Pro bono work supports industry association goals

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary supplement industry, Dietary supplement, Marc ullman

The goals of not-for-profit groups in the herbal and dietary
supplement industry are hampered by financial constraints, but this
strain is diminished thanks to the help of a few external
supporters who offer their work pro bono.

Examples of this non-remunerated work include the contributions of legal and public relations experts who can fine-tune and enhance the work of trade associations or non-profit organizations. While public service work lends weight to the image of a professional, and therefore arguably serves two interests, it is noteworthy that certain individuals feel strongly enough about causes in the dietary supplement industry to devote some of their time on a pro bono basis. "As lawyers we're supposed to have an ethical obligation to do public interest work and these opportunities are a natural fit for us to give back,"​ Marc Ullman, partner with Ullman, Shapiro, Ullman LLP, told NutraIngredients-USA. The New York City firm recently announced it is increasing the amount of pro bono consultation it does with the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance's (DSEA) and the Healthy Foundation. Among other consulting capacities, Ullman Shapiro & Ullman filed for trademark protection for DSEA's ad campaign tagline 'Just Like Me'. The industry coalition, recently announced a paid advertising campaign aimed at building consumer confidence in dietary supplements. The firm also helped the not-for-profit group behind Vitamin Relief USA and the Vitamin Fund Programs - the Healthy Foundation - with intellectual property protection. These programs are geared at eradicating nutritional deficiencies in the United States through multi-vitamin and mineral supplementation programs. "…I think what happens is that those of us who are actively involved and committed to the industry, not just as a source of income but as a mission, just do whatever needs to be done and helps whoever needs it,"​ Suzanne Shelton, of the Shelton Group PR, told NutraIngredients-USA. Shelton has been involved in the Socially Responsible Business Awards for over a decade and handles the publicity and industry communications for the event. The awards are presented at Natural Products Expo East to businesses with roots in the health foods channel. The communications specialist is also the PR committee chair for the American Herbal Products Association and donates her time to other projects such as DSEA and the Natural Products Foundation, which is looking to launch industry self-policing programs this summer. Gillian Christie, founder and CEO of Christie Communications, has donated her time to the American Botanical Council (ABC) and recently announced she would increase her involvement to include supporting the group's fund-raising campaign, 'Creating an Herbal Legacy'. Through the initiative, ABC is looking to secure between $5m and $10m towards protecting the long term future of herbal medicine. "Having worked extensively in the field of dietary supplements, nutraceuticals, natural and organic products, we see the immense impact herbal products have in truly changing people's lives,"​ said Christie in a statement. Ullman underscored the fact that his firm earns its livelihood from the industry, as well as the crucial consumer awareness and charity work of DSEA and the Healthy Foundation, as motivation to give back. "These good organizations need all the support they can get in moving their very important programs forward,"​ Ullman said.

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