Muttered at the Expo: Why Didn’t Toms of Maine Give it to the Kids

Heard on the Floor: The Kids Weren’t Interested 

When folks weren’t talking about Wal-Mart or the sale of the Body Shop to L’Oreal, they were talking about everybody’s favorite (yes sorry Nature’s Gate) toothpaste and why Tom’s sold to Colgate rather than pass it on to the kids, Matt and his sister.

While word on the Expo floor was that the kids had had enough, NBN spoke with Tom’s of Maine’s Susan Dewhirst and learned (and shouldn’t we have known) that the gossip wasn’t true. The reason was simply business related. To grow to the next level, to compete in expanding markets here and abroad, Tom’s couldn’t do it alone.

So to all you folks out there feeling sad or mad that Tom’s sold out, LISTEN up. Just cause you start a revolution in the body care section doesn’t mean you have to do it for the rest of your life. Nobody owes anyone something here. DEAL with it.

The good news is that the company will “continue our Common Good Partnerships, and to give 10% of what we earn to community efforts, and to support 5% of employee time for volunteering.”

Of course we have our concerns when visionaries turn over the reins to corporate bean counters, but so far the deal is far from the sellout some sad sacks on the Expo floor were talking about. That said we aren’t sure how much we trust Colgate Palmolive, a company, that recently shuttered a plant in Indiana and is moving more and more jobs overseas. Let’s hope the Chappell’s lawyers structured the deal in a way where their influence doesn’t diminish over time.

While long term plans are unspecified Dewhirst noted that current plans include keeping the company’s HQ and manufacturing plant in Maine. Furthermore she noted Colgate Palmolive’s purchase in 1976 of Science Diet, (Hills Pet Nutrition)a then 200 employee, $30 million company, as a compelling example why the Tom’s/ Colgate partnership should flourish, benefitting consumers, employees and the bottom line, too. Today Science Diet employs over 2,000 people with sales over $1.4 billion. And the plant is still where its always been, Topeka Kansas.

Okay so back to the disappointed out there. Here’s a reminder. It isn’t just up to those who made it big, to carry on the torch of a more powerful future. The job of creating and providing social justice is all of ours, theirs, yours and mine.

So when choosing your ‘weapons’ in the fight against cavities, decide if you still want fennel or ginger mint or not. And if you get caught up in all the doom and gloom about corporate buyouts remember things happen, players change and the work of creating a sustainable future continues regardless.

And take heart. The Chappell’s have taken a stand and the deal with Colgate seems to reflect that. As Kate Chappell stated to NPR Morning Edition reporter Chris Arnold,

“Tom’s of Maine will remain Tom’s of Maine. It’s not going to go somewhere else. It’s going to stay right here with our values intact, where we started 36 years ago.”

“We’re going to do business as we have done business,” she added. “And that’s part of our agreement with Colgate, because they recognize that makes good business sense too.”

And hey, Tom and Kate, if you want to support an amazing non-profit clinic in San Francisco write us. We’re on the board and would love to help you continue your powerful work in your next career and of course get you a nice tax deduction too.

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