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October 02, 2017

Top Desk

Unifying an Industry

by Doug DeVos


Click here to order the October 2017 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


Never before has the industry seen a global environment filled with this much opportunity. More people than ever want a life that allows them to work when and where they want. Consumers are buying quality products that help them look and feel more confident. And people are increasingly seeking experiences that connect them to others with similar values and goals. During my tenure with the WFDSA, we’ve been focused on better positioning the industry to capture this opportunity and, today, the foundation has been laid to help the industry do just that.

Much of our work to create an even better environment for the industry boils down to one overarching issue: gaining clarity around who we are and what we do. Too often, misunderstanding around what we sell, how people earn money and what separates legitimate direct selling from illegal schemes has led to misperceptions and misrepresentations. As a result, the WFDSA has worked to unify the industry to address this. Together, we’re creating Message Guidelines that will provide guidance on how all of us can more clearly and consistently articulate who we are as an industry and what we’re about. The goal is to make sure the marketplace—including regulators and consumers—understands clearly all aspects of direct selling so that consumers can make intelligent choices about buying from direct sellers or deciding to join a company as a representative. 

We’ve also worked to make sure the standards by which we operate as an industry are the highest they can be. That’s why we revised our Code of Ethics that establishes industry standards to ensure an ethical marketplace. While not a law, in most cases, it exceeds local legal requirements, and all businesses that are members of a DSA must pledge to adopt, enforce and publicize the DSA Code of Ethics. 

Additionally, we’ve worked to stress the importance of setting appropriate expectations around direct selling’s income opportunity. Most people work direct selling part time and earn a part-time income. It’s important that people who join the industry understand this and have realistic expectations of how they can be rewarded for the results of their effort. 

We’ve also put more focus on ensuring strong consumer protections are front and center of what we say and do. The industry’s success is dependent on the confidence people have in direct selling’s products and business opportunity. Strong consumer protections go far in instilling this confidence when people sell, purchase and represent direct selling products. Many direct selling companies have strong consumer protections in place already. But more needs to be done to articulate these protections so people better understand products can be returned and people can exit the business opportunity without getting hurt. 


Much of our work to create an even better environment for the industry boils down to one overarching issue: gaining clarity around who we are and what we do.


Finally, the WFDSA and local DSAs have done a lot of work around helping regulators and consumer protection agencies to create an even playing field for everyone who wants to participate in direct selling. We’ve been working around the world on a local level to help them better understand the definition of legitimate direct selling and to ensure rules are fair, transparent and protect consumers from fraud. The clearer and more concise the legislation defining our industry, the more likely we are to have an environment where all legitimate direct selling participants have the opportunity to succeed.

None of these goals could have been achieved if not for the partnership, support and hard work of the WFDSA Operating Group and DSAs. Together, we’ve had a busy and fulfilling few years. The industry is growing and thriving around the world. Estimated retail sales for global direct selling is $183 billion. Three-year compound annual growth rate (2014-17) is 5.2 percent. Over this same time period, millions have continued to represent our member companies and so many new people have joined. These numbers illustrate the strength of the industry, its sustained growth over time and the value of what we provide. But we also know, tremendous potential remains. 

Magnus Brännström, CEO of Oriflame, is the incoming Chairman of the WFDSA, and I’m fully confident his leadership will continue to advance the many strategies and initiatives that are currently underway. 

It’s been a tremendous honor to serve the WFDSA. Never have I been more confident and optimistic about the industry’s future than now. The environment is ripe for direct selling businesses. People want an opportunity like ours as well as the products we sell. As long as we continue together on the course we’ve begun of clearly establishing what we do and why, there’s no limit to the success we can achieve.


 Doug DeVos is President of Amway and outgoing Chairman of WFDSA.