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Transforming Commerce
TEST

Sustainability Report, 2012
Transforming Commerce

Transforming Commerce

We aspire to transform commerce by championing honesty, responsibility, and radical transparency.

Our aspirations are founded in the belief that the business sector can play a vital role in creating a future of thriving communities and a healthy environment. For this to happen, commerce itself must change. Seventh Generation has always sought to have an influence far greater than our size in fostering this transformation. We demonstrate our own corporate responsibility through our commitment to transparency (annual Corporate Consciousness reports such as this one and ingredient disclosure on our packages) and through our certification as a B Corporation. We also value our relationships with many organizations that share our goals of business responsibility, healthy products and a healthy environment – groups such as the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3), BizNGO and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. Seventh Generation also has a proud tradition of forceful advocacy for change on such topics as toxics legislation, ingredient disclosure and sustainable principles within our own industry.

Advocacy

At Seventh Generation, we don't just make products; we seek to engage others in conversations and collaborations about changing our world in positive ways. We seek to link arms with non-profit organizations, retailers, our supply chain partners and consumers so that together, we can exert influence beyond our size.

Climate Change

Climate change is an issue of deep concern to us. As we work to reduce our own carbon footprint, it is clear change will not come from our actions alone. We know we need to work closely with others to protect our planet for future generations. That's why we joined the visionary companies of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP) in early 2009. Sponsored by Ceres, BICEP brings key allies in the business community together with relevant members of Congress. The goal is passage of meaningful climate change legislation that promotes clean energy, boosts efficiency and limits carbon emissions.

Most recently, in April 2013, Seventh Generation joined Patagonia, Starbucks, Levi Strauss, Ben & Jerry's, NIKE, Stonyfield Farms and other American business leaders in signing BICEP's "Climate Declaration." Signatories view tackling climate change as one of America’s greatest economic opportunities and urge our nation to demonstrate the necessary leadership and sweeping vision to confront this challenge. Watch the video.

Safer Ingredients

“At the 2012 Safer Consumer Products Summit in California, I was struck by the range of knowledge the participating companies had about the ingredients in their products. One hardware manufacturer had no idea what was in his company’s products. Seventh Generation was at the other end of the spectrum with a proud tradition of ingredient disclosure and a refusal to use Chemicals of Concern (CoCs) in our products.

“Inadequate industry action in the area of toxic substances use and ingredient disclosure is all the more concerning given the lack of strong federal legislation to control toxic chemicals. Ordinary consumer products contain hundreds of chemicals – only a few of which have been fully tested for safety. The law intended to address this, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, has long been insufficient. Seventh Generation has been working passionately for years to address this problem by supporting sound federal toxics control legislation, by working with our industry to promote ingredient disclosure and use of safer chemicals, and by educating consumers about toxics.

“States such as California, Maine and Washington have acted where the federal government has not. State regulations on CoCs have resulted in some companies, such as the hardware manufacturer I mentioned, eliminating CoCs immediately, rather than waiting for federal action.”

“At Seventh Generation, we have always sought to have influence greater than our size. This influence has been particularly evident in the transformation of our industry’s approach to ingredient disclosure and reduced use of chemicals of concern. While we have always disclosed ingredients on our product labels and on our website, this has not been the norm in our industry. We helped craft the American Cleaning Institute’s (ACI) Voluntary Ingredient Disclosure initiative, which prompted many in the industry to disclose their ingredients on their websites, a big win for consumers.

“As Chairman of ACI’s Sustainability Committee since 2011, I worked with other ACI members to develop the Sustainability Charter initiative, being piloted in 2013. ACI will recognize companies taking prescribed actions that include: commitment to ACI’s sustainability principles; participation in ACI’s industry metrics program covering key environmental parameters; and compliance with ACI’s voluntary ingredient communication program. The requirements for participation in the Sustainability Charter program will scale up over time and will provide a concrete method for raising the sustainability profile of the entire industry.”

Manufacturing Partners

Nurturing a close relationship with the companies that produce our products is crucial if we are to work together to tackle the environmental and social impacts within our supply chain. But we want to go even further. We would like to ensure that our manufacturing partners embrace the same overall commitment to sustainability that we do. To that end, we conduct detailed audits of our suppliers that cover their sustainability strategies, resource efficiency, materials and waste management, GHG emissions, air pollution, and community engagement.

Audit scores on the sustainability-related questions were flat from 2011 – 2012. After several years of conducting periodic supplier sustainability audits, we are aware that these assessments are not driving the deep change we would like to see. We are focusing in 2013 on a new audit approach that will be tied more closely to our own 2020 Road Map and will target the key metrics we hope to influence.

We developed relationships with five new manufacturing partners in 2012 while also dramatically increasing our numbers of new products. We now have 18 suppliers at 26 locations; much of our time was necessarily spent ensuring that our quality standards were met.

Sales

In a year characterized by our introduction of 48 new products and our entry into the personal care category, we achieved a 9 percent sales growth. This was driven by eCommerce, by sales in grocery stores throughout the northeast, and through our sales at Target. A notable new partnership was our expansion late in 2012 of our Walgreen’s sales to include Adult Personal Care products. Consumer interest led to significant growth in laundry, dish cleaning and diaper sales while paper products, household cleaners and feminine care were more challenging categories.

Certified B Corporation

Just as we seek sustainability in our products, we also try to practice a better way to do business. We became a founding B Corporation in 2008 because we believe it is critical that there be a standard for corporate responsibility in the United States.

B Corp businesses are certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. We were recertified in 2012 and achieved a high overall score of 116 out of 200, 38 percent higher than the average sustainable business.

While we achieved excellence in the governance, workers and environment categories, we lagged in community and have committed to a 2020 Roadmap Goal of improving this score. Despite positive community support through the Seventh Generation Foundation and employee volunteering, we need to do a better job of investing in the communities where we manufacture our products. To get started, we will focus on developing a supplier code of conduct and related protocols. We will also try to increase the percentage of suppliers that are majority-owned by women or ethnic minorities or that create employment opportunities in low-income communities.

Jay Coen Gilbert, B Corp Founder praised our commitment to the B Corp principles in this blog.

Read about our approach to Governance in the GRI Index.