Hollender brought up recent promotional activities as an example, noting that while annual giveaways of hybrid cars and high-efficiency washing machines were fun for all, they didn't necessarily contribute to Seventh Generation's desire to educate consumers on the social and environmental impact of their purchasing decisions. As such, the company discarded these activities in favor of a partnership with Greenpeace to educate select groups of high-school and college students on the environmental challenges they face. The resulting "Change It" program now brings 100 students to Washington, DC, for a week-long "boot camp" designed to empower them with tools and knowledge to return to their communities as environmental activists and leaders.
Senge and Hollender both frequently repeated the idea that relationship-building is at the heart of what a "conscious enterprise" should focus on as it strives towards its goals. Companies can't just sell products, but must engage consumers in a dialogues about their values, and what each entity can contribute to manifesting their ideals. Businesses must be willing to return to the drawing board to ensure that they're keeping their end of the bargain. Hollender noted, for instance, that an early company study of the environmental impact of Seventh Generation laundry detergent revealed that, while the company had taken great strides toward developing an eco-friendly product, it was still designed for use in hot or warm water. The energy required for this kind of use created the product's greatest environmental cost. By adapting the model of a learning organization, Hollender and his company were able to redesign the product so that they minimized its footprint not only at the production stage, but also in the consumer's use of it.
If you're interested in listening the conversation, the CD of this individual event can be purchased from the Society for Organizational Learning's Sustainability Consortium for $199. Once the third CD is available (which we'll review here), you can purchase all three CDs at a discounted price. More conversations are in the works for this Fall. ::Sustainability Consortium of the Society for Organizational Learning