Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My View From the Summit | Seventh Generation

"I was giddy with hope back in November when Barack Obama won the election. I believed that we stood at the edge of the positive change that was so desperately needed. This was the time we had been waiting for. An opportunity that I believe arises only once in a generation.

Today, seven months later, I am more deeply concerned than ever. More cynical. Not hopeless, but I have lost the boundless excitement and the sense that the future I had hoped for was just around the corner. While we are moving in the right direction under our new leadership, making positive changes from climate change to credit card debt, by every measure our progress falls far short of what is needed. The progress we are making as a result of our new political leadership is incremental at a time when revolutionary change is needed."

These are the words of Jeffrey Hollender, the founder and "Chief Protagonist" (as he calls himself) of Seventh Generation. Seventh Generation is one of four firms I have been studying for my dissertation. All four are genuinely striving to be green, but Seventh Generation is a unique, compared to the other three firms that I am studying, in that its mission is not about product or profit as much as it's about using a business model to change the world.

Greening is a never-ending process. It's not a task you place on your "To Do" list:


[_] Become Sustainable

and then check it off:

[X] Become Sustainable

when you've completed it. Being green is actually a process of "becoming" rather than "being," and requires the ability to make decisions time after time that prioritizes sustainability right up there with other business goals like ensuring the availability of resources, positioning your business successfully in the marketplace and against your competition, finding dynamite people, keeping your shareholders happy, and, of course, making a profit.

Seventh Generation has an interesting and long history, one of the first to enter the market with earth-friendly cleaning and paper products. The company has evolved as it has grown, in part a reflection of the emotional and intellectual growth of its people as they strive to fulfill their mission more and more completely. Perhaps Jeffrey Hollender is most responsible for this growth.

This week, Hollander is attending a gathering of sustainability thinkers called "The Great Plan Summit." He had the opportunity to give some opening remarks. I thought they were worthy of reprinting. I lifted the first two paragraphs of this blog from his speech, to whet your whistle for the rest of it. I hope you'll take the time to click the link and read the remainder of Jeffrey's words.

My View From the Summit Seventh Generation

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