Changing the World, One Generation at a Time

Alison Whritenour smiling
Photo by Shem Roose
Alison Whritenour, EMBA ’11, was honored to be invited to the White House in August to participate in a CEO roundtable hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris. Alongside leaders from Patagonia, Etsy, Gap, Chobani, Airbnb, and Microsoft, the CEO of the green consumer-products company Seventh Generation helped to shape a business case for the benefits of paid family leave.

“This company affords me the opportunity to sit at these tables,” Whritenour said. “Its mission is about creating a more sustainable, equitable world for the next seven generations. The magic is exploring how we can leverage business—our voices and our data—to prove that addressing big-picture changes we need in society really pays off financially.”

The White House invitation came on the heels of Whritenour’s July appointment to CEO at the Burlington, Vermont-based organization she joined nine years ago. That was when she made the life-changing decision to leave her brand-management post at Colgate Palmolive in New York City and relocate to begin a new chapter with the firm whose socially conscious mission aligns closely with her personal values. Seventh Generation is known for environmentally friendly household products like Free and Clear Baby Wipes and EasyDose™ Ultra-concentrated Laundry Detergent.

“As I step into this job, it’s not about changing or setting a different vision, but about how I can continue to be the steward for the work that we’ve set out over time,” said the New Jersey native, who was recently named among Fortune magazine’s “40 under 40” most influential emerging business leaders. “How are we going to continue to navigate this business and keep the overall mission of the company moving forward?”

Whritenour, who earned her bachelor’s degree at Loyola University Maryland, joined Seventh Generation after completing the Gabelli School’s Executive MBA program, an experience that inspired her to rethink her career, which also includes stints at advertising giants BBDO and Grey Worldwide. “It helped me to see that there are many different routes to successful careers rather than a ‘one-lane’ view of success,” she said.

Work-life balance is important to Whritenour and her husband Derrick, EMBA ’13, who are enjoying life in Vermont, where they are raising their three young children. “I’ve tried to allow work to work for me to make sure that I can still be a great and available parent,” she said, adding that she is humbled to be in such a position. “Access to quality childcare is critical for building an equitable economy that works for all people.”

Seventh Generation, she explained, is committed to addressing inequities in society, as well as urgent environmental issues.

“It’s going to take the collective action of business and government together to drive change in order to make sure that we are going to help the next generation live and breathe on a livable planet,” she said. “Everything starts there for me.”

Claire Curry