"There’s always an opportunity to delight somebody”
Seventh Generation CEO Joey Bergstein shares how transparency and trust are helping the sustainable homecare brand connect with consumers and cut through against competitors.
Thursday 12 November is World Quality Day. But providing consumers with high-quality products that they trust and enjoy is something we’re committed to around the clock all year, in every part of our global business.
To discuss how trust and transparency are vital to sustainable homecare brand Seventh Generation, Unilever’s Chief Quality Officer Sabina Krzystolik caught up with Seventh Generation’s CEO Joey Bergstein.
Here they talk about Seventh Generation’s commitment to safeguarding the planet for the future, and the impact that philosophy has on everything from product formulas to packaging.
Sabina Krzystolik: Joey, thank you for joining me today. Having built your career in big consumer goods companies, did your perspective on connecting with consumers change after joining Seventh Generation?
Joey Bergstein: It absolutely did. As I came to Seventh Generation, what I was most struck by was the real need to think holistically about the products we create and the systems those products live within. The need to think about the unintended consequences of the products we are making and ensuring that we are trying to see around corners to what the future may hold for people and the planet as a whole.
SK: It sounds like the brand’s values play a big role in shaping your decision-making?
JB: They do. We have a quote on the wall in our HQ boardroom that captures the inspiration for the company. The Great Law of the Iroquois states that in our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations. We will never pursue an opportunity without also acknowledging first we have a much bigger responsibility for what we’re putting into the world around us.
SK: Consumer trust is becoming more and more important for businesses and brands. What does it mean to Seventh Generation?
JB: For us, trust starts with being really explicit about our formulation standards. We use a hazard-based approach. That means we don’t calculate risks on chemicals that could cause concern. We simply don’t use them at all.
Trust is also about transparency. We disclose the ingredients we use and have listed them on the back of our packs since 2008, despite that not being required by law. We believe people have a right to know what they bring into their homes and use around their families.
Trust is also built when you take important stances on behalf of people. We’ve taken stances on ingredients disclosure, on chemical safety, on climate justice. That’s not just the right thing to do, but it also creates competitive advantage when we can shift the rules of the game to the rules that we play by.
Trust is built when you go beyond your own products. When we think about our sustainability goals, we think not just about the products we’re creating but also the system that we’re creating them into. Our ‘zero waste’ goal is a good example. Our products will all be recyclable and recycled. Compostable and composted. Biodegradable and degraded. We can control half of that equation but to create a circular economy, the second part is crucial too. We need system change to close the loop.
SK: So communication with consumers is key. How are you supporting people to act more sustainably?
JB: We need to inspire people with sustainable solutions that make their lives easier. Just over a year ago, we launched ultra-concentrated laundry detergents. In the US, we sell most of our detergent in large bottles that weigh over 3kg but we wanted to stop shipping so much water across the country. We developed an 8x concentrated Easy Dose version that’s 70% lighter, uses 60% less plastic and contains 50% less water.
It has got several environmental benefits, but the thing we talk to consumers about most is the Easy Dose cap. One squeeze dispenses exactly the right amount. People love that convenience benefit – simply squeezing out one perfect measure with one hand. They get the same washes as you would from a large bottle. We’ve made it easy for people to make more sustainable choices.
SK: The market and consumer preferences are changing fast. What do you think improves the quality of consumer experience today?
JB: I think it’s about the full experience that people have. Products that work, that get the job done brilliantly and are safe for people and the planet.
Consumers also want to know who is behind the products they use and it takes only a couple of clicks to find out, and a couple more to find out about that company’s values and what it stands for. That is increasingly becoming a differentiator when it comes to the companies people want to support. And that’s why we must hold ourselves accountable for our own impact along our entire experience chain.
SK: And finally, as a consumer yourself – because we all are – what does quality mean to you?
JB: For me, it’s about the experience you have that’s so great that it makes you want to use it again. That you actually look forward to using it again. There’s no such thing as a low-involvement purchase. People engage with everything they come into contact with. There’s always an opportunity to delight somebody, to give them something they hadn’t expected and to make them want to come back for more. That’s quality.