Change doesn’t come easily. Identifying a problem and stepping in to fight for a resolution takes courage, grit and patience - something we see every day from the leaders of organizations and brands we work closely with. From chemical reform to consumers’ right to know, Seventh Generation is proud to stand with and support those brave enough to step away from the sidelines and help drive positive change in our world now – and for future generations to come. Now more than ever, we’ve seen the power of a woman’s voice. Here are two inspirational women who have helped lead the charge – and we at Seventh Generation are lucky enough to call friends.
Jeanne Rizzo: Breast Cancer Prevention’s Boldest Advocate
Jeanne Rizzo is a fighter—someone who can’t bear to see injustice without trying to do something about it. As president and CEO of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners since 2001, she’s spent the better part of two decades fiercely advocating for better ingredient disclosure in cleaning and personal care products, and working tirelessly to educate women about how they can limit their exposure to the potentially harmful chemicals that have been linked to breast cancer. But her work with BCPP taps into a spirit of advocacy that has shaped her entire life. Whether it was protesting the Vietnam War, or fighting for civil rights, Rizzo says: “I’m a person that when I’m bothered [by an issue], I have to do something.”
Rizzo moved to San Francisco from her native New York state in the 70s, working as a nurse by day, and producing films and theater productions by night (she also helped launch The Great American Music Hall). It was during a 1997 charity benefit for breast cancer that she was first introduced to Breast Cancer Fund founder Andrea Martin. “The more I learned about the environmental causes of breast cancer from her, the more my passion was amplified,” Rizzo says. “I was on fire to learn more.” After several years volunteering for The Breast Cancer Fund, she stepped in full time when Martin was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2001.
After she got more involved in the organization, Rizzo was shocked by how little information was available about the potential risks associated with some chemicals women may be exposed to—in perfume, lotions and even hand soap. It reminded her of old tobacco ads, with “doctors on the cover of magazines promoting Lucky Strike.” It took 50 years for science to catch up to the dangers of the tobacco industry; Rizzo could see a similar correlation happening between chemicals of concern and breast cancer. When she came across research from the Silent Spring Institute clearly linking pesticides used in Cape Cod cranberry bogs with breast cancer rates in bog workers that were 15 percent higher than the rest of Massachusetts, she remembered those Lucky Strike ads. “And that’s when I got truly outraged,” she says.
Rizzo’s passion—as well as groundbreaking science—fueled The Breast Cancer Fund’s bold decision to change its name to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. This was riskier than it may sound. Many people believed that cancer couldn’t be prevented. Like a natural disaster, cancer just happened. But Rizzo had been privy to years of research that proved otherwise, and she believed it was time for a new narrative about breast cancer.c
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners still remains as committed as ever to consumer advocacy and education. The nonprofit has made enormous strides under Jeanne Rizzo’s bold leadership, but she’s also excited to see the next generation make its mark. “There’s a point at which the baby boomers have to step out of the way,” she says with a laugh. She advises young change makers to tap their natural passions, and to “find the thing that really sparks you.” Her enduring example should inspire us all to make a positive mark on our world.
Learn more about Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and its work here.
Rebecca Hamilton: Badger’s B Corp Champion
Rebecca Hamilton never set out to run the family business. The daughter of Bill Whyte (who founded Badger in 1995), she was raised in a rustic cabin with no running water—a setting which inspired her life-long curiosity about plants and ecology. But it was her experiences working as a professional sailor, and then, in outdoor education, that most inspired her to study ethnobotany at the University of Hawaii. Her passion for how nature intersects with business made joining Badger—where she is Vice President of Innovation and Sustainability—a natural fit.
Hamilton put her own stamp on the brand and its mission when she successfully convinced Badger to become a B Corporation. B Corps—such as Badger, Seventh Generation, and Ben & Jerry’s—integrate social and environmental advocacy into their business practices. Hamilton also helped to pass B Corporation legislation in New Hampshire.
B Corps establish constructive relationships with other businesses—even competitors. This reminded Hamilton of the concept of evolutionary symbiosis—where organisms work together in order to evolve—an idea introduced by Lynn Margulis, a ground-breaking scientist, and one of Hamilton’s favorite professors at UMass. Inspired by Margulis, Hamilton introduced a similar concept for Badger. “We’ve made the choice to be more collaborative,” Hamilton says. “For example, we believe in what Seventh Generation is doing, [they] believe in what Badger’s doing, and [collectively] we believe we’ll have more of an impact if we’re working together.”
Becoming a B Corp helped Badger become an even better version of itself. Take Badger’s family-friendly work practices. The company has flexible work hours, wellness funds, extended maternity and paternity leave, a free organic lunch every day, and built the Calendula Garden Daycare Center so staff can bring their kids to work. Though Badger now employs one hundred people, Hamilton believes investing deeply in staff wellness has made the company even stronger. “I want to be part of a company that continues to deepen our connection with our community,” she says. “That's really the core of why I come to work every day.”
The ideals that shaped Hamilton come from a deeply personal place. She was born with a cleft palate, and when her family couldn’t afford the exorbitant cost of her surgeries, both the state of New Hampshire, as well as family and friends, stepped in to help. That generosity left a permanent imprint. In reflecting on her personal and professional choices, Hamilton says, “I wanted to do something that was giving back to the community that had done so much for me.”
Rebecca Hamilton is energized and hopeful for the future. “Part of my optimism comes from the fact that I’m able to be doing things that I think are making a positive impact around me, and so I’m constantly able to see change,” she says. “And that inspires you to do more.”
To learn more about Badger, its mission, and its product lines, click here.