Are there any Amway-like multi-level marketing companies that focus on environmentally friendly products?

Are there any Amway-like multi-level marketing companies that focus on environmentally friendly products?

Back in the 1950s, A—Dave Miller, Fresno, CAmway and a handful of other consumer products companies first pioneered the concept of “multi-level marketing” (MLM). In this business model, individuals act as distributors, selling the company’s products from home while also recruiting others to do the same. In doing so, they earn commissions on both their own sales and on the sales of those they recruit. In recent years, a number of MLM companies have sprouted up with environmentally friendly products as their focus.

The most well known of the crop is Shaklee, which has been selling green-friendly nutrition, personal care and household products since 1956, when research chemist Dr. Forrest Shaklee started the company. Since then, perhaps in an effort to live up to Dr. Shaklee’s personal motto (“Follow the laws of nature and you”ll never go wrong”), the company has wracked up a long list of eco-accomplishments. Back in 1960 it introduced the first mass marketed biodegradable cleaning product, Basic-H, an all-natural formula that has since been adopted as an official Earth Day product. More recently, Shaklee became the first independently verified “climate neutral” company in the world, offsetting its carbon dioxide emissions with investments in various renewable energy projects. And just this year, Shaklee embarked upon an ambitious campaign to plant a million trees with the help of thousands of its independent distributors.

Another big player in the green MLM field is Idaho-based Melaleuca, which has been selling natural health care, personal care and household products since 1985. The name Melaleuca is borrowed from a plant that produces organic essential oils found in many of the company’s products.

Meanwhile, Amazon Herb Company offers opportunities to sell herbal remedies derived from rainforest plants. “Amazon John” Easterling, who first discovered the healing power of herbs when Shipibo Indians used them to treat him when he fell ill during a visit to the Amazon rainforest, founded the company in 1990. Another up-and-coming player is Krystal Planet, which sells compact fluorescent light bulbs, solar heaters, fuel additives and other energy saving products for home, car and office.

If you’re looking to work with an MLM company, keep in mind that just because a company has good green intentions does not mean it is a good deal for you. According to Robert FitzPatrick, who runs the Pyramid Scheme Alert newsletter, less than one in a thousand MLM distributors makes a profit. The bottom line is: Do your homework. As in any business, there are reputable companies and there are bad apples. The perceived opportunity of working independently may seem too good to pass up, so get a solid idea about the work required and the actual return likely before you quit your day job.

CONTACTS: Shaklee, www.shaklee.com; Amazon Herb, www.amazonherb.com; Krystal Planet, www.krystal-planet.com; Melaleuca, www.melaleuca.com; Pyramid Scheme Alert, www.pyramidschemealert.org.