Any company in the business of wellness should emphasize the improvement of society. Whether that’s through its health-focused products or philanthropic or charitable efforts on the side, it’s a given that such a business would demonstrate daily the value of giving back.
And so it is with leading natural nutrition company Shaklee Corporation. Founded in 1956 by Forrest Shaklee – inventor of the first multivitamin supplement in the United States in 1915 – Shaklee Corporation has spent decades ahead of its time.
The company, headquartered about 65 kilometers east of San Francisco, creates a gamut of wellness products that maintain Shaklee’s vision and methods, from protein shakes to probiotics. In recent years Shaklee has added skincare and cleaning products to its stable.
One byproduct of this forward-thinking approach to wellness and natural solutions is that by its very nature, Shaklee became a sustainable business long before that box was a must-tick across the board.
In 2000, Shaklee Corporation’s green practices made it the world’s first business to become Climate Neutral Certified, meaning Shaklee became the first company to fully offset its carbon emissions.
"The idea to be healthy and stay healthy is profound. So people are really starting to care more for themselves, and that’s been a big boon for the product categories we’re in."
Another side effect is that Shaklee’s natural philosophy attracts like-minded talent to the business.
“I’m a deep believer that business can be a vehicle for positive change in the world,” Roger Barnett, Shaklee Corporation’s Chairman and CEO since 2004, tells The CEO Magazine. “I was raised in a family where the principal value was giving back. That was part of my DNA.”
By 2004, Barnett had already made his mark in business with several companies including beauty.com. Barnett had successfully bought, built and sold an assortment of companies by the time he was 35, but he had yet to satisfy his inner calling to do more.
“One of my mentors was Jim Wolfensohn, who ran the World Bank for a decade,” Barnett says. “Through Jim I got to know the way the World Bank provides investments in health, income and sustainability in countries around the world, and the idea of being a social impact entrepreneur was implanted in my mind.”
Barnett soon got his chance to bring his vision to life. “Health and wellness was an industry that was guaranteed to grow for the next 50 years,” he says. “You’re not going to be replaced by the latest technology every year.”
The industry was, in Barnett’s estimation, made up of two parts. “You’ve got the ‘wait until you’re sick and fix you’ pharmaceutical model and the ‘keep you healthy’ prevention model,” he says. “Shaklee was the pioneer of health prevention.”
Shaklee Corporation met several other criteria on Barnett’s list. “It was a global business, for one, but it was also a business that made an impact. It goes to market through a social commerce model to provide the most clinically proven wellness products to people,” he explains.
“It provides an opportunity for additional or supplement income for those who are sharing it. And because Shaklee has a net zero impact on the planet, everything we do is sustainable. It felt like the perfect vehicle for me to make a difference at scale.”
When Barnett took the role of CEO, Shaklee was a company of 750,000 ambassadors around the world. Now, there are two million in the Shaklee family.
Today, more people than ever understand the impact of wellness. This, of course, has been advanced by the global pandemic. “The idea to be healthy and stay healthy is profound,” Barnett says. “So people are really starting to care more for themselves, and that’s been a big boon for the product categories we’re in.”
As that public understanding has grown, so has the need for accountability and transparency in an industry that gave birth to the term ‘snake-oil salesman’.
“So many companies have come in with fantastical marketing claims, so there’s been a greater desire for clinical proof that your product actually does something,” Barnett says. “We’re actually able to say that we are the most clinically proven wellness company in the world.
"I was raised in a family where the principal value was giving back. That was part of my DNA."
“We’re the only company that has short, medium and long-term proof that our products actually make a material difference in people’s health outcomes. That’s been a compelling accelerant for our business in the last few years.”
The basis for this claim is Shaklee’s participation in Landmark Health studies, an important United States study of long-term supplement use. People who had used Shaklee products between five and 40 years were tracked for a further decade, with the results measured against people who took competitors’ products or no supplements at all.
“From every indication, our people were healthier,” Barnett says. “They had up to 97 percent lower use of prescription medications. And they had better health outcomes and better blood biomarker levels. It was remarkable.”
With a proven and successful product at its core and Barnett at the helm, Shaklee Corporation has taken its blend of science and nature to new heights.
“We have an 85 percent year-over-year retention rate of our ambassadors, and a 60 percent retention rate of our customers, and that’s because we make an amazing product,” he says. “People believe and want to be a part of what we stand for. And we feel fortunate to be in a business where we are rewarded for never compromising our values.”
It’s a sense of solidarity that extends to Shaklee’s numerous partners and stakeholders.
“We have long-term relationships. Some of our partners have been with us for 40-plus years,” Barnett says. “So many companies are sufficiently arrogant that they don’t ask for their partners’ opinions, but we always ask them for their ideas and ways to make the process more efficient.”
"So many companies have come in with fantastical marketing claims, so there’s been a greater desire for clinical proof that your product actually does something."
Barnett believes that to have synergy with partners, particularly in a supply chain, a company must engage with them at the ideation and creation phase.
“If you can include them in the beginning, you’re going to get their co-creation ability, which makes them feel more invested as a partner,” he says. “Also, you can leverage their expertise on top of your own.”
The power to make a positive impact in terms of health is more valuable than ever. As one of the largest direct-to-consumer health companies, Shaklee Corporation wields a significant amount of that power, but Barnett says there’s always more to do.
“If we can do just a little bit more, we can have an even bigger impact,” he says. “There are so many other ways we can help people live healthier longer.”