I don't know Jeffrey Hollender, but I know what he stands for. In fact, lots of people know what he stands for because of the incredible job he has done over the years in propelling the green agenda through Seventh Generation, a small company with a big voice and an even bigger impact. Till now, the voice of Seventh Generation has been heard, and respected. On reading the letter to shareholders and employees by Board Chairman Peter Graham reproduced on Marc Gunther's blog, I couldn't help hearing a different voice, one for which I have far less respect.
I can't imagine what it feels like to be pushed out of the Company you founded and worked hard to build. I can imagine even less what sort of people you have to be to take a decision like that. Stephen R. Covey taught me (though he may not know it) years ago that things are not always what they seem, and as an outside observer it is clear that all the details of this unfortunate affair are not apparent to all but an inner circle. However, I just cannot imagine what would prompt Board Members of a successful ethical groundbreaking highly praised business to kick out the founder, apparently, in a hostile and morally questionable way. If Seventh Generation were publicly traded, it is about now that I would expect stock price to plunge.
To rub salt into the wound, Seventh Generation published its fifth Sustainability Report (called Corporate Consciousness Report) just recently, following previous award winning reports. The 09 report is fully online.What a hollow ring there is now to the words of the same Peter Graham in his opening remarks: "Jeffrey remains very much a part of the Seventh Generation family in his new role as chief inspired protagonist and executive chairperson. “In the end, I am moving on, yet have no intention of going anywhere at all,” he said in announcing the change. “Indeed my own future echoes Seventh Generation’s: There is no road map for what we’re building here, and the adventure is really just beginning.”" Guess the adventure was somewhat different to the one Jeffrey envisaged.
I suspect Jeffrey Hollender is not the sort of guy to be beaten and I doubt he will disappear from the sustainability scene. In fact, I expect he will emerge from this incident stronger, more determined and probably more creative, and will continue to influence public opinion and corporate practices. First, Jeffrey, I wish you good luck! Second, I hope you will turn this to your advantage.
To the team at the top of Seventh Generation, I say that the distance between a successful company and a dead one is very short. All eyes will be on Seventh Generation leadership, waiting for another move which offends our sense of justice, respect and morality. If that happens, then we can truly start peparing the Seventh Generation Eulegy. In the meantime, the jury is out.
(Thanks to Fabian Pattberg for his post on this subject, and subsequent comments by Christine Arena, who prompted me to weigh in on this issue)
elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via www.twitter.com/elainecohen on Twitter or via my business website www.b-yond.biz/en (BeyondBusiness, CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)