'Radical transparency:’ How Seventh Generation helps people live healthy lives on a sick planet

The company was founded in 1984 on the belief that a mission can drive an organization.

Whritenour was named Seventh Generation's CEO last year.

CHICAGO: A “spark” of inspiration of how a company can use business to drive systemic change to create a better world is what attracted Alison Whritenour to Seventh Generation nearly a decade ago.

Speaking at PRWeek’s PRDecoded conference on Wednesday in Chicago, Whritenour, who was named Seventh Generation’s CEO last year, said that the company was founded in 1984 on the belief that a mission can drive a company. Seventh Generation’s mission: To transform the world into a healthy, sustainable and equitable place for the generations to come.

“This shows up in everything we do, from the products we make, to how we educate consumers to how we advocate for ingredient changes or changes that we need at a government level,” said Whritenour.

Seventh Generation, a Unilever subsidiary, is guided by its mission to “transform the world.” The company sets goals for sustainable materials it uses in its products, creating a livable wage and developing products with fewer toxic ingredients. It also sets science-based targets to ensure it is taking accountability for its greenhouse gas emissions.

“The decisions we make annually help us to get there,” said Whritenour. 

Seventh Generation also has an advocacy arm that works with NGOs. 

“We use our business voice to amplify key calls for climate justice,” said Whritenour. “We also leverage our influence as a leading business to amplify key calls to action for all of our climate equity and key power holders. We help shape and progress policy for systemic change, we mainstream calls for systemic change to help our consumers.”

Seventh Generation also spends a lot of time on its product standards and is committed to “radical transparency.”

“This is all about authenticity,” said Whritenour. “Labeling every ingredient and sharing when we fall short with employees.”

For example, in 2019, Seventh Generation identified a large gender-pay gap for the women in its company. 

“We talked about it internally and externally,” said Whritenour. “We believe in this model; it creates connection and authenticity.” 

As a B Corp, Seventh Generation wants to make it clear that it believes in stakeholder capitalism.

“This is more than just profit; it is about people and the planet,” said Whritenour. “We are measured annually against the goals that B Corp sets and it has become a clear identifier for consumers that B Corps stand for the greater good.”

The eco-friendly household and personal-care brand company is proving that its business is playing an influential role. In 2022, for the second year in a row, Seventh Generation made it to the top of the 2022 Purpose Power Index. 

The company believes that the world needs urgent climate solutions, so it is doubling down on helping people live healthy lives on a sick planet. 

“Environmental health and human health are inextricably linked,” said Whritenour. 

Speaking on environmental accountability, Whritenour admitted that doing business “differently” is not easy. 

“But the milestones that pave the way for driving change and influencing our industry are a proof point that it is worth it," she said.

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