Seventh Generation makes household cleaning products – laundry detergent, dish soap, paper towels and the like. And while that may seem pretty ordinary, they're actually a quite extraordinary company.
One look at this company’s backstory and you’ll see how an extraordinary environmental and social mission turned an industry inside out, for the better. With goals that support the best possible outcomes for business, people and the planet, Seventh Generation and Ben & Jerry’s have plenty in common.
Seventh Generation started way back in 1988 with the mission to clean up the, ahem, cleaning products category with safe, plant-based formulations. The company celebrated its 25th anniversary a few years ago, and they’re now the leading seller of natural, non-toxic household products in the US. The secret to their success is built right into their name, which comes from the iconic Iroquois Great Law of Peace. As Seventh Generation's Mission Advocacy & Outreach Manager Ashley Orgain puts it, “Our mission is to inspire a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations.”
This vision plays out in pretty much every aspect of Seventh Generation’s business. Of course it starts with providing products and information that give consumers healthier choices, and encourage them to make their communities healthier. A founding B Corps member, Seventh Generation played a part in the expansion of this exciting certification that supports businesses becoming a force for good in the world through balancing profit with a social and environmental mission. And because a good deal of becoming a certified B Corp means treating employees right, it’s not surprising that Seventh Generation repeatedly ranks high on the list of “Best Places to Work in Vermont."
As a company that operates in a loosely regulated, chemical-heavy industry, Seventh Generation hasn’t been shy about using their brand’s visibility to advocate for change. From lobby days and rallies in Washington DC to a national petition drive, their Toxin Free Campaign rallied over 100,000 people to call for reform of outdated chemical laws. The goal, says Orgain, is to pass legislation that “protects the health of children, pregnant women and future generations by ensuring products that are brought to market are tested for safety by credible third parties.”
Former Vice President Al Gore visited the Seventh Generation team in October to talk climate change and the environment.
Becoming an industry leader isn’t just about financial success, explains Orgain. “Similar to setting financial goals to meet our commercial aspirations, we set sustainability goals to achieve our mission.” And in the age of climate change, that means taking strong measures as a company— including levying their own carbon tax, and using that revenue to increase internal efficiencies and renewable strategies (we know another company that did that, too). Seventh Generation conducted a Lifecycle Analysis to determine what parts of their process have the biggest carbon impact. Turns out materials, ingredients and packaging weighed in highest, which is why Seventh Generation has been pioneering post-consumer recycled packaging.
It’s not easy cleaning up after the not-so clean chemicals that still dominate the household products industry. But with a lot of elbow grease, an equal amount of innovation, and a whole lot of care for customers, employees and the environment, Seventh Generation is blazing a path forward. We may make ice cream over here at Ben & Jerry’s, but when it comes to the missions behind the businesses, we’re more than happy to have a lot in common with Seventh Generation.