Seventh Generation's mission is right in its name: In every decision it makes, it takes into account the impact on the next seven generations of humans. That inevitably includes the potential impacts on the world economy and the global climate.
Despite the riptide of supply chain issues from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the company's mission "was as front and center in 2020 as much as it was in the years before," Seventh Generation chief marketing officer Hanneke Willenborg said at Inc.'s Purpose Power Summit on June 15.
The pandemic first brought internal struggles. One: dealing with supply shortages, and customers' disappointment at not being able to find or purchase the company's toilet paper, hand wash, and disinfectant. Two: its 160 employees learning to work from home, and balancing the needs of family life.
But Seventh Generation energized itself by putting resources into its giving-back mission: at first by donating products--particularly hand wash and disinfectant--to communities in need. And through the year's social and civil unrest, the company began focusing internally on its journey to becoming an actively antiracist organization, while externally honing its messages about social and environmental issues.
"There is an extreme inequality in the effects of climates' impact," Willenborg said, noting that "the most marginalized people get hit first. We are on a journey to fight for climate justice."
The company's mission is of course reflected in its products, including plant-based laundry detergents aimed at "keeping fossil fuels in the ground" to minimize global warming. But the products' advertising and marketing aren't just aimed at sales--they're also focused on educating consumers about the fact that most regular detergents contain petroleum. Sure, a bottom line at Seventh Generation is revenue; another is creating a movement around climate activism and, now, social justice. As head of marketing, part of Willenborg's job is giving the movements a microphone.
"Our mission is our business and our business is our mission," she said. "In my view, it's a perfect circle and one cannot live without the other."