Seventh Generation is taking on much of the consumer-products industry and Washington with little more than kids in their undies and hats made from colanders and aluminum foil – otherwise known as the Toxin Freedom Fighters.
In an advocacy/marketing campaign breaking with a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times, Seventh Generation and its youthful wards are aiming at tougher regulations on household chemicals. And in the process, it's painting much of the consumer-products industry as purveyors of toxins.
Seventh Generation's campaign is from Made Movement, Boulder, Colo., and also includes digital and social media, in hopes of collecting 100,000 signatures by Earth Day at FightToxins.com to support an overhaul of the 38-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act. A proposed update of the law, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, was introduced last year with bipartisan support in the Senate. But it doesn't go far enough in Seventh Generation's opinion, though it does represent the first real chance for tougher regulations in decades as the company sees it.
"The focus of this part of the campaign isn't really about selling Seventh Generation products," said Chief Marketing Officer Joey Bergstein. "It's an issue we believe deeply in. We've been advocating for this kind of reform for a long time. This brand at its heart has always been an activist brand."
Simultaneously, Seventh Generation is launching another campaign from Made Movement that "focuses on telling the story that Seventh Generations products are as effective as all the conventional brands, yet don't have the toxic residue that some of the conventional brands may have."
Even the advocacy ad, though, isn't shy about making a case for Seventh Generation, highlighting the brand's "green chemistry and plant-based ingredients" that "make products that get the job done, without all the sketchy stuff."
It also cites Centers for Disease Control research that "300 toxic chemicals are showing up in our umbilical cords."
For its part, the American Cleaning Institute, which represents household-product manufacturers, says members' products go through extensive testing to ensure they can be used safely. "Even though manufacturers formulate cleaning products to ensure that they are safe or have very low risk, human health effects can still result from unintended exposure," according to the ACI website, CleaningInstitute.org. That's why warning labels are used, the group says.
The ACI backs the same legislation that Seventh Generation would like to see made tougher. Introduced in May 2013, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act has yet to advance out of committee, and GovTrack.Us gives it an 11% chance of being enacted.
An American Cleaning Institute spokesman couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
As for the "Toxin Freedom Fighters," Mr. Bergstein said, "They're kids from families who care. We're using them in our advertising and we're going to bring several of them to Washington in April to deliver this petition."
He said Seventh Generation's advocacy campaign and concern goes beyond cleaning or personal-care products to cover chemicals in all consumer products.
"Tens of thousands of chemicals are put into the marketplace without proper testing," Mr. Bergstein said. "And there's little legislation right now that provides any proper control."