Transforming our Industry

Working with the American Cleaning Institute*

One glance at the “Sustainability Central” section of the American Cleaning Institute‘s (ACI) website shows how far this formerly conservative organization has come in its embrace of sustainability. The progress has been revolutionary. Alongside the ACI’s Principles for Sustainable Development sits a new “Ingredient Central” section. This gateway to member companies’ ingredient information marks the January 2010 debut of the historically secretive industry’s voluntary ingredient disclosure program. Companies representing 90% of the consumer products in the market participate. It’s a strong step forward in ACI’s evolving recognition of sustainability as a core goal for all businesses.

Seventh Generation has been a key participant in the ACI’s sustainability journey with Product Sustainability Director Martin Wolf serving as Chair of the ACI Strategic Advisory Committee and vice-chair of the Sustainability Committee. In 2009, we participated in ACI’s sustainability metrics project, which aggregated member-company environmental data to create an industry-wide sustainability picture for the first time. While most companies could report their manufacturing energy-use, water-use, and solid-waste data, Seventh Generation could not because we have not historically collected these data from our tier-one manufacturing partners. We are enhancing our manufacturing partners audit program this year and will be able to obtain and update these data regularly.

*Formerly the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).

Banning Phosphates in Automatic Dishwashing Detergents

Phosphates disrupt the balance of life in lakes and ponds by causing algal blooms and generally speeding up the natural aging process, or eutrophication, of water bodies. For this reason, phosphates haven’t been used in laundry detergent since the 1990s but they’ve still been in use in automatic dishwashing detergents. That is, until this year. For Product Sustainability Director Martin Wolf, this success was the culmination of a decade of work to protect our lakes.

“My first direct involvement with phosphate legislation was in 2001 when I provided testimony to the Massachusetts legislature on the harmful effects of phosphates in lakes and streams, and the fact that effective cleaning products could be made without phosphates. Nine years later, sixteen states have passed bans on phosphates in automatic dishwashing detergents, and the industry has responded by agreeing to stop production of such products by July 1, 2010. This change was the result of years of work by local and national environmental groups and concerned legislators across the country. That this has happened is a testament to the fact that working together, we can create real and meaningful change, and make the world a better place for us all.”

Martin discusses the phosphate agreement in this video.

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