Seventh Generation to Sell Products in Walmart Stores, Hell to Sell Ice

<a href=Jeffrey Hollender" />

Hell must be a little icy this time of year. That's the only conclusion we can come to with this week's news that Seventh Generation and Walmart are forming a strategic partnership that will see the non-toxic cleaning product company sell its products at at 1,500 Walmart stores and on Walmart.com.

But while Seventh Generation co-founder Jeffrey Hollender has said in the past that "hell would freeze over before Seventh Generation would ever do business with Walmart," the two have actually worked together, just not in such an engineered way. In 2008, Seventh Generation started selling its products at Walmart's Marketside concept retail centers, which are owned and operated by the chain but don't feature the Walmart name. Hollender attempted to justify the decision on his blog:

We are not, however, about to put Seventh Generation’s products in Wal-Mart’s supercenters. Far from it. Our partnership with Marketside is akin to a software product that’s entering beta. It’s a small first step that’s very much under development. There remain many issues to explore, questions to answer, and bugs to discover. We will rely on the early adopters among our customers, consumers, and other stakeholders to test the concept and help us decide whether we should even think about taking a next step.

Apparently, things went well enough with Seventh Generation's "beta test" that the company decided to go ahead and take the full plunge with Walmart. Hollender explained in a more recent blog post that the decision can largely be attributed to the fact that "Walmart is not the same company it was even five years ago. It's a much different organization that has fairly dramatically and with little fanfare transformed itself into a serious sustainability leader." This leadership can be seen in Walmart's Sustainability Consortium, which is attempting to quantify the sustainability of a wide range of consumer products. Seventh Generation is, unsurprisingly, a member of the consortium.

Hollender also concedes that stocking Seventh Generation products in Walmart stores can bring increased visibility to the company's green products, which can already be found in chains like Whole Foods, Target, and Amazon.com.

Of course, Seventh Generation could theoretically back out of the partnership. Hollender warned on his blog, "Certainly any retreat on social or environmental progress would trigger some rethinking. Our positions on responsibility, accountability, and transparency aren't subject to change, and we expect our partners to keep working toward these goals."

But Walmart shows no sign of retreating from its green goals--in fact, the mega-chain has taken great pains to integrate sustainability into its branding strategy. And perhaps the longer as the company continues on its present path, the more green-minded companies will agree to hawk their wares in Walmart's fluorescent aisles.

Finally, we can't help but note that it was our very own recent Innovation Uncensored event that Hollender joined Walmart senior vice president of sustainability Matt Kistler on stage. Hollender was his usual outspoken self (see video below--that's Kistler on your right), but they also joked then about working together in the near future. Did we help grease the wheels here?

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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5 Comments

  • Scott Byorum

    And as we wind on down the road
    Our shadows taller than our soul.
    There walks a lady we all know
    Who shines white light and wants to show
    How evrything still turns to gold.
    And if you listen very hard
    The tune will come to you at last.
    When all are one and one is all
    To be a rock and not to roll.

  • Peter Flatow

    When I worked with Jim Koch of Boston Beer he swore that BB would never have a lite beer. Well things change. Jeffery is a good guy who I have also worked with and the world has changed and you have to be where your consumers are - everywhere.

  • Daryle Hier


    Yea, "hell would freeze over" when dollars are traded. Give me a break. It's not Walmart doing anything other than supplying what some of the consumers want, period. This Jeffrey character is the hypocrite who changed - "adjusting its prices to Walmart-friendly levels".

    Help Seventh Generation? Yea, I bet, in the pocket book. At least there's still a little capitalism left.

    Story is purposely written backwards. Walmart does its same old thing, supplying the consumer what it wants. The enviro wants to make money so he bends over and, voila, a match is made.

    "Green cred" - what a joke.

  • Chris Reich

    Walmart is working hard to sustain itself. Being a business with price as its sole core value, I predict Walmart will fall behind the next big thing as Chinese labor costs rise.

    I want to support American sustainability. American made products. American labor. That's sustainability we need much more than charging $1 for a bag that falls apart after two uses.

    Walmart is cutting cost and calling it sustainability. Okay, better than nothing. But Walmart has had a devastating impact on our general economy and there is much to repair before the Benton giant can be called jolly green.

    Chris Reich
    www.TeachU.com
    www.Facebook.com/TeachU