Tribute to a Visionary

In honor of Seventh Generation co-founder Jeffrey Hollender’s induction into the Social Venture Network Hall of Fame, our current CEO, John Replogle, delivered a moving commentary on Jeffrey at a recent company-wide event. Below is a transcript of the speech John gave in Jeffrey's honor, which we wanted to share with you, the Seventh Generation Nation. Congratulations to Jeffrey for this amazing honor, and here's to Seventh Generation’s upcoming 25th anniversary.


"There are all kinds of companies in this world, and almost all of them are forgettable. They may offer a good product, make money and supply jobs. But there’s nothing exceptional about them. They simply exist and that’s about as much as can be said of them for as soon as they do not, we scarcely notice.


But alongside these many are the few that are not like the others. They are companies built on meaning, on a mission, and on an enthusiasm for this higher purpose that not only fuels everything they do but allows them to do far more than most other businesses ever dare to imagine. Seventh Generation is one of these companies, and it is so for a single reason: Because Jeffrey Hollender refused to settle for anything less.


Jeffrey’s absolute certainty that there had to be a better way not just for business but for humanity laid the foundation for our company. His belief in the power of individuals to effect meaningful change and create something beautiful in the process were the bricks that built it and his perseverance was the mortar that held it all together through the goods days and the dark moments alike. No matter how long the odds or how intractable the challenges, Jeffrey never let go of the dream.


He did all this at a time when no one had ever done it before. Today, corporate responsibility is a concept that turns no heads. But 25 years ago, when Jeffrey forged its principles here at our company, the notion that business could and indeed should be more than a money machine, was not just radical. It was insane. The thought of a company putting the greater good ahead of corporate concerns and emphasizing the commonwealth over its own made the business community laugh. That someone would actually put such naïve principles into action was as foolhardy as it was unbelievable.


But that’s what Jeffrey did. He wanted no part of any enterprise whose profits would come at the expense of the environment we depend upon or be born on the backs of the communities we care about. Yet this was not the endpoint of Jeffrey’s wisdom, it was only its beginning, for he was among the very first to see that business could do more than simply do no more harm. It could be a force for good with the power to heal the world and make it better than it was before.


Jeffrey didn’t just put these ideals to work here. He took them out into the world and turned Seventh Generation into a model countless other companies would emulate, a beacon that led to a new and more sustainable way.


That was Jeffrey’s mission and his mission long ago became our own. You see his DNA everywhere you look. His heart beats between every line of our CR reports. His blood, sweat, and tears are ingredients in every box and bottle that we sell. His insight illuminates our operating principles. His generosity funds each donation we make, and his spirit, if not the man himself, is present every time we savor a moment like this.


At a ceremony in New York, Jeffrey was recently inducted into the Social Venture Network Hall of Fame as a pioneering Environmental Evangelist. It is a huge honor and a tremendous achievement, but it pales next to the honor we have of inheriting his ultimate achievement, the company he nurtured for over 20 years.


Jeffrey is not just our co-founder. He is not merely the wellspring of our inspiration. He is not simply our guiding light. He is Seventh Generation itself. We stand every single day upon his shoulders and it is only because of his vision and his passion that our company is the company it is today. He’s earned our admiration, our thanks, and our love. And it is for these and many, many other reasons, that it is a heartfelt privilege to welcome him home today. "


John Replogle, President & CEO of Seventh Generation