Our Company

Company Overview

Seventh Generation is committed to being the most trusted brand of household and personal-care products for a healthy home. We work with our manufacturing partners to make cleaning, paper, baby and feminine personal care products that are healthy and safe for the air, the surfaces, the fabrics, the pets, and the people within the home — and for the community and environment outside of it. Working through our retail partners, we primarily sell our products in the United States, Canada, on the internet, and at military commissaries worldwide.

For 21 years, our privately held Burlington, Vermont, company has been at the forefront of a cultural change in consumer behavior and business ethics. We operate according to a new and different set of principles and values that are in many ways a marked departure from those long-considered “traditional.”

Our Focus

Our Global Imperatives:

  • Restore the Environment
    Restore is the next reduce, reuse, and recycle. We are working to ensure that our products have a circular life cycle, meaning natural resources are being used and renewed at a rate that is always below their rate of depletion.
  • Inspire Conscious Consumption
    Our focus is to inspire thoughtful consideration of each purchase — from the immediate impact of the products you buy (Is it safe? Is it gentle on the Earth? Does it work?), to the broader impact throughout their life cycle.
  • Create a Just and Equitable World
    We’re committed to making sure that everyone our company interacts with — from the farmers who grow our lavender to the customers who use our products — is treated fairly and with respect.

Our Operating Principles

  • Systems Thinking
    As suggested by The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy, we strive to act with the knowledge that our business belongs to a larger system in which everything is interconnected, and that everything we do affects everything else.
  • Radical Transparency
    We believe that the best way to ensure that we live up to our aspirations is by being transparent about our business and product practices. You should expect to see all of our values and principles in everything we make, say, and do. It’s really that simple.
  • Influence Beyond Our Size
    We are determined to inspire others through innovation, education, and interaction. We proudly donate 10% of our pretax operating profits to support organizations working for positive change.

What do we mean by
“corporate consciousness”?

At Seventh Generation, we have a Department of Corporate Consciousness, and we call our annual reports “Corporate Consciousness” reports. To explain what we mean by that, here is an excerpt from The Responsibility Revolution by Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen:

“Building a corporate consciousness means striving to ensure that ‘sustainability’ does not belong in some outlier department, but in the heart and mind of every associate; to ensure that we first conceive, and then seek to create, a promising future.

At too many companies, too few people are responsible for responsibility. At Seventh Generation, corporate consciousness engages the entire community in the work that’s most important. When it clicks, it commits the company to the notion that furthering sustainability—a task that includes social justice and equity—is everyone’s job, from accounting to marketing, logistics to product development. And it reminds people that in all of their work, they should strive to live up to the name the company derived from the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy: ‘In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.’

Our company’s name, and the deep heritage from which it arises, implies that we seek to bring a higher level of consciousness to all of our work. ‘In our every deliberation’ signals that we think and act collectively in all that we do. Before we decide, we discuss. (Some will say we discuss too much and too often.) Our ideas aren’t formed in isolation; our consumers and stakeholders inform them.

The next part of the quotation, ‘we must consider the impact of our decisions’, compels us to think systemically and understand our place in the larger whole. That is, we must recognize that all of our actions, the bad as well as the good, ripple out from the company and affect consumers and competitors, as well as the community, society, and the environment.

The final part of the quote, ‘on the next seven generations’, suggests that we’re not simply working for the here and now. Far from it. Our real ‘corporate responsibility,’ as the op-ed columnist David Brooks asserts, is to the generations of ‘unborn people we will never meet.’ Brooks calls such forward thinking the ‘power of posterity.’ It’s an obligation to create a better future, which infuses our work with meaning and ‘give[s] us the gift of our way of life.’

Taken together, the words of the Great Law eloquently express the idea that the future of society and the environment are temporarily entrusted to our care. The law gave Seventh Generation its animating spirit and set us on the road to bringing a higher level of consciousness to our work.

To define and grow a collective consciousness is to develop a clear line of sight into a company’s essence, or true identity—the values and characteristics that make up the company’s fundamental beliefs; its global imperatives—long-term pursuits that benefit society and the planet; and its corporate direction—the lens that brings business and social purpose into sharp focus and enhances the organization’s performance. Let’s unpack these terms and show how they attempt to ensure that Seventh Generation’s business strategy flows directly out of its commitment to move far beyond conventional definitions of corporate responsibility.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint, from The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win. Copyright 2010 by Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen.

Corporate Governance

Seventh Generation is a privately held corporation, governed by a board of elected directors, all of whom share a strong commitment to the health and well-being of our planet and the people on it. Our directors bring a broad range of experience in sustainability, finance, investment banking, consumer packaged goods, and leadership of innovative growth companies. Board members serve as representatives of our entire shareholder base and are elected annually based on a few core principles:

  • deep commitment to the company’s global imperatives and mission;
  • demonstrated commitment to the development of the company and the people within it;
  • extensive and complementary experience in varied aspects of consumer packaged goods, branding, marketing, and retails sales; and
  • willingness to accept fiduciary, strategic, and environmental responsibilities.

Board Responsibilities

Our board holds three primary responsibilities. Through quarterly meetings with the senior management team, the board ensures Seventh Generation is well managed and operates in a manner that not only meets but exceeds the expectations and aspirations of its owners. The board also collaborates with senior management in our strategic decisions and work. This ongoing part of our quarterly meeting process involves the board and the Senior Management team in a discussion of the challenges and opportunities facing the business. Together we consider topics varying from competition in the market, changes in the world driven by our fragile economy, and ways we can uniquely make a positive difference in the world. Finally, the board oversees and exercises control over the company’s assets and ensures the company’s funds are used effectively and in a manner that is consistent with the company’s values.

The following are the current standing committees made up of directors and management.

  • Executive Committee
  • Compensation Committee
  • Audit and Finance Committee
  • Governance Committee

Board Membership and 2010 Priorities

At the close of 2009, our board of directors included seven elected directors, one female and six male, including our new President and CEO Chuck Maniscalco. Of the seven directors, three are independent. We will be bringing one or two new directors on board in 2010, which provides us with an opportunity to bring more diversity to our board as well as to obtain more industry-specific experience. A priority for 2010 will be introducing these new members to our internal community and the unique culture we value so highly. We will also focus on clarifying the purpose and function of the board’s committees. Plans to add a Sustainability Committee to the board to ensure members are engaged with our sustainability initiatives have not yet come to fruition.

Seventh Generation: a B Corporation

B Corporations are a new generation of 285 (and counting) responsible businesses that meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards and have institutionalized diverse stakeholder interests. In 2007, we became a founding B Corporation member to support this new effort to transform the marketplace through greater transparency and independent evaluation. As a B Corporation member, our governing documents require consideration of a broad set of stakeholder interests including those of our employees, our community, and the environment. Learn more.

Working at Seventh Generation

Our goal is to provide all members of our team with fulfilling work, targeted training opportunities, a supportive community, and a benefits and compensation package that enhances their well-being.

Our 2008 Corporate Consciousness Report noted a higher-than-acceptable level of stress among our associates due in part to that year’s rapid sales growth. In the first part of 2009, we continued to hire employees at a fast pace to help spread workload and alleviate stress. We also stepped up our orientation process for new employees to help them feel welcomed. In addition, we repeatedly engaged the community in a dialogue about the state of the company. Being able to express concerns and ask questions openly helped shift employee perspective. In the fall of 2008, we initiated our first survey of the community to assess engagement. We also participated in the “Best Workplace in America” survey sponsored by HR Magazine and the Society for Human Resources Management, a process designed to help companies learn how to better support employees. We will be conducting the survey again to allow year-to-year comparisons.

Growth

We added 19 positions (with nine departures) in 2009, finishing the year with a total of 106 employees, a 10% increase. Seven interns joined us for all or part of the year. Community members continued to take advantage of work-from-home and flexible, part-time work arrangements as needed. Total compensation rose to $13.3 million.

Employment Growth

 

Our new CEO Chuck Maniscalco has maintained our policy of ensuring that no one’s base salary will be more than 14 times the lowest paid full-time employee and no more than five times the average employee. To be clear, this 14 times ratio is only reflective of base salary, which is just one component of our compensation packages. In 2010 we are adjusting our incentive rates upward offering a target incentive rate of 10% for most employees, 17.5% for managers, 20% for Directors, 25% for Sales Directors and 35% for Executives. These changes generated significant, open discussion in early 2010 as associates at the lower end of the salary scale grappled with the tension between appreciating a higher bonus rate while accepting that higher paid employees could receive bonuses exceeding the annual salaries of lower paid colleagues.

Read the Inspired Protagonist’s discussion here.

Diversity

Our community reflects the homogeneous nature of the populace of our home state of Vermont. To address the challenges of attracting and retaining a greater diversity of employees, we solicited a proposal for creating a diversity action plan. However, our decision to reduce our hiring in the latter part of 2009 due to declining sales growth prevented further action on this contract but we remain committed to pursuing innovative solutions in 2010.

Giving Back

We introduced a formal volunteer program in 2009 to encourage employees to give back to the community through volunteer work during work hours. We also sponsor a few employees to volunteer in a more significant way. Brandi Thomas, from our PR team, joined “In Good Company” and spent a week volunteering with others in New Orleans Orleans restoring a low-income family’s home that had been destroyed by hurricane Katrina.

We have challenged ourselves as a community to complete 1000 hours of community service by the end of 2010. If we meet this goal, the Company Leadership Team is offering the entire community an additional day off.

Susan Johnson’s Sabbatical: Rwanda and Kenya.

National Sales Director Susan Johnson became the first employee to participate in our ten year anniversary sabbatical program. Read about her experiences working with Project Akilah to empower women and children in Africa. As a follow-up to her sabbatical in Rwanda and Kenya, Susan has become more actively involved with the Whole Planet Foundation and Seventh Generation’s support of their Micro Credit Programs. Through this partnership, she attended an International Micro Credit conference in Nairobi and had the pleasure of meeting Nobel Peace Prize winner and “Banker to the Poor” Muhammad Yunus.

Seventh Generation Food Drive.

Trade Promotion Specialist Heather Dodge coordinated our annual November food drive for the Chittenden County Emergency Food Shelf.

“In addition to food, we also collected pet food for the Chittenden County Humane Society. People can bring dogs to work here so pet donations are important to us. This year we tried to inject more fun into the effort by making it a contest amongst seven different geographic areas of our building. The winning group contributed 44 pounds of non-perishable food per person which was fantastic. The winners each get one extra day off in 2010.

We were worried we wouldn’t do as well as we did last year because of the economy but we ended up doubling our donations. The best part for me was when the food shelf people came to pick up the food. There was so much it wouldn’t fit in their truck and they had to come back. This is one of the best aspects of my job. It’s really fun because it rallies people and brings them together. It’s important to do give in this tangible way.”

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