Seventh Generation Names Former Quaker Oats Boss as CEO

Seventh Generation Names Former Quaker Oats Boss as CEO

Anyone who knows Jeffrey Hollender, the co-founder and longtime CEO of Seventh Generation, knows that his ambitions go way beyond selling laundry detergent and paper towels.

Hollender wants to help business do business better, so that companies can help create a better world for future generations. That’s a big dream, but it explains why he has become an author of several books, the host of a new cable TV show, an outspoken blogger and a supporter of an innovative, worker-owned green cleaning business. Busy guy.

That’s also why Hollender said today that he is stepping down as CEO of Seventh Generation, the company based in Burlington, Vt., that makes healthy and safe household and personal-care products. He has led the company for the past 20 years.

Over the phone last week, Hollender, who is 54, told me that his decision to step down would be both a good thing for him and great news for Seventh Generation. “I’ve got so many things I want to do,” he said. “Two books coming out in the next nine months. The television show. And about at the same time as I was working on all that, I came to the conclusion that the growth and complexity of the business was going to require an executive with more experience.”

Chuck Maniscalco Courtesy of Seventh Generation
Today, Seventh Generation announced that its new CEO is Chuck Maniscalco. He’s got an impressive business resume -- he spent 21 years at Quaker Oats before PepsiCo bought that brand in 2001, and until 2008 he was president and CEO of PepsiCo’s $10 billion Quaker, Tropicana, and Gatorade businesses.

Maniscalco launched Propel Fitness Water and grew its revenues to over $500 million -- a nice thing for PepsiCo, although bottled water (oops, I mean “fitness water”) is not exactly a favorite product of the sustainability crowd.

Most recently, Maniscalco started a company called Manifest Leadership.

Here is his first blog as the CEO of Seventh Generation and here is his personal website. (Very cool that he is a guitar player, singer and composer -- check out his tunes! And he is a runner, too.)

Seventh Generation has about $150 million in sales this year and so is well past the point where it has to worry about survival. The goal for Maniscalco is to drive sales to about $1 billion, while retaining the company’s fierce commitment to environmental and social responsibility. That won’t be easy, particularly because the market for green household and personal care products is becoming more crowded all the time. (See my column on The Evolution of Laundry Detergent.)
Jeffrey Hollender Courtesy of Seventh Generation
As for Hollender, he’s got a couple of books to promote,  both aimed at sharing the ideals that shaped Seventh Generation with a broader audience. "In Our Every Deliberation, Seventh Generation’s Journey toward Corporate Consciousness" will be published by the company next month and "Good Company" will be published early next year by Jossey-Bass. (Hollender's 2006 book, "What Matters Most: How a Small Group of Pioneers Is Teaching Social Responsibility to Big Business, and Why Big Business Is Listening," which he wrote with Stephen Fenichell, is very good. I probably should disclose here that Hollender, Fenichell and my wife, Karen Schneider, were 1970s high school classmates in The Bronx.) Hollender’s also hoping to keep on producing episodes of his TV show, called "Big Green Lies," the pilot of which was shown on Earth Day on the Fine Living Network.

Perhaps most interestingly, Hollender has been working with a nonprofit called WAGES (Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security) to launch a series of cooperatives called Home Green Home in San Francisco. These are cleaning services owned by women, most of them Hispanic immigrants who before then had been cleaning homes but working for others.

“These women are making two to three times more money than they were making before,” Hollender told me. “They all have health insurance. And they are owners of their own business. It’s proved to be a very successful model.”

“The challenge we are trying to figure out is how to scale it up more quickly,” he said. In that regard, the challenge is figuring out how to deliver training in new markets; each woman gets extensive training both in business skills like accounting and marketing and around more personal issues such as “what happens when the woman in the family ends up making more money than the man.” The Home Green Home coops use Seventh Generation products, of course.

You can read Hollender’s account of his decision here on the Seventh Generation blog. Among other things, he writes:
"It may surprise you to learn that my decision was a relatively easy one to make. For some time, I’ve been deeply involved both personally and professionally in teaching myself and everyone here at Seventh Generation how to break free of old patterns….My passion to transform the way business does business by grounding companies with a new sense of purpose and possibility, teaching the next generation of business leaders about a new way to lead, and helping our customers to become more conscious about their consumption will no doubt keep me very busy."
You can be sure that whatever Hollender does next will be worth watching.