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Seventh Generation’s New Way of Transforming Commerce

by 

Eric Margolis

As a company, how do you help ‘transform commerce’ such that companies do business in a way that values people and place? Seventh Generation, a Certified B Corp and Best for the Environment honoree, has been working towards transforming commerce for a long time. But this year, their employees are trying out a new strategy: Seventh Generation is inviting companies, both business partners and otherwise, to measure their social and environmental impact using the same yardstick they use to measure their own impact.  

How did Seventh Generation do it? 

This spring, Seventh Generation ran a competition among their employees to see who can successfully invite the most companies to take the Quick Impact Assessment, a free, online tool that helps those partners assess, compare, and improve their impact on workers, the community, and the environment. The winners of the challenge receive a free lunch on the company and $250 to donate to a nonprofit of their choice.

Employees were enthusiastic about the program and reached out to a variety of businesses—local mom & pop shops and distant companies alike.  100% of Seventh Generation’s full-time employees participated, reaching over 200 companies.

Jean Hayes, a Seventh Generation employee, focused on companies she either had a relationship with or those she believed would be a good fit for taking the Impact Assessment and becoming a part of the B Corp Community. “We all have our own network of people, of companies, of organizations that if we take the time to sit and think about having them at the table with us--to invite them to share in the experience--the movement would see such growth,” Hayes said.

In conjunction with this competition, Seventh Generation created learning opportunities that taught employees about the B movement, including a B Corp outreach day that allowed employees to volunteer with another B Corp.-

About Seventh Generation’s Efforts with Suppliers
Seventh Generation’s tools for this program came as a part of their participation in a Measure What Matters cohort. In this cohort, a group of companies reach out to their respective suppliers, inviting them to take the Quick Impact Assessment and measure what matters. Participating companies help their suppliers along the journey of taking the assessment, encouraging them to pursue B Certification if they are eligible. B Lab created a unique Quick Impact Assessment for each cohort participant that especially welcomes the participant’s suppliers. Through using this tool, CEO John Replogle hopes to inspire all of Seventh Generation’s suppliers to become B Corps by 2020.

Seventh Generation is a Certified B Corp, and one of B Lab’s Best for the World companies--recognized for setting the gold standard for high social impact companies. Certification is available to companies that score at least 80 points on the lengthier B Impact Assessment and fulfill a legal requirement that holds a company accountable to employees, the community, and the environment in addition to shareholders. In participating in this cohort, along with B Corporations such as King Arthur Flour, Ben & Jerry’s, and Mills Basics, Seventh Generation is building on their engagement in the movement to use business as a force for good.

Employee Engagement Program
The employee-led contest is part of LEAD (learning, engaging, acting, and demonstrating), Seventh Generation’s formal employee engagement program.  It runs two modules per year, which immerse employees in self-help and sustainability programs. Past modules include working towards a toxin-free household and helping employees understand climate change, advocate for climate justice, and reduce their carbon footprints. The sheer energy of the LEADers created an environment where people could get excited about the challenge: they posted memes on the wall, a giant thermometer in the kitchen that shows how many companies have been invited, and generated a competitive and collaborative spirit.

Seventh Generation’s LEAD program head Chris Lyon believes that co workers now have a deeper understanding of the B Corp movement. Important in cultivating this was a unique Personal Impact Assessment that the LEADers developed for employees to take. Employees scored in areas including financial, physical, and spiritual well being. Taking the personal impact assessment gave Seventh Generation’s employees a stronger idea of what businesses go through when they take the B Impact Assessment--it allowed them to step into a company’s shoes. 

Through this innovative employee engagement program and inviting its suppliers to take the Impact Assessment, Seventh Generation works towards improving quality of life for the entire life cycle of its products. These measures impact Seventh Generation’s community at all levels: the local community and environment, its suppliers and vendors, and its employees and companies that interact with them. Not only that, but the excitement generated by Seventh Generation’s workers over the program creates true B Corp champions that spread the movement. Seventh Generation’s employees have proved willing and capable of stepping up to the challenge to recruit their favorite companies to measure what matters, to be B Corp champions.

 

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