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Essential oil provider dōTERRA’s impressive philanthropic efforts have scaled alongside its successful brand.

Marc Brush

July 18, 2023

7 Min Read
doTERRA

When a seasoned team of executives joined forces to found dōTERRA in 2008, who knew what an impact that would have on the supplement industry? The timing was ideal for a new brand to seize the opportunity essential oils presented.

Today, dōTERRA is a direct seller that sources more than 260 essential oils and ingredients from 47 countries for more than 10 million wellness advocates and customers worldwide. The company’s success has allowed it to effect positive change through its growing commitment to serve as a good corporate citizen.

“This is a first-class, professional operation that made a go-in commitment to sustainability,” says UNPA President Loren Israelsen. “They understand the criticality of developing a sustainable supply chain with a network of local farms and support for those farmers with long-term contracts. It’s an impressive growth story on many fronts.”

A global impact

The numbers at dōTERRA get big fast, even when it comes to corporate charity and philanthropy. The company’s Healing Hands Foundation has stated goals to improve the lives of 1 million people via a match program and donate $3 million annually by 2030. The company is well on its way to delivering, with just under 250,000 people affected and almost $550,000 donated through 2022.

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“We link all of our philanthropic efforts to support the global dōTERRA family and the communities or nations in which they live,” says Corey Lindley, dōTERRA CEO and founding executive. “Because we operate in 47 different countries, two-thirds of which are developing countries, we recognize opportunities to serve literally all over the world.”

These opportunities often surface through the company’s global supply chain of essential oils. “We go into the communities where we have wonderful and committed growers and harvesters and ask them what they need the most in their community,” says Lindley. “This has led to clean water solutions in Haiti, a multi-million-dollar hospital in Somali­land and supporting more than 600,000 people, school infrastructure and facilities support in Kenya and a medical clinic in Madagascar, to name a few.”

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2022 highlights

“DōTERRA supports our sourcing communities around the globe,” says Missy Larsen, dōTERRA vice president of philanthropy and community impact. In Kenya, where dōTERRA sources tea tree, geranium, ginger, pink pepper, cypress, thyme and lemon eucalyptus, the Healing Hands Foundation provided 31 scholarships for secondary education during the past school year and funded a drip-irrigation system to better equip 20 farming families as they build sustainable livelihoods.

Related:NBJ Award: Supply Chain Integrity

Another highlight is the Kealakekua Mountain Reserve (KMR) on the Island of Hawai’i, where dōTERRA has implemented Hawaii’s largest reforestation project. “We’ve planted over 350,000 native Hawaiian trees at KMR since 2019 on previously blighted land,” says Larsen. “The onsite nursery provides native Hawaiian sandalwood and koa shoots for other reforestation projects across the Hawaiian Islands.” KMR works closely with its nonprofit organization, Hiki Ola, to educate about the local environment and culture, including immersive youth education days and tours.

In pursuit of positive change

DōTERRA’s annual impact report, The Pursuit, offers a quick primer on the breadth and scope of its philanthropic work worldwide. The company has distributed 43,035 emergency relief kits in 14 countries, for example, and raised over $1 million to aid Ukrainian refugees. The Somaliland  hospital served 19,602 people last year.

Of particular interest to the supplement industry, dōTERRA is out in front on funding and advocating for scientific research into essential oils. Seventy scientists worldwide have partnered with the company to further 30 projects, with 25 papers published last year. Experiments are under way to study crop cultivars, geographical locations, and harvest and distillation techniques that optimize essential oil yield and quality. There’s also cutting-edge research afoot to study the molecular mechanisms of essential oils and how they relate to gene and protein expression.

“DōTERRA has made a significant commitment to investing in the kind of research that brings durability to the entire category of essential oils,” says Israelsen. He highlights dōTERRA’s recent agreement with the National Center for Natural Products Research at University of Mississippi, under Dr. Ikhlas Khan, to fund a five-year plan establishing quality standards.

Sustainability and sourcing

DōTERRA’s approach to its global supply chain for essential oils is simple: go small for big impact. Years ago, the company made the decision to source from a network of trusted, small suppliers. This adds complexity and risk—in comparison to mass producing on its own land—but it’s a big vote of support for local knowledge and jobs in communities across the globe where dōTERRA works hand in hand with farmers, distillers, harvesters and civic leaders.

Through this sourcing program, the company has stated goals of improving 10 million lives in sourcing areas, creating 1.2 million jobs that support 3 million people and reaching 5.8 million people through various social-impact projects, and they made progress against each of these metrics in 2022. “In business, you try to build a virtuous circle as best you can,” says Israelsen, “and they’ve really delivered on that. The company has made serious commitments to minimize its impact and promote the sustainability of these plants and the communities that grow them.”

Take Gran Chaco, an area between the Pilcomayo and Paraguay Rivers that claims over 61 million acres of semiarid land. It’s uninhabitable, but the soil and climate are just right for several native plants that can’t grow anywhere else, including Bulnesia sarmientoi, the guaiacwood tree.

To source essential oils from this tree, dōTERRA carefully vetted its sourcing partners, certified them with the Union for Ethical Biotrade, worked with them to develop a sustainable forest-management plan and then started buying up land. By 2022, more than 12,000 acres were protected with only one to two mature trees per acre harvested each year. This allows each plot to rest and regrow between harvest periods that can stretch out to 20 years.

In 2022, dōTERRA also finished its rollout of paper-based shipping envelopes on the heels of a switch to paper packaging materials, both of which reduce the company’s plastic consumption. According to company analysis, dōTERRA reduced its carbon emissions by 359,391 pounds in 2022, eliminating 226.4 million square feet of plastic from its shipping process and saving enough electricity to power an average U.S. household for nine years.

To make all this mission-based effort lasting and scalable, the company is investing in a scorecard system that will evaluate every essential oil in its supply chain at least twice by 2030. Each supplier gets an audit to set baseline measurements, a plan to improve on the weak links and then a follow-up to determine whether that supplier can operate at the company’s high standards with the support required to get them there.

In 2022, dōTERRA awarded $100,000 to improve 29 of its ingredient supply chains through a challenge fund designed to help suppliers improve their scorecards. Through 2022, 76 supply chains have been evaluated, and 29 are in progress.

Looking ahead

“As a company, we have committed to a bold goal of tripling our philanthropic impact by the year 2030,” says Lindley, looking at the direct impact of sourcing and the impact through the foundation. “This means increasing the number of lives we impact annually from 2.6 million today to 10 million in the next seven years. Many of those lives impacted will be in developing nations all over the world.”

When the numbers are this big, progress doesn’t happen without a plan, and dōTERRA has spent years putting the plans in place for lasting benefit. The wellness advocates identify the philanthropic efforts that matter to them, and the corporate office focuses on matching gifts, as well as direct support for farmers and growers around the world and the local causes in their own communities. It’s a virtuous circle and a model for the entire industry to up its game and amplify its impact on global health.

The NBJ 2023 Awards issue is available at no cost on the NBJ app or through the NBJ store. Subscribe today to the Nutrition Business Journal.

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