Wouldn’t it be amazing to put an end to world hunger? Of course, it would. No one wants children to go hungry. Why do so few people try to make a change? We don’t do anything because deep down we know one person can’t do enough. Global problems can’t be solved at the level of the individual. Big change comes from the actions and policies of big organizations.
Brian Paul, President of the Usana True Health Foundation, joins us on this episode of the MLM.com podcast to talk corporate social responsibility (CSR).
The Usana True Health Foundation works to feed children around the world. They’ve distributed more than 25 million meals. And they work to create sustainable programs—programs with the objective of getting people out of dependency.
Listen in to learn more about Usana’s philanthropic efforts and philosophy.
Nancy Tobler: Welcome to The MLM.com Podcast. I’m Nancy Tobler, your guest host. Today we have Brian Paul from Usana. He is the president of the Usana True Health Foundation, which is their philanthropy project that they do. He’s been there for over 20 years. He’s been deeply involved with their charitable efforts. He is committed to helping impoverished children—I like this, I’m going to read it right from his bio—”Impoverished children and families reach their full potential by providing them with food and nutrition.”
He has an extensive background in film and television, digital communication, and hosting live events for global audiences. Brian uses his expertise to share the foundation’s stories.
Before joining the foundation, Brian worked as Usana’s Creative Media Director, inspiring others to achieve their health and financial goals by helping others. So, welcome, Brian.
Brian Paul: Wow, thank you!
Nancy Tobler: Yeah.
Brian Paul: How are you?
Nancy Tobler: Good. I’m really good. Thanks so much for joining us.
The Usana Story
Nancy Tobler: Just in case people don’t know what Usana is, in terms of the company, would you give people just a little background on Usana?
Brian Paul: Yeah. Usana the company started in 1992 and it was founded by a scientist, a cellular microbiologist, basically looking for a way to fight degenerative disease. He spent many years trying to help people get over their sicknesses rather than preventing the sicknesses. So, that’s when kind of Usana was born. And it’s a health supplement company that creates some of the highest rated nutritional supplements in the world. It’s a network marketing company. So, we have distributors all over the world, 26 different countries who build businesses with our products to help people achieve their optimal health. So, that is the company in a nutshell.
You Can’t Improve People’s Lives If They’re Hungry at Home
Nancy Tobler: Great, great. So, tell me about how your corporate social responsibility program got started at Usana.
Brian Paul: Yeah. So, from the beginning… Dr. Wentz, who was the founder of Usana, he is very much a philanthropist. He’s always been looking for ways to help people get healthy, here and abroad. So, from the beginning we partnered with an organization called Children’s Hunger Fund and their whole mission is feeding children around the world.
And so, what happened was after many years of soliciting donations from our distributors and working with that partner and helping, we decided to start our own charity so that we could reach people in the countries we do business in. So, Children’s Hunger Fund was unable to reach all of the areas. And so, that’s when we decided to create the True Health Foundation so that we can reach those people.
We kind of call our distributors part of the Usana family. So, it’s one big family. And the foundation is here to help the Usana family help others who are in desperate need for hunger and who are very malnourished around the world. And that started in 2012.
Nancy Tobler: Oh, great. I’m sure you can tell the audience a lot more than I can, but when you think about what can make a difference—food and nutrition is basic. Right? You can’t go improving people’s lives in other ways if people are hungry at home. It’s just it’s such a foundational effort to make a change in the world. So, I applaud that. What are some of your most successful or memorable projects that you’ve worked on?
Wow. We still work with our partner, Children’s Hunger Fund. We help deliver these food packs which are basically boxes that contain 48 meals that are really custom to the area of the world that they’re being sent. And they have rice, beans, non-perishables. There’s proteins, there’s vegetables. And it’s kind of tailored for different things for that area of the world.
And so, we, Usana and Children’s Hunger Fund, just a couple of years ago we surpassed over 25 million meals distributed worldwide. And we’re pretty proud of that. And that’s just the beginning. We’re just getting warmed up and we’re hoping to double that in the near future here.
What’s the Plan to Get People Out of Dependency?
Brian Paul: So, we’re very proud of just feeding children and you know all of what the foundation does is we really try to come up with solutions.
So, we’re not just passing out meals and hoping for the best—that these people figure it out for the future. But we work with different partners around the world to, you know, create sustainable projects that are built on agriculture, that are built on children being fed at school so they come to school and we have meals provided for them so that they’re incentivized—the children themselves and for the parents—to send their kids to school.
And so, we try to come up with ways where we can really reach the children. They’re the future. It’s not their fault, the situation they’re in. And so, you know, we focus on getting them fed and then we look for ways to make it so we don’t have to keep bringing them that box. What’s the plan to get out of the dependency of the box?
Nancy Tobler: I think that’s huge. Right? It’s a two-punch solution. Right?
Brian Paul: Right.
Nancy Tobler: You can’t really get people to work out of poverty if they’re still hungry because their primary focus is to get food. So, that two-punch system, I like it.
Donating Is One Thing, But Giving Your Time Is A Whole Other Level
Nancy Tobler: Do your distributors or employees go help with those projects or is that—you really turn it over to another organization?
Brian Paul: No, yes! That’s what I’m very passionate about. I mean when you think of a charity, you think of the side of the people receiving the benefit from the donations from the service. But we’re really providing something for both sides. You know, we have over a half a million distributors that are working to build a business. They’re focused on achieving their own financial freedom and improving their health. And we’re here to also help them give back. We’re there to break their hearts, show them that there are people in the world that aren’t receiving the basic elements of life. And so, we look at kind of making them better and all of us better, so we really get our employees and our associates involved.
Donating is one thing, but giving your time is a whole other level. And that’s what we focus on.
So, we have programs here in our corporate offices where we feed children and in different school districts here in Utah around the corporate office. And our employees go and volunteer and deliver these bags, they pack these bags and take them to schools every week. We have other partners here just around the corporate office where employees can go teach about health, where they can go serve meals to the homeless.
We’ve really turned up the gas on just doing more activities here as a corporation.
And then on our associate side, like you said, we have an ambassador program where we have leaders. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with the company. If you want to be a leader in philanthropy you can be a part of that. And so, all you’ve got to do really is just, you know, donate to the foundation, any amount. There’s no required amount. And to serve at least once a quarter with your teams.
So, you know, we’ve got these leaders with big teams that can go show up at the partners that need help. And, you know, it really is leveraging thousands and thousands of people to do good in the world.
Does Corporate Philanthropy Improve Employee Engagement?
Nancy Tobler: Yeah. I think it’s wonderful. The next question I think we’ve already answered is: what is your focus? I think you’ve already talked about that. Right? To bring nutrition to children and then to change their lives. I think we’ve really hit on that one already.
But the other thing I wanted to know is we’ve talked a lot in the last month or so here at MLM.com about employee engagement and distributor engagement. Right? How do you get companies or employees and distributors to feel connected to you? And I was just thinking that CSR and philanthropy are one way to do that. And I thought maybe you could share how you think that works for your company? Or maybe it doesn’t work for your company?
Brian Paul: Yeah, I think, as far as just employee engagement… I mean, you really have to show where their efforts are going and how they’re making a difference. You can never tell the story enough.
People are very focused on, you know, their lives and bettering their families. And so, it’s just kind of a natural thing, it happens to me sometimes, you get in this mode of like, “Oh, I’ve got so many troubles in my own little world.” You know, and I need to be reminded that I’m very blessed. I have an abundance of blessings in my life and there are other people that are struggling with way less. So, we try to really share that in a positive way.
So, we’re not just engaging with our employees and associates with terrible images of malnutrition and suffering. We know that happens. We want to show them that we’re solving it. We’re making a difference. And so, that is a constant effort.
Don’t Just Talk About Poverty—Give People A Chance to Do Something
Brian Paul: And having them involved in the service where they get to be hands-on and deliver food to the actual people who are in need—I mean, that’s the best way. I mean, it’s sweet. We take our associates on service trips around the world.
And one thing about service trips is, you know, it’s easy to take a group of people and sort of take them on a field trip of how poor people live. You know? It’s like, here’s poverty, it’s terrible. Now let’s move on and go back home and hopefully you guys take some action.
We like to go and pre set up projects where we ask the people in the areas we’re going, “What is the need? How can we actually be of help? How can we leave this place better than when we came?” And we bring our associates out to help really connect them to that work. We ask them to support it. They lead the charge, a lot these leaders, they’ll donate, they’ll start these awesome projects. And then we go back to these large events where we have five, ten, thousand people and we ask them to help out as well.
And it’s a formula that’s working and it’s helping a lot of people.
Nancy Tobler: Yeah. The thing that the research really tells us is that if you involve people in these events and they get a chance to do instead of just, like you say, watch.
It used to be called slumming. That’s where the word comes from. Rich people used to just tour poor parts of town to see how they lived. They did. They didn’t want to change anything.
But having them do is so good for your organization and the connection that both employees and distributors will feel.
Creating Programs in the Places Where Distributors Live
Nancy Tobler: I love that you do so much locally in Utah. I didn’t see that on your web page, but I think that’s also a key to your program that we’ll want to highlight is that you’ve really worked hard to have the programs be in the places where the distributors live.
Brian Paul: Yeah. We’re in a funny place of you know in the last couple of years, I always say we keep biting off more than we can chew. We keep just starting things in action and going and we haven’t done a great job of telling our story.
Two years ago, we started with one project like that. And now we have 26 active projects, feeding projects, sustainability projects going right now.
Nancy Tobler: Wow.
Brian Paul: And so, now, this year we got to do a good job of telling the story.
Nancy Tobler: Yeah, right. We haven’t even hit on this, but if your company gets known for particular service and it also makes selling your product easier, people want to buy it because they know in the end it’s going to support values that they have as well. So, it’s a whole other aspect of how corporate social responsibility helps the company.
Why Big Organizations Have the Greatest Responsibility
Brian Paul: For sure. I mean, if you’re going to start a company and you’re going to start employing thousands of people, I think you have a responsibility to really put those people to work giving back to the community that’s giving to them.
I mean, why not?
We have so many associates, distributors, employees—it’s like, we have a way of leveraging their efforts. We do a thing every year called World Service Week where for seven days, around the world, associates just go give back to their communities.
So, they serve multiple days. These service projects that they send back to us just excite me so much. It just blows my mind how giving these people are.
They’ll send a photo with 30 people that go clean up neighborhoods or they go serve at the hospital or they go pack meals for the homeless and deliver them, and it’s just like, that’s what it’s all about. You’ve got these people. Let’s make a difference. You know, we can focus them on one thing that they can really do something for the good in all of their communities.
Nancy Tobler: Yeah, that’s wonderful. That’s a wonderful connection point. As well as it’s a tradition and traditions help bond your people to you. And it’s good for the people, I don’t want to sound one sided, that it’s just good for Usana, what you’re doing, it’s good for the other side. Right? They get to feel good about themselves. They have a chance to do something they know is safe to do. Right? Cause you’ve already vetted the situation and… just all around is a way that everybody gets to win.
What Are We Doing? Are We Doing Enough?
Brian Paul: For sure. And it does benefit the company as far as you know people that come to work here, people that decide to start a Usana business, we make it more meaningful. We add more to it.
And you know it’s really very important, a huge priority from the top down. I go to an executive management meeting every month and I stand before all of our executives and they’re like, “What are we doing? Are we doing enough?” And they put so much pressure on and it’s because it’s very important to them. So, it makes me feel good. I walk out of that room so overwhelmed but I’m also like, “I’m in the right place.”
Nancy Tobler: Well, that’s really nice. That’s a really nice thing to hear. Right? That you don’t have to justify your program. They already see the benefit. It’s very clear to everyone that this benefits all parties involved.
Well those were all my questions, is there anything else you want to tell us about your program?
Brian Paul: That covered a lot. I mean, we’re very passionate. One thing that’s very neat is the True Health Foundation staff is a team of five people in the hundreds that we have here at Usana. But what’s so awesome is all of our employees are so involved. We get support from our corporate office here and from all of our offices of countries that we’re registered in. So, there’s a lot of marketing managers who take on double roles of organizing teams to go serve on the weekends and then they come to work on Monday, and they do their normal job. And it’s pretty humbling that they’re so involved in it and willing to give that kind of time.
A Culture of Giving
Nancy Tobler: Yeah. That’s wonderful. Well, it’s a culture of giving. Right?
Brian Paul: It is.
Nancy Tobler: It’s impossible to boil it down to a simple phrase but it really is a culture of giving and that’s fantastic.
Well, I want to thank you, Brian, for taking the time today to meet with us here at MLM.com. And again, good wishes in what you’re doing. I’ll have my eye on your web page to see what stories you’re telling. And again, thank you very much.
Brian Paul: Thank you very much, Nancy.
Nancy Tobler: Thank you so much for joining us today on our MLM.com Podcast with Brian Paul. He is the president of the foundation at Usana. He shared with us some wonderful programs that they do locally and around the world in all 26 countries that they are in where their distributors are located.
I like their focus. Right? They focus on children and bringing nutrition and food to children but also on providing sustainable programs that will provide food for those children over time.
It’s a great episode, I hope you enjoyed it.
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