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07/13/2009

Melaleuca Shapes its Business around Being Green

Founded in 1985 in Idaho Falls, Ida., Melaleuca is a manufacturer and distributor of 350 health, pharmaceutical, personal care and home care products. Recognized for its green practices by several national organizations, Melaleuca has become a leader in developing green products, employing environmentally responsible practices and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

With revenues reaching $864 million last year, Melaleuca operates in the United States and more than a dozen countries. The company develops environmentally-friendly products that are safe for the entire family. Its products are exclusive, and many have proprietary formulations, patents or both to ensure performance beyond the traditional products at grocery or drug stores. Customers shop for Melaleuca's wellness products through its catalog and Web site, and products are delivered directly to their door, bypassing middle men and keeping costs down.

A Culture of Environmental Wellness
The green movement's recent popularity results from strong consumer demand for safer, more environmentally responsible products. Melaleuca Founder and CEO Frank VanderSloot sensed this market desire decades ago, which is one reason he shaped the company the way he did. 

For example, one might think it mere happenstance that Melaleuca's headquarters are located in Idaho Falls, Ida., but it's not. It was a deliberate decision by VanderSloot, who grew up on a farm in northern Idaho and felt inspired by The Gem State's natural beauty.

"I made a personal decision that I wanted to live and work in the middle of some of the most spectacular scenery on the face of the earth," VanderSloot says. "And I wanted my employees to experience the same. Nature serves as a constant reminder about the importance of environmental responsibility."

Melaleuca believes that creating an environmentally responsible product line begins by sourcing environmentally friendly ingredients. It also follows green practices by concentrating product formulas, reducing packaging, and employing environmentally responsible manufacturing, sales and distribution practices.

Sourcing Green Ingredients
Green products start with green ingredients. Melaleuca's wellness products are sourced from sustainable, natural sources whenever possible. From passionflower to jojoba and psyllium to Melaleuca Oil, these ingredients are renewable gifts from the earth.

Melaleuca has taken a firm stand against chemicals that not only pollute the environment, but also pollute the home. The company's EcoSense cleaning line relies on natural solvents and ingredients to create its household cleaners and laundry products. Fabrics and surfaces are cleaned without caustic fumes or the hazardous ingredients and chemicals found in traditional grocery store cleaners.

Instead of using chlorine bleach in its cleaning products, Melaleuca uses the power of citric acid. Similarly, instead of using ammonia in its disinfectants, Melaleuca uses the herb thyme. Although it is more expensive to use natural ingredients, Melaleuca believes it's the right thing to do for the environment and for its consumers. Melaleuca has taken the time and made the effort to develop viable alternatives to harsh chemicals, and it goes through the painstaking process of registering products with the EPA.

Another characteristic that differentiates Melaleuca is that none of its products contain phosphates, which are inexpensive chemicals used by most detergent manufacturers to soften water. Phosphates used in household cleaners can negatively impact the environment by causing unwanted algae growth in rivers, ponds and streams. These algae can choke off the natural oxygen supply in the water, killing plans, fish and other animals, severely altering the balance of the ecosystem. In fact, next to burning fossil fuels, the release of phosphates into the waterways and ecosystem is one of the biggest issues the environment faces today.

Concentration: Less Packaging, Less Waste
Melaleuca sells high-use, value-sized, concentrated products. This requires less packaging and shipping. The company's R&D scientists have spent years developing and advancing concentration technologies. In fact, many products are now super-concentrated.

If Melaleuca can concentrate a product, it will. Concentrated products mean less packaging, less waste and less fuel. Take a look at the reduced environmental impact Melaleuca is working to affect: 
- If all households in North America used Melaleuca's EcoSense cleaning products instead of grocery store brands, we would save 7 billion pounds of plastic in 10 years.
- The plastic saved in just one year by using MelaPower 6X Laundry Detergent instead of Tide, the leading grocery store brand, would be sufficient to manufacture 600,000 plastic laundry baskets.
- Using Melaleuca's concentrated Tub & Tile bathroom cleaner instead of the leading bathroom cleaner would save 175,000 pounds of plastic every year.

Reuse. Recycle. Rethink.
"Instead of selling pre-mixed, pre-diluted cleaners that come in their own disposable bottles, Melaleuca allows consumers to purchase concentrated products that they can then mix in bottles that can be used over and over," says Melaleuca Chief Marketing Officer Scott Hollander. "Why throw away a perfectly good bottle just because it's empty?"

As an example, Melaleuca sells a product called Sustain Sport, which comes in a powder form rather than ready-to-drink bottles. It's more environmentally responsible and economical. Melaleuca believes its customers are smart enough to add water and mix the products themselves.

Green Manufacturing & Shipping
These values carry into the company's manufacturing plants and operations. Melaleuca's manufacturing plants use reusable plastic bins to transfer products from one facility to another instead of disposable corrugate. When the bins are worn and no longer useful, they are recycled and turned into fiber optic cable tubing. Additionally, excess plastic from bottle manufacturing is reused, ensuring as little as possible is wasted. Finally, all packaging and shipping materials are compatible with recycling, including plastics, corrugated cardboard and paperboard. Product orders are packed with air pillows instead of bubble wrap or packing peanuts to save fuel and landfill space. And every shipping box is made from 30 percent post consumer material and certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

A Greener Model
In addition to green manufacturing practices, Melaleuca's distribution of products to consumers could be one of the Greenest models ever developed. At Melaleuca, customers order their products online or by phone each month. Each product order is shipped directly to the consumer's doorstep, a distribution model that eliminates excess fuel emissions that other companies incur as their products pass from middle men to warehouses to retailers and finally to the consumer. The traditional model forces consumers to pile into their cars and drive to and from grocery and drug stores to purchase products.

We All Can Win
"Consumer demand for environmentally responsible products is awakening the world of business," VanderSloot says. "However, instead of fixing the core of their business practices, far too many companies are simply 'greenwashing' or 'green screening' the marketplace."

By contrast, Melaleuca's products are formulated with natural, sustainable ingredients rather than less expensive alternatives, even if that choice was not the most profitable route for the company.

"Our customers demand it, and it's been the right thing for us to do. By creating a safer, greener tomorrow, we all can win," VanderSloot adds.