Transforming Business

We’re in the business of selling laundry detergent and toilet paper, and we’re also in the business of transforming business. We want to be a model for how to integrate sustainability into a company’s mission and show that you can make money while doing the right thing. An A.T. Kearney study of 18 industries found that even in a down economy, companies committed to sustainability added $650 million to their value during the six months studied. Seventh Generation is committed to leading the charge toward corporate sustainability through our own example and our participation in a number of promising initiatives:

  • We are founding members of the Sustainability Consortium, a collaboration among consumer-goods companies, retailers, and academic institutions working to build a scientific foundation for improving the sustainability of all stages of a product’s life cycle. Housed jointly at the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University, the growing list of consortium participants includes retailers such as Walmart, Safeway, and Best Buy, consumer-products manufacturers ranging from Seventh Generation to Proctor & Gamble, food-sector players from Stonyfield to General Mills, electronics manufacturers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Wildlife Fund. Based on the players involved, this consortium has the potential to be very influential in developing accepted sustainability assessment methodologies as well as defining the public’s perception of what sustainability is.
  • Seventh Generation and Kaplan EduNeering, the world’s largest global education company, have joined forces to create the Sustainability Institute, an online learning program designed to bring successful strategies and sustainable practices to businesses interested in advancing a sustainability agenda. Kaplan EduNeering’s expertise in online education combined with Jeffrey Hollender’s 20 years of experience successfully building a sustainable business ensure a unique offering with rich content and innovative methods.

    Launched in 2009, the Sustainability Institute’s library of courses includes topics such as “Sustainability 101,” “Sustainable Supply Chain,” and “Greenhouse Gas Management,” which can be viewed online at individual workstations. The content is geared for companies seeking to create a shared understanding of sustainability among their many employees and to develop long-term economic, social, and environmental viability. Courses are customizable and localizable, and can be translated into over 20 languages. The institute also offers short videos featuring Jeffrey addressing the implementation of sustainable practices and providing tools to support internal communication efforts. Materials are designed to meet the specific needs of each client and to help businesses identify where they can make changes quickly.

    Read about the institute in the Inspired Protagonist blog and watch the linked video.

  • Seventh Generation helped launch the American Sustainable Business Council, a powerful coalition of over 40,000 businesses dedicated to identifying innovative solutions that will transform our economy and our society.

In this TV interview, Jeffrey Hollender makes the case that businesses can be green and still make a profit.

Chris Miller, Inspirator on our Corporate Consciousness Team:

on Seventh Generation’s partnership with
worker-owned green cleaning collaboratives

“One of the most rewarding partnerships Seventh Generation is engaged in may be our work with Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security, or WAGES. This non-profit organization based in San Francisco's Bay Area helps Latina women start and run their own cooperatively owned green residential cleaning businesses. WAGES and the co-ops they have incubated over the last 14 years have helped raise dozens of women and their families from poverty. WAGES shows women how to pool their skills, create a cooperative business, and work together to achieve economically sustainable lives. Once a co-op is established, its worker-owners make decisions democratically and distribute profits equitably. Co-op members earn 50%–100% more than they would at a traditional cleaning company and enjoy health insurance and other benefits. It is an incredibly powerful story, one that involves not simply offering a handout, but extending a hand up.

We partnered with WAGES to extend this successful business model through the launch of a new residential cleaning cooperative in San Francisco called Home Green Home, which will highlight Seventh Generation products. In this unique social venture, with a for-profit business teaming with a not-for-profit to create a new enterprise, we provided financial start-up support along with marketing and PR expertise. Our contributions combined with WAGES’ strict focus on its mission to improve the lives of women proved an unbeatable combination. Despite the weak economy, the original six worker-owners of this new co-op have already increased to nine and they’ve logged an impressive call rate.

Seventh Generation is committed to helping create a world of enlightened equity and justice, but we often struggle with how to live up to this promise. Our work with WAGES is a great way for us to breathe life into these values. This powerful new business model shows that even jobs that are traditionally marginalized and underpaid can provide a good income. There are 100 worker-owners in the four existing WAGES co-ops, and we’re committed to doubling that number in the next three years and extending these ventures beyond the Bay Area to improve the lives of even more women.”

Meet Ivette Meléndez, a trainer with WAGES, and living proof of the possibilities that wait inside each of us. Ivette arrived in the U.S. from El Salvador in 1995 holding nothing but her 18-month-old son and a single suitcase. She found work cleaning houses, but soon began to suffer from debilitating headaches, dizzy spells, and nasal problems. These symptoms forced her to seek different work. It wasn’t until she met WAGES that she returned to cleaning—but this time using products made from safe, natural ingredients. Her symptoms never returned.

Today, Ivette is spreading the word about the dangers of harsh cleaning products and teaching the importance of using only nontoxic alternatives. In addition to providing great feedback to our product designers here at Seventh Generation, she has a few unconventional cleaning tips to teach all of us, as well. Check out her short training videos on hard-to-clean spots like the oven.

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