Never say never.
Seventh Generation, one of the best-known socially responsible companies and a seller of environmentally friendly cleaning products, just announced it’s officially selling its wares through 1,500 Wal-Mart stores and, also, online.
There was a time, some years ago, when founder Jeffrey Hollender said he’d never team up with Wal-Mart. But that was before Wal-Mart started its big big push to make itself into an environmental leader.
The first phase of this odd pairing happened about two years ago, when Seventh Generation started selling its products at Wal-Mart’s more low-key Marketside stores. At the time, Hollender compared the effort to “a software product that’s entering beta.”
Then, last year, a former Quaker Oats, Tropicana and Gatorade executive Chuck Maniscalco took over as CEO, something I wrote about at the time. The idea was to bring in someone with the kind of background and savvy that would lend itself to a successful expansion. But the question at that point was, could a person with such a buttoned-down resume fit with the triple-bottom-line principles of Seventh Generation?
Now, this second phase–selling in Wal-Mart supercenters–clearly is key to Maniscalco’s plan to expand. And Hollender clearly is down with the Wal-Mart move, since he just blogged about it. As for Wal-Mart, Al Dominguez, vice president of chemical and paper goods, said in a statement: “. . . we are always looking to expand our number of sustainable offerings.”
For Wal-Mart, teaming up with Seventh Generation is a nice pr move, because, for those who follow such things, Seventh Generation is the gold standard for socially responsible consumer products. From Seventh Generation’s perspective, since Wal-Mart has redeemed itself over the past few years through a variety of ambitious programs to reach out to green suppliers and create a greener supply chain, why not do business with the retailing giant?
Of course, there still are a lot of pesky questions about Wal-Mart’s labor policies. Perhaps in its eagerness to expand, Seventh Generation decided it would be better to overlook them.