The Employee Giving Experience at Seventh Generation

Let's be honest, we do great work at Seventh Generation and we do it with a tremendous amount of pride. We find inspiration not just in our mission, but in each other. Throughout the year, we high-five in the hallway, send thank you notes in abundance, occasionally fight over how to do more and do it better, and always applaud when someone gets it right. Gets it really, really right.

Every year, we vote to nominate five of our coworkers who embody the core values of Seventh Generation: Collaborate Deliberately, Innovate Disruptively, Care Wholeheartedly, Be a Trusted Brand and Nurture Nature. Each award means something special to us. It may mean that someone led the charge to increase the sustainability of a product in a way no one thought was possible, built a relationship with a customer that revolutionized their business and ours, or simply showed up every.single.day. with the most outrageously innovative solutions to the challenges we face as a team, as a company, and as citizens of this planet.   

Recipients of each award receive a cash gift, an equal amount of money to donate to their favorite charity, and fame. Each winner also receives an opportunity to join the Seventh Generation Employee Giving Committee. As a 2013 award recipient, I've had the opportunity to serve and lead this team. Let's be clear – I am a scientist. I didn't step into this with the foggiest idea of how you give out money in a fair and equitable way. With spectacular guidance from Ashley Orgain, the director of the Seventh Generation Foundation, we have built a team with a killer one-two punch of purpose.

First, and most importantly, we are responsible for supporting our community through charitable giving. Second, and equally important, we exist to provide an opportunity for our community members to learn the work of giving. As a team, our responsibility is to understand the needs of our local Vermont communities and how, as Seventh Generation, we can bring a unique perspective to solving the problems we see around us. 

Grounded in that, we landed on two areas of focus for our 2016 giving campaign: Access to Nature and Toxin Free Kids.

Access to Nature
We believe that people who grow up experiencing nature will be more motivated to protect our environment. To that end, we want to ensure that every child and teenager has access to nature-based outdoor experiences.

Toxin-Free Kids
We also understand that during the critically important early childhood years, young Vermonters deserve to be raised in an environment with fewer toxins. We support organizations that help create awareness of the importance of reducing toxins in the indoor environment, and support early childhood programs serving newborns through age five to create those spaces.

If you look at our purpose, we are trying to create a world from birth through adulthood where children have the ability to thrive by being exposed to healthy environments where they can live, learn, play and grow. Applications are by invitation only, and participation in the outreach, granting and maintenance of the program is handled strictly on a volunteer basis by the employee members of the team. We read applications on a rainy weekend, use our conference rooms to debate need levels and mission alignment and visit our award recipients to see:

  • young girls learning how to mountain bike with the Dirt Divas program,
  • childhood cancer survivors spending a week outdoors in rural Vermont at Camp Ta-Kum-Ta,
  • refugee youth in Vermont building leadership skills through the outdoor experiences with the Farm & Wilderness organization,
  • and experience the beauty of adaptive sail boats from the Vermont Community Sailing Center dotting Lake Champlain outside our office windows. Yep, we have a lake view that inspires us every day to remember that everyone should have access to the beauty of nature at their fingertips.

The Employee Giving Committee is a new adventure for us. Five years in and gathering speed. We started out with a dozen or so organizational partnerships and in 2016, have received over 50 applications to our programs with a request for funding tripling our current budget. We have been blown away by how real the need is, especially around helping our local daycare centers reduce toxins in the indoor environment for some of our most vulnerable populations. As an employee at Seventh Generation, it is amazing to receive an application requesting furniture and equipment with fewer toxins and to step up and say, you are heard. We understand. We're here to help.  

I would love to tell you who and what we're funding for the year, but we're heading into a meeting now to debate just that and laugh and cry and have hope. Stay tuned - we're working hard to give back and keep pushing ourselves to help our communities in ways that will echo out for the next seven generations.