Cheryl Thallon launched Viridian Nutrition 17 years ago armed with only a small range of products and an intention to create a company with integrity. She speaks to Positive News about doing business with heart
What are Viridian Nutrition’s guiding values?
Purity, charity and environment are the cornerstones of the Viridian Nutrition philosophy. But to me, it often just comes down to being honest and kind.
I’m naturally fussy and inquisitive. I worked as a journalist for a number of years and loved digging into the facts behind a story. So when it came to starting my own business, I instinctively wanted to be sure that the stories behind the ingredients and processes were genuine.
Our purity pledge means that no nasty additives can be used in our supplements. Viridian labels have just one ingredients list (most vitamin brands have two – one active, and one for the inactive processing aids), this means that the customer can clearly see that the supplement is made up of 100 per cent active ingredients [those that have a biological response in the body].
Our charity commitment is about investing in a healthy future. We’ve now donated £250,000 to a selection of predominantly children’s and environmental charities. Not everyone gets a great start, so supporting disadvantaged children can help to build better future for individuals and therefore, society. Of course, the health of the planet is inextricably linked to the health of the individual.
How hard is it to ensure that these ethics remain central to the business?
I believe that good karma attracts good karma. The Viridian Nutrition philosophy has attracted likeminded people to our team as well our customer base and so the ethics grow stronger every year, rather than weaker.
The ethics and quality of a company are only as robust as the quality of the questions we ask. We are constantly questioning ourselves and our supply chain to ensure we maintain and improve our standards. For me, that’s what makes it all so interesting and fun.
The ethics and quality of a company are only as robust as the quality of the questions we ask
Where can companies that hope to be ethically and environmentally responsible start?
Ethics in business starts with the supply chain. There should automatically be a commitment to non-GM, organic, no animal testing, responsible sourcing and so on. It also means a green business footprint and treating your staff with respect. Just as politicians don’t think beyond the next election, sadly, many businesses don’t think beyond the next quarterly figures, or the five year cash-in.
It may sound odd, but a great starting point for an entrepreneur is to write your own obituary – how do you want to be remembered? What do you want to have associated with your name after you are gone? As you ponder and put the words to paper, you will realise that your mission is much bigger than you thought.
Can a business really achieve commercial success by being honest and ethical?
Health is very tangible; either you feel good or you don’t, so companies that promise miracle cures get found out pretty quickly. But for the reputable companies, there is no better feeling than when customers tell you how much better they are feeling.
At Viridian, we have made some pretty uncommercial decisions, but in the long-term they have been beneficial. We didn’t launch a children’s vitamin for more than five years as we didn’t want to feature all the sugars and additives found in most brands. In the end we developed two separate products: one liquid and one of tiny capsules which met our purity criteria and eventually proved popular. The easy choice would have been to follow the herd and bring out a sugar-sweetened tablet.
We have made some pretty uncommercial decisions, but in the long-term they have been beneficial
So too in the fish oil category, which is the second bestselling supplement sales category, we delayed our launch into this area due to the contaminants, refining and non-environmentally friendly aspects of this sector. We didn’t launch a fish oil until we sourced one from Denmark last year. Our organic Scandinavian rainbow trout oil is certified by the Soil Association as one of the cleanest, unrefined fish oils available.
What role can companies play in improving society’s health?
We can educate and encourage individuals to take personal responsibility for their health. The days of the ‘god in the white coat’ are long gone. I think the natural products movement has always been one of integrity, innovation and caring, but sadly, with the industry’s growing success, some of the more irresponsible elements that often accompany mass market production have crept in. It is these operations that could threaten the reputations of all of us.
It is up to the public to ask quality questions and expect quality answers. Dig a bit deeper into the companies behind your health products – both the pharma and natural companies – to be sure you are dealing with a truly ethical company.
Images: Viridian Nutrition