TMCnet Feature
October 22, 2020

Sustainability in Business: Looking at USANA Health Sciences as a Model for Better Business Practices



As we have moved into another new decade in this millennium, a growing number of companies are realizing that sustainability in business isn’t just good for the environment or society at large — it’s also good for the business itself. Sustainability is an increasingly important issue for many people as climate change continues to affect not only our own lives, but every other species on the planet. For many businesses and their leaders, sustainable business practices are becoming imperatives as human industry continues to play a large role in the climate change picture because of its reliance on land, resources, fossil fuels, and non-stop production and consumption.



An environmentally aware business considers more than just its profits -- it considers its impact on society and the environment. While some may balk at the idea of letting anything but financial gains influence their business decisions, a survey conducted by Markstein found that today’s consumers are focused on supporting companies that have a good track record for social responsibility. In fact, according to the survey 70% indicated they wanted to know what the brands they support are doing to address social and environmental issues.

For USANA, the decision to begin focusing on sustainable business practices came easily, as from the start they have been dedicated to making a happy, healthy lifestyle accessible to people from all walks of life. Built around the idea that your health will benefit if you feed the cells in your body exactly what they need, the company creates high-quality products from nutritional supplements to skin care to toothpaste. Below, we explore their company history, how they have implemented sustainability into their business, and how you can benefit from doing so in your own business practices.

USANA was founded by the internationally recognized immunologist, microbiologist Dr. Myron Wentz. In his early life growing up in North Dakota Wentz showed a prowess for science, but it wasn’t until he lost his father to heart disease at the age of 17 that he realized his calling. Having also witnessed many of his family members enduring the debilitating effects of degenerative diseases, Wentz determined his purpose in life was to prevent suffering by improving the health and well-being of people all over the world. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in biology, master’s degree in microbiology, and doctoral degree in both microbiology and immunology, Wentz founded his first endeavor, Gull Laboratories.

For twenty years, Dr. Wentz worked tirelessly developing medical diagnostic test kits designed to detect infections and certain autoimmune disorders. Many of the laboratory arrays he developed for viral diseases were some of the first of their kind to be approved by the FDA, and he quickly became internationally recognized as a pioneer in the development of human cell culture technology and infectious disease diagnoses. However, during his time running the diagnostic testing company Wentz also continued to further his education on the general health of the human body. He realized that while optimal nutrition is paramount in maintaining the health of human cells, there was a huge lack of nutritional support and education available at the time. Seeing a hole in the market, Wentz made the decision to sell Gull Laboratories and used the funds to found USANA Health Sciences so he could bring such products to life.

Building an 80,000 square-feet, state-of-the-art facility and corporate headquarters in West Valley City, Utah so that everything could be manufactured in-house, Dr. Wentz worked from every angle to ensure that the products USANA would carry were of the highest quality. To establish transparency and trust with those who would both sell and purchase their products, just four short years after inception USANA filed for an IPO and became a publicly traded company. Over the course of nearly 30 years, USANA has had explosive growth, reaching $100 million in sales in 1998, $800 million in sales by their 10-year anniversary in 2002 (during which they were also listed as the third-best performing stock on Marketwatch.com), and reaching the $1 billion in sales mark by 2016. It has also consistently been recognized both for its business performance and company culture, making it to the top twenty for three years in a row on Forbes “200 Best Small Companies” list and being voted one of OUTSIDE Magazine’s “50 Best Places to Work” for seven years in a row. Today, USANA sells to more than twenty countries worldwide, having opened another manufacturing facility in 2016 to meet the growing demand from the Chinese market. They are a Trusted Partner and Sponsor of The Dr. Oz Show, and has received international recognition for their success.

As proponents of overall health it became clear early in USANA’s trajectory that doing their part for sustainability was in-line with their core values. So, in early 2007 USANA Green was established with a mission to promote the health of the environment, which in turn will help promote the health of people. As a starting point, USANA Green worked with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and members of the community to create an environmental management system (EMS) -- a comprehensive document outlining who would be involved in green efforts, what those efforts would be, how they would be controlled, and how success would be measured. They started with small changes that could easily be made, such as a paper-recycling program, but also began laying the groundwork for those that would have a bigger impact.

One of the first elements they sought to tackle was energy, both by reducing the amount of energy used and finding sources for renewable energy. Partnering with Rocky Mountain Power, USANA began to purchase wind-generated energy from their Blue Sky program, starting with 75,000-kilowatt hours, or enough to offset 10% of their energy usage. They also looked to solar power as another alternate source of energy, with the first set of solar panels being installed in 2008. Placed on the warehouse roof of the USANA Home Office, they initially supplied enough electricity to power two to three homes, and in 2011 an additional set of panels were added that were able to supply power equivalent to 22 homes. Today, they have the largest private installation of solar panels in the state of Utah with over 700 panels that span more than 140,000 square-feet, and purchase 7 million kilowatt hours of certified wind energy through Renewable Choice Energy. Through the combination of windmills and solar panels, 100% of USANA’s North American power comes from renewable energy sources.

While reducing pollutants is an important endeavor worldwide, Utah’s mountainous terrain presents particularly unique challenges that benefit from the use of renewable energy. Frequent winter inversions trap pollutants in Utah’s urban valleys, creating a toxic buildup in the air and posing a health threat to those exposed. The solar panel set alone prevents 14 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and by tapping into renewable energy, USANA has saved approximately 600,000 kilowatt-hours a year, equalling nearly 750 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 900 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 550,000 pounds of carbon dioxide that have not been released into the atmosphere.

USANA has implemented dozens of other practices within their company to promote sustainability. They have switched to EPA-approved light bulbs and motion-sensored lights, and they turn off lights, air conditioning, and heating after hours and on weekends to conserve energy. Recycling bins are in all work areas, and recycling and a multi-use mindset are encouraged to all employees who receive water bottles they are able to refill at water coolers throughout the building. They actively encourage carpooling, provide electric vehicle charging spaces, and reward eco-conscious drivers by offering VIP parking for hybrid vehicles in their parking lots. The facilities department got involved with a xeriscaping project that led to a water-wise landscape. Within manufacturing, their supplement and skincare bottles are easily recyclable with the seals, labels, and pump mechanisms removed, and their shipping and warehouse areas conserve paper and cardboard and recycle the rest.

In 2008, USANA became a founding member of the Climate Registry, a nonprofit collection of North American government and private entities that set standards for calculating, verifying, and publicly reporting greenhouse gas emissions into a single registry, providing accurate data to help reduce these emissions. Requiring a third-party verification of USANA’s emissions portfolio, Climate Registry provided a method for measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions and allowed USANA to support a broad coalition of groups figuring out how to tackle issues, and provided a focus on hard data. As of 2017, USANA was the only network marketing company reporting to the Climate Registry, whose members span many industries and also includes large universities and government entities.

In addition to their involvement with the Climate Registry, USANA is an EPA WasteWise member, an EPA Green Power Partner, and most recently with the Utah Sustainable Business Coalition. As part of their efforts for the coalition, USANA has pledged to reduce plastic waste in 2020 and beyond. Their first step is to begin the process of moving to smaller-sized bottles in order to reduce wasted space and making the switch from plastic bottles to 25% post-recycled material bottles. They will also continue to educate their employees on proper recycling and waste management and also shift from plastic bags to reusable tote bags that will be given to all Utah employees and available for customers to purchase. USANA Green has now transitioned into the Corporate Social Responsibility committee, an employee-driven program that constitutes a comprehensive, long-term approach to protecting, preserving, and promoting the integrity of the environment, and all of these efforts combined have cut USANA’s emissions by one-third, earning the company the title of Clean Utah Partner and a place in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partner Leadership Club.

By practicing business sustainability, a business works to operate without negatively impacting the environment. Like USANA, they function in the best interests of both the local and global environment, supporting the community and economy dependent on a healthy planet. By being environmentally aware, a business considers more than just profits -- it considers its impact on the society and the environment. In this day and age, sustainability of the earth is inextricably linked with the sustainability of businesses, and those that contribute to the health of the structure within which it operates help to construct an environment in which it can truly thrive. A sustainable business earns profits by being socially responsible and protecting our use of the planet’s resources.

Simply put, if businesses don’t act responsibly as members of the global community, the majority of many species will not survive past the 21st century. Statistics repeatedly show that consumers agree with this sentiment, with a Cone Communications study showing that a large majority of American consumers will make a purchase because a company advocated for an issue they care about, expect companies to take action against climate change, and would stop purchasing from a company that doesn’t care about climate change. Young emerging leaders are also following suit, with a recent survey by Accenture (News - Alert) and the World Economic Forum finding that 61% said that business models should only be pursued if they improve societal outcomes in addition to profitable growth. Sustainability in business is not only good for society and the environment, it’s also good for the business itself.

While taking action to make a business more sustainable may be an initial investment, studies have found that they will save money in the long run by prioritizing sustainability. As an example, Dow Chemical reported that it invested less than $2 billion since 1994 to improve its resource efficiency, but to date the company has saved more than $9.8 billion from reduced energy consumption and water waste in its manufacturing process. At USANA, their xeriscaping project and water-wise landscape saves them one million gallons of water per year. These are just two instances of reduced costs from going green but there are many more, such as using more efficient lighting or creatively reusing existing materials. Although it takes a larger investment up-front, converting to solar energy as USANA did will see the average commercial property owner save around $500 a month on electricity. Although this may seem like a nominal sum, with the long lifetime of solar panel systems, that could potentially equate to $587,377, and most businesses are able to pay off the costs of the panels in a short five to seven years. Additionally, the federal government and many state governments offer tax credits, rebates, and savings for going green. Ultimately, the more sustainable your business becomes, the less you’ll spend on energy and materials.

As previously discussed, a growing number of consumers care deeply about the sustainable actions the businesses they patronize are taking. People view sustainability favorably, and companies with green values can showcase them to improve their business’s reputation and establish a good image by aligning messages with actions. USANA has made the health of not only their customers, but the world at large a crucial part of their brand identity, and consistently displays this through their green policies and participation in the pledge with the Utah Sustainable Business Coalition. Toy company Lego saw its reputation skyrocket considerably when it decided to make their block toys from plant-based sources and use sustainable materials for all of its core products and packaging by 2030. By going green, businesses are able to show the world they care about more than just making money, and use that to their advantage in marketing and branding.

When thinking about starting a sustainability initiative, it can be intimidating to know where to start. Learning from USANA, creating a strong vision and then starting with small changes are simple and effective first steps. Businesses can make a sustainability committee by selecting a team of volunteers who are responsible for sustainability initiatives in the workplace, creating accountability while also bolstering a culture of sustainability in the workplace. They will be able to keep ideas flowing and take care to follow up with others on the efforts they have founded. Recycling is also a simple and effective way to start, both by providing employees with ample education on what and how to recycle and providing ample recycling bins throughout the workplace. Many cities also have composting programs that can be taken advantage of. Each day people waste 2.9 billion gallons of gas stuck in traffic, and encouraging green commuting could have a huge impact on the environment by cutting down on daily emissions, and offering incentives for employees who bike, carpool, or take public transportation to work can encourage them to do so whenever possible. Finally, while recycling is an important and necessary sustainable tool, the better option is to never use the paper in the first place. Despite the rise of digital technology, many organizations still use more paper than necessary, and even something as simple as sending all memos or meeting agendas digitally can make a huge difference.

Becoming more sustainable in an effective way may seem like a large and difficult undertaking, but the challenge has consistently proven to be well worth the reward. While companies like USANA have spent the better part of two decades working towards a more sustainable future, a study has found that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. Although this is a large number, it also shows just how big an impact businesses can make on climate change, with the Paris Climate Accord finding they have the ability to account for 60% of emissions cuts by 2030. Successful entrepreneurs like Dr. Wentz and his USANA team look at problems as opportunities, and with some creative business planning, others will be able to follow suit and become a sustainable business, earning profits by being socially responsible and protecting our use of the planet’s resources.

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