizenship Specialist, responded: “The Amway One by One® Campaign for Children has become a global movement. We do it because it is the right thing to do.”
About the Company
The Amway story begins in the late 1940s, when Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel invested $49 to buy their first sales kit from NUTRILITE, a vitamin and mineral supplement company that had been launched in 1934 by nutrition pioneer Carl Rehnborg. DeVos and Van Andel spent the next 10 years growing a very significant business within NUTRILITE before having what DeVos described as an “internal squabble” that led them to part ways with Rehnborg.
In a video available on Amway’s website, Rich DeVos explains that “we liked the marketing plan; we just wanted to sell our own products… products that everybody uses.”
That became the beginning of what today is known as Amway—an abbreviation for the “American Way.” DeVos and Van Andel established the company in 1959 in Ada, Mich. The company’s first product was Liquid Organic Cleaner (L.O.C.), which was among the very first concentrated, biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products available on the market. Since then, Amway has expanded from home products to become a global leader in the categories of nutrition, wellness and beauty.
Much of Amway’s recent success can be credited to its “Growth Through Innovation” strategy. This effort was focused on improving Amway’s business in current markets by challenging longstanding norms and advancing their products, business opportunities and company as a whole. The result was the fostering of a culture that is much more focused on continuous innovation.
Amway’s leaders now describe the company as a “global community” that is operating in more than a hundred countries and territories. The company reports that it pays out more bonuses than any other direct selling company, which has enabled it to build a staggering corps of more than 3 million independent business owners.
And in a fitting turn of events, Amway is now the exclusive distributor of NUTRILITE, the brand that inspired the creation of Amway itself.
Amway distributors and employees volunteer for hundreds of projects. They include (left to right) sponsoring afterschool programs throughout North America; providing kitchen facilities to help prepare nutritional meals to children in rural China; and building homes for families in Latin America.
About the Campaign
|Amway employees in Michigan volunteered more than 20,000 hours to local children’s causes in 2012.
Launched in 2003, the Amway One by One Campaign for Children rallies the resources of the entire Amway family to make a difference in the lives of children around the world. Through its vast network of international distributors, the company seeks to create local partnerships that improve the way children around the world live, learn, achieve and play.
Through its vast network of international distributors, Amway seeks to create local partnerships that improve the way children around the world live, learn, achieve and play.
Amway’s support goes far beyond simply engaging their massive workforce in grassroots volunteer efforts or writing corporate checks to support charitable endeavors. The company has deeply embedded the campaign into its own branding efforts, going so far as to dedicate the resources necessary to publish an almost daily blog on their website that features different aspects of the campaign, the causes it supports and the issues that affect children around the globe (see it online at http://blogs.amway.com/onebyone/ and www.amwayonebyone.com).
The blog does not serve as a promotional piece for Amway as much as a way to educate distributors about the critical needs that they are addressing through Amway’s One by One Campaign for Children. Recent articles have highlighted everything from the results of a recent study on the positive effect of one-on-one sponsorships of children to a series of quotes from presenters at a recent conference on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to poignant stories on the challenges facing orphans in the Ukraine. There is surprisingly little mention of Amway, revealing that the heart of the campaign truly is focused on making the maximum impact on children.
“It made the most sense for our business and for our people because Amway is a business of helping people reach their potential—and children have the most potential and often need the most help to succeed.”
Hertstein explains how the campaign was created: “In the early 2000s, we did thorough research of sponsorships and charitable projects we had supported. It became clear to us that, while we had been doing a lot in many different areas, the children’s causes were the ones that our distributors and employees were most passionate about and where they saw the biggest impact. So, in 2003, we made a commitment to focus most of our CSR efforts on helping children. That year we launched the Amway One by One Campaign for Children. It made the most sense for our business and for our people because Amway is a business of helping people reach their potential—and children have the most potential and often need the most help to succeed.”
The campaign quickly began to make a significant impact not only on the charities, but on the Amway distributors themselves. Hertstein shares that Amway’s leaders did not foresee how much their distributors would drive the program. Since the launch of the campaign, several distributors have sent in stories about how they built their Amway businesses solely to support the causes they cared about. Some of the company’s top distributor leaders have been inspired to start their own foundations, scale up other nonprofit organizations or even address issues that others didn’t notice before.
“We didn’t realize how passionate our distributors were about giving and sharing of their time, talent and resources,” says Hertstein. He shares that even Amway’s highest-level distributor, Holly Chen from Taiwan, has credited the One by One Campaign with driving her to stay in the Amway business and to inspire others to get involved.
Todd Woodward, Amway’s Vice President of Corporate and Integrated Communications, credits the direct selling industry with creating a culture that naturally fosters such efforts.
“It has to do with the nature of our business and with what our people stand for,” he explains. “Human potential is at the cornerstone of the Amway business and the driver of our social responsibility efforts. We believe that by nurturing and supporting human potential, and by addressing issues that prevent individuals from reaching it, we can help people. Because Amway is an integral part of communities in which it operates, the company, its distributors and employees continue to create positive change. Amway One by One is one such program that helps harness their passion for the business and transfer some of that energy toward a great global cause.”
The Campaign’s Impact
|The NUTRILITE® LITTLE BITS™ program helps fight chronic malnourishment in children in Zambia.
Over the past 10 years, Amway’s distributors have logged over 2.7 million volunteer hours and raised $190 million for children’s causes worldwide. For Woodward, the campaign’s success is only beginning.
“The Amway One by One Campaign for Children has a ripple effect on people all around the world. It has grown exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down. The most exciting aspect, though, is what the Campaign has yet to accomplish. Each day we are getting better at mobilizing people around the world and inspiring them to improve the lives of children in unique and powerful ways.
“The efforts of Amway One by One® have transformed the lives of 10 million children in 10 years.”
—Todd Woodward, Vice President of Corporate and Integrated Communications
“2013 is a big year for Amway One by One,” Woodward continues. “The efforts of the campaign have transformed the lives of 10 million children in 10 years. The 10th anniversary gives us an opportunity not only to reflect on what our distributors and employees have done, but it also serves as a springboard for the future. The global volunteer day we have planned for Nov. 20 will propel us to reach the next milestone of transforming the lives of 10 million more children in an even shorter time.”
Amway’s top executives are also engaged in supporting the campaign. As President Doug DeVos shares, “Each child helped and each life impacted is a testament to the incredible giving spirit of Amway distributors and employees. We are inspired by these global citizens as they continue to make a difference around the world, one child at a time.”
Steve Van Andel, Amway Chairman, agrees. “Amway people are truly remarkable and we are impressed and humbled by their gifts of time and talent to help children live better lives.”
|Amway Charity Foundation in China helped build 754 kitchens that provide nutritious meals to more than 350,000 students in rural areas.||Since 2003, the Amway One By One® Campaign for Children has transformed the lives of 10 million children worldwide.|
What Other Companies Can Learn from Amway
One of the primary challenges that any multinational company faces when launching such an integrated CSR strategy is how to adapt it to local markets. As Hertstein explains, Amway learned that each market was filled with both its own unique challenges facing children as well as a great variety of interests on the part of the distributors. Amway and its leaders had to learn quickly how to be flexible and responsive to local needs while maintaining the global focus of the overall campaign.
“As a global company, we found that the issues ranged from poverty to disease to lack of access to education and more,” Hertstein says. “We realized that while we needed to meet local needs and find suitable local partners, we also needed to give our people flexibility to pursue causes that they were passionate about and allow them to support programs that had been already successful. Some partnerships with NGOs [non-governmental organizations] or distributor supported programs were already long established. For example, our distributors in the United States had been supporting children with disabilities through Easter Seals, so when Amway One by One was launched, we continued to support that program. We soon found out that once we embraced programs that allowed our distributors to commit to causes they cared most about, our corporate initiative began to transform into a global grassroots movement.”
Even from a business perspective, there is a very strong rationale for developing an ambitious CSR strategy. Despite the tremendous investment of time and money that Amway has invested into children’s charities around the globe, the company has continued to prosper. Indeed, its growth has almost accelerated in the past 10 years at the same time as it has positively impacted the lives of 10 million children through the One by One campaign.
As the largest direct selling company in the world, Amway remains guided by the same principles that have shaped its successful One by One Campaign—to help people live better lives.