Global Green Room Interview: John Replogle
John Replogle, CEO of Seventh Generation, is among our Millennium Awards honorees for 2012. How did you become environmentally conscious?
The environmentally conscious seed was planted during my days at Dartmouth. Like most parents, the birth of my first child was the single most impactful a-ha moment that propelled me into a new dimension of environmental consciousness. There you are holding the very future in your hands -- and you can't help but connect the dots about what's in, on, and around her world. Yet it wasn't until leading eco-conscious companies like Burt's Bees and Seventh Generation that I had a real chance to combine my passion with my practice. Safeguarding the health of children and protecting them from harmful environmental exposures is the center of our work at Seventh Generation.
What would surprise us about your work?
How fun it is to come to work. Granted, our offices overlook Lake Champlain, every day is casual Friday, and there are at least a dozen dogs in the office on any given day. But at Seventh Generation, we're lucky to be able to spend time pondering the future of business, how to slow global warming, and the pros and cons of organic lettuce grown in China (just to name a few of the issues that get batted around our lunchroom). It just doesn't get any better than that.
Describe your work with Global Green?
Seventh Generation is fortunate to be partnering with Global Green and spreading the word on their Citizen Entrepreneur Contest. It's just the sort of initiative that we'd feel obligated to create if Global Green hadn't beaten us to the punch. There's nothing better than celebrating the unsung heroes -- folks of all ages, from all walks of life, who are taking on the important work of improving their local environment. These are the stories that inspire us at Seventh Generation to truly live what is put forth in the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy, namely, "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."
Who is your hero?
I've been honored to work with so many giants in the sustainability space -- Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder of Seventh Generation, Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of Burt's Bees, and Ray Anderson, founder of Interface and the inaugural recipient of Global Green's Millennium Award, to name just a few of the icons who've inspired, mentored, and befriended me along my own journey. But it's Kristin, my wife and my partner in that journey, who most embodies my definition of a hero, raising our four girls with a respect for people and the planet that will have implications for generations to come.
What has been a recent work success or accomplishment?
I'm constantly awed by the brilliance of our mighty little Seventh Generation team in Vermont. Not a day goes by where their dedication doesn't yield some accolade or accomplishment. In each person lies the deepest source for conscious thinking about our business decisions. One that stands out for me is a a real milestone we passed in May: The 500,000th tree saved because consumers chose Seventh Generation products made from recycled paper rather than virgin forest. Since we sold our first roll of recycled bathroom tissue almost a quarter century ago (and raised a whole lot of eyebrows doing it!), the recycled paper products we make have kept half a million trees standing. That's half a million trees preserved to shelter wildlife and clean our air. Half a million trees to cool our planet and protect our forests. Half a million trees to bring beauty to our world.
Outside of the office, we have the privilege of partnering with a local elementary magnet school-- the Sustainability Academy. Located in the most diverse neighborhood in Vermont, the mission of the Sustainability Academy is to educate and empower students to improve the quality of life for all -- economically, socially, and environmentally -- now and for future generations. I recently joined the Seventh Generation community in a service day at the school -- building a playground, landscaping, and cleaning. The smiles on the faces of the kids was nothing compared to the smiles on the faces of our staff.
If you had the power to make one global and green change, what would it be?
You can't help people live healthy lives on a sick planet. We must find a way to preserve the one great green earth we have been blessed with. I’d wave that wand giving legislators the wisdom and power to do the right thing around toxics reform -- that means taking immediate action on the most dangerous chemicals; holding industry responsible for the safety of the chemicals they use, and protecting our most vulnerable in our population. The ubiquitous presence of toxic chemicals in our environment, in our bodies, and even in breast milk motivates us in our daily work as we seek to create healthier products. We need the government and business together to step up and protect consumers from harmful chemicals in the everyday household and personal care items they purchase.