Putting the Green Into Clean

by louabbott on November 19, 2007

Time – Published November 19, 2007

Back when he was establishing his career in investment banking, Roger Barnett made all the right moves: degrees from Harvard and Yale; jobs in London, Paris and New York City; and regular appearances in the society pages along with his wife Sloan. Today Barnett, 43, has a job at a direct-selling company in a nondescript office park about an hour inland from San Francisco. Like most people in direct sales, he has a touch of the evangelist about him. He really, really wants you to like the cleaning products, vitamin supplements and beauty products he’s representing. Sloan, for her part, has been boosting the new business by hosting parties to demonstrate her husband’s wares. Sound like a fall from grace? Far from it. Roger Barnett is richer—and happier—than ever.

Three years ago, Barnett spent about $310 million of his money to buy Shaklee, a company that devoted itself to manufacturing earth-friendly products long before green meant anything more than a color made by mixing blue and yellow. Founded by California chiropractor Forrest Shaklee in 1956, the company introduced a nontoxic, biodegradable cleaner in 1960 and a phosphate-free laundry detergent in 1972 and sold lines of natural health supplements and skin-care products. In 2000 it became the first company in the world to entirely offset its carbon emissions and be certified climate neutral. But Shaklee’s sales weren’t as impressive as its environmental credentials. They were essentially the same in 2004 as they had been a decade before, despite significant growth in the overall “green” market. Barnett, who in 2003 was casting about for his next investment, saw a golden opportunity: great products, exploding market, terrible marketing.

Read the entire article at Time

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