Seventh Generation Inc. co-founder Jeffrey Hollender has been quoted as saying "hell would freeze over" before his environmentally friendly household products would be sold in Wal-Mart's stores.
Good thing his words are non-toxic, as he's now eating them. Starting in August, Seventh Generation's eco-friendly laundry detergent, dish soap, all-purpose sprays and disinfectant wipes will be available in 1,500 Walmart-branded stores. And by September, additional cleaning products, diapers and baby wipes will be available on walmart.com.
Why the sudden change of mind?
Turns out, isn't. Seventh Generation has been dancing around Wal-Mart for a good while, as Hollender explains on the brand's blog.
Consider this: Green products (such as Clorox Green Works and Method, in addition to Seventh Generation) accounted for just 3% of the $19.9 billion household cleaner and laundry market in 2009, which reached $557 million last year. Hollender hopes Wal-Mart's clout can help move the needle.
"We've shifted dramatically in the way we see the world," Hollender tells the Wall Street Journal. "What I realized is if you could get Wal-Mart moving quicker and more aggressively in this direction, we'd be able to solve the challenges we're facing much more quickly and much more efficiently. Wal-Mart can move quicker than probably any government on the planet."
Hollender, who also co-authored the book, The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win, outlines his philosophy on brands' corporate responsibilities in the video above.
Seventh Generation joins Wal-Mart's organic brands such as Stonyfield Farm, which is partly owned by Danone.
Stonyfield began selling its organic yogurt in Wal-Mart stores in 1999. "Many of the things Stonyfield stands for, whether it's taking toxins out of the food supply, or saving family farms, or reducing climate footprint requires scale to make our point. Anywhere food is sold is where we should be," says Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield's CEO.
Wal-Mart attracts over 137 million customers each week, just in the U.S. "We're not just putting [Seventh Generation's] products on the shelf. We want their help in developing a category that's more sustainable," says Al Dominguez, Wal-Mart's VP, household chemicals and paper goods.
"Through increased access to safe, healthy, affordable, and sustainable products, Seventh Generation and Walmart have together embarked on a long-term, strategic partnership to grow this movement by demonstrating a shared commitment to education and making meaningful change," commented Chuck Maniscalco, Seventh Generation CEO.
Seventh Generation sells its products through Target, Whole Foods, Amazon.com and grocery chains – and they remain among the highest-priced in their categories while remaining competitive. The company launched it first television ads early this year, and recently hired Chuck Maniscalco, who formerly marketed PepsiCo's Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade brands.
Hollender, who now serves as executive chairman and "chief inspired protagonist," posted a lengthy (1,670 word) blog treatise when Seventh Generation embarked on a limited test in 2008 in four Wal-Mart stores, understanding the challenge of rationalizing the change of heart to a loyal constituency willing to put principle before profit.
His rationale at the time: "At this point, we now believe that we can have a bigger impact by partnering with Wal-Mart than by shunning it.”
It’s a good sign when the best-of-breed green brands find shelf-space in the planet’s largest retail chains.