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25_Jeffrey Hollender

CEO, Seventh Generation Burlington – VT US

Making Constant Improvements

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Seventh Generation is the nation’s leading brand of environmentally safe household products. But being green isn’t good enough: The products have to work. The company tests them against such traditional brands as Tide and Cascade. On August 1, it began shipping significantly improved versions of its best-selling laundry detergent and dish soap.

From Jeffrey’s original entry:

Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.

Seventh Generation is the nation’s leading brand of non-toxic and environmentally safe household products. With distribution in thousands of natural product and grocery stores nationwide, we’ve become the authority when it comes to products that protect your health and the planet. We derive our name from the Iroquois belief that “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” Every time someone uses a Seventh Generation product he or she is making a difference by saving natural resources, reducing pollution, keeping toxic chemicals out of the environment and making the world a safer place for this and the next seven generations. There are several challenges to keeping true to our philosophy while still running a profitable business: 1) educating the public on why non-toxic products are a better choice; 2) formulating a product that is as effective as traditional brands; 3) maintaining a competitive price on products and (4) achieving national distribution through both natural and traditional retail channels.

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What was your moment of truth?

Staying true to our mission and maintaining our integrity is our biggest challenge. A defining moment of leadership came when after issuing a successful IPO, we chose to take the company private again. We dedicate time to educating consumers of the risks of indoor air pollution that come from the chemicals in many everyday household cleaners, like childhood allergies and asthma. Another defining moment was to accept that our products need to continuously be evaluated and sometimes reformulated so that they don’t just promise health and wellness, but so that they work as well as leading traditional brands. We have a commitment to take care of our own. Creating a healthy workplace and treating employees with respect and dignity is as important to Seventh Generation as the care that goes into the products we make. Policies such flex-time, telecommuting, and a work environment that supports and encourages open and honest communication are some of the ways we support our staff. As CEO I am affiliated with and support numerous organizations that not only raise awareness, but also underscore the need for corporate social responsibility.

What were the results?

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Seventh Generation has helped educate and raise awareness of the need for environmentally safe household products, and their impact on the American household. As a category, natural cleaning products are growing 10X-15X faster than traditional cleaning products, and Seventh Generation is leading the charge. With distribution in thousands of natural product and traditional grocery stores nationwide, Seventh Generation is a trusted source for products that protect people’s health and the planet. This year the company began distribution in more traditional, “mainstream” groceries and was singled out as successful new products by Drugstore.com’s annual report. Since 1988, consumer purchases of Seventh Generation products have saved: 240,220 trees 1,054,050 gallons of petroleum 92,004,020 gallons of water 229,759 pounds of greenhouse gasses (the kind that contribute to global warming.)