It’s been a tumultuous year for former television host and celebrity chef Pete Evans. After losing his job and being confined to his home during the pandemic, he turned to conspiracy theories. The man has spent the better part of 2020 posting controversial and absurd theories to his Facebook and Instagram. His targets? Vaccines, masks, and Bill Gates. On Monday, Evans posted something different to his 1.75 million fans across Facebook and Instagram: an invitation to join a multi-level marketing scheme (MLM).
What did Pete Evans post?
The website links to a web page with a video where Evan speaks directly to the audience, inviting them to buy essential oils — liquids that are usually extracted from a plant which can be used as part of aromatherapy. He also offered the opportunity for people to become sellers.
“The healthy living collective is a vision that I’ve held or a dream that I’ve held for many many years now,” Evans said. “And we want to teach you about these amazing oils in ways in which you can teach your tribe or yourselves and your family how to use them effectively for long term sustainable health.”
Now, there’s a little evidence to suggest that aromatherapy may have health benefits — although there’s suggestions that most research on the topic is not very good). There are also risks, too. In 2019, NSW Poisons Information Centre had doTERRA branded oils or products, the Courier-Mail reports.
What’s Pete Evans’ link to doTERRA?
But what’s more important is that Evans is pitching his audience to join doTERRA as a seller.
“One of the big questions is why do you want to be a part of this collective? Is it to empower yourself with more knowledge? Is it to create more income? Is it to invest more time into your family and into yourself? Only you can answer that. It can be a combination of these or even more ideas that haven’t even touched on. Whatever it is, we’re here to guide you through every step of the way,” he said.
A MLM company has non-salaried workers who promote its products. These workers can earn money by selling products or earning commissions from the sales of a worker they recruited.
DoTERRA is a US-based company that says that its “sponsors” who enrol “wellness advocates” will earn commissions from their sales.
The company and its representatives have been repeatedly criticised for promoting their essential oil products by making unproven health claims. In 2020, the company’s representatives have been reportedly saying that the oil can help fend off COVID-19. Evans has not personally made those claims.
Representatives for the company make money by either selling oils or recruiting new members, as Evans is trying to do. But the history of MLM schemes generally tells us that very few people make money, according to MLM researcher and QUT Business School Associate Professor Deanna Grant-Smith.
“Only 1 per cent of people in MLM schemes make a profit,” she told the Courier-Mail.
For the past several months, Pete Evans has railed against mainstream media and public health authorities. He claims they’re misleading the public, and what he posts is the truth — despite repeatedly sharing incomplete information.
What this reveals is that Pete Evans isn’t just trying to inform his audience. He’s trying to make money off them. Evans, alongside other anti-vaccine campaigners, have taken steps to monetise their controversial beliefs in the past. And attempting to bring his fans into a MLM is just his latest scheme.