Seventh Generation, the green cleaning products company out of Burlington Vermont, has long been one of my favorite companies? Why? Because it seems like their commitment to non-toxic products is comprehensive, thorough, unrelenting—it goes beyond “greenwashing” marketing tactics. So when Mr. Seventh Generation himself, Jeffrey Hollender, talks about how to maintain authenticity in one’s business and quotes my business hero Yvon Chouinard in doing so…well, I’m all ears.
Has authenticity become just another artifact of our shiny, pre-fab world, where nearly everything we encounter is created for consumption? Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard certainly thinks so. In his compelling book, Let My People Go Surfing , Chouinard recalls seeing someone wearing a sweatshirt with the word “authentic” emblazoned across the chest. “The fashion industry is so caught up with this idea of the ‘authentic,’” writes Chouinard, with characteristic brio, “that it has become another of those meaningless words.”
At a time when spin doctors are coaching brands on how to “make it real,” it sometimes seems like authenticity is at risk of becoming as fabricated as a fast-food chain. And yet, authenticity remains a core benchmark against which any company that seeks to “do good” must be judged…