Supply Chain
Sustain Condoms:
How a Father-Daughter Duo Plan to Transform a Toxic Industry

Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder of Seventh Generation, and his daughter Meika are extending the ethos and ethics of the pioneering sustainable care products brand to the world’s first sustainable condom, carrying the slogan, "Do what's natural."

Toxin-free, fair trade Sustain condoms are made in India and are set to be in stores by January 2014 — the first product from the father-daughter team behind Hollender Sustainable Brands.

Meika, a recent MBA graduate of NYU’s Stern School of Business, will be in charge of marketing the brand primarily to women, ages 25 to 35, 40 percent of whom buy condoms. “Women in most households make the purchase decisions and in particular, they understand personal care products. They want simplicity and something that will work and not something that has all these added things that contribute to ‘body burn,'" she told brandchannel. "Condom brands are so focused on men; no one is talking to women."

It was actually two decades ago that Jeffrey Hollender trademarked the name “Rainforest Rubbers” intending to make condoms from rubber harvested in the Amazon, but he instead co-founded and ran Seventh Generation.

“Seventh Generation products were less bad,” said Meika, “but still create waste. A truly good product takes a 360-degree view as there are so many issues to be considered — supply chain, rubber plantations, deaths, sickness — which remain undercover. To find certified plantations in China, Brazil or India, it takes multi-generational families who’ve achieved fair-trade certification over time — which can take five to six years.”

In choosing Sustain as their first product, a key consideration “was choosing an issue that would resonate with my generation and with women. What product and issue will people care enough about to switch products? Sex! And contraception and family planning," she said. As health, sustainability and efficiency in living becomes a bigger part of everyday lives, consumers, and Millennials in particular, are looking to make better life choices. "Millennials are getting that it’s all inter-related. To change behavior, offer better products people want to use.”

Of all personal care products, condoms are probably the least regarded when it comes to making a choice based on preferences such as sourcing or materials used. “Condoms are incredibly important for health reasons, but because the product is a good and important product and serves a critical function, people have not asked the question of ‘Where did it come from and how is it made?’” Jeffrey Hollender told Indeed, it is a question that will be asked much more often in the wake of tragedies such as those in Bangladesh, where unsightly factory conditions and worker distress has been ignored for decades.

As for latex production, it historically comes at the expense of child labor and health and sanitation issues, as rubber plantations use harmful pesticides and ammonia. “The sustainability movement that I’ve been part of has in many cases overlooked critical issues like labor, which are to me as critical for sustainability as environmental issues,” Jeff Hollender said. “This project for me is about creating a model of what the next generation of responsible business needs to be. That’s a journey I started 20 years ago with Seventh Generation that needs to be completed.”

Sustain's mission doesn't stop at safer labor, though. The company, following in the footsteps of TOMS Shoes, Patagonia and several others, is starting a nonprofit, 10%4Women, which will be run by wife and mother Sheila Hollender. The organization will divert 10 percent of the company's sales to women's healthcare issues in the U.S.

“I think that there are two types of companies today: Mission-driven organizations and major corporations that are starting to integrate sustainability into their business models,” Meika said in an interview for Interbrand's Best Global Green Brands 2013 report. “Examples of mission-driven organizations would be Patagonia, Method, Seventh Generation, Terracycle and Eileen Fisher. As for large organizations that are implementing sustainability in meaningful and comprehensive ways, I think Unilever, Google and Target are good examples.”

When the condoms hit the market this coming January, Sustain will be reducing its own profit margin by providing a safer, more sustainable product at the same price as the competition. The first run of four million products will be sold in stores such as Whole Foods, Sephora, and at OBGYNs and university health clinics.

This post first appeared on brandchannel on July 5, 2013.


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