Our story this week headlined “Somiland’s frankincense brings gold to companies. Its women pay the price” had impact even before publication in The Guardian. Our two-year investigation uncovered evidence that women in Somaliland working for Asli Maydi, a company supplying frankincense to the popular U.S. essential oils brand doTERRA, were underpaid and abused. As a result of our story and outreach to doTERRA, the company temporarily suspended operations and issued a statement which read, in part:
“At dōTERRA, our highest priority is the safety and proper treatment of each of our employees. Just as important is the safety and proper treatment of everyone in our global supplier network. All vendors are required to abide by our stringent Code of Conduct to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, fair and on-time payments and respectful and ethical conduct. We are committed to ensuring our Code of Conduct is followed thoroughly. If a supplier or its affiliates has committed a crime or wrongful act, we will take every appropriate action. This includes investigating the allegations of misconduct in Somaliland.”
doTERRA said it provides regular audits of its global supply chain operations but has not done so in Somaliland since 2000 due to violence, and that it is working to engage a third party investigative team to supplement its efforts.
The statement went on to say that the company found the allegations of sexual misconduct the most troubling part of the report and that they “take any accusation of crimes or mistreatment against women very seriously.” They said they encouraged Dr. DeCarlo, a scientist featured in the story who had previously raised allegations of rape against Asli Maydi owner Barkhad Hassan, to report the matter to law enforcement officials.
“As is company policy, we investigated the matter to the extent we could, however, we do not have the authority or investigative powers needed to fully investigate these allegations. We continue to encourage and support law enforcement’s efforts to fully investigate the allegations, as we would for any victim of alleged assault.”
The Fuller Project’s reporting drew attention for the first time to the exploitation of women sorters by a company that says it champions community investment and competitive wages. doTERRA markets to women, engages mostly female “wellness advocates” to sell their products, and counts among its influencers prominent female athletes and celebrities including singer/songwriter India Arie Simpson, professional tennis player Sloane Stephens, and Olympic Gold Medalist Jamie Anderson, according to their website.
The early impact of The Fuller Project’s story, including doTERRA’s suspension of operations, statement and pledge to investigate, represents the most action the company has taken to date, either in response to DeCarlo’s allegations or a VICE documentary about male doTERRA harvesters who say they were never paid in full or were paid in food. Since then, sources say little has changed on the ground.
While the VICE documentary focused mostly on men, The Fuller Project investigation took a different tack. DoTerra generates more than $2 billion in sales every year from mostly female clientele, and in Somaliland, it is primarily women who work for the company’s suppliers. We told that story.
We are continuing to follow the investigation.