It all started with niche companies like Seventh Generation and Method. A move to clean up the cleaners, as it were. To take the toxic chemicals out of cleaning products and replace them with natural surfactants that would do the job. Those entrepreneurial companies, and others, pioneered environmentally responsible cleaning products. Then something else started happening.

The mass market began to respond. Whether from altruistic reasons or a combination of environmental responsibility and financial opportunity, the effect has been remarkable. FYI: I blogged about Arm & Hammer's Essentials and Clorox's Green Works in past posts here at The Daily Fix. Now, another large player has entered the fray: privately-held S.C. Johnson, as reported in Media Post's Marketing Daily recently.
It's worth noting that S.C. Johnson is a focused, value-driven company. It is still owned by the Johnson family and they are committed to social and environmental responsibility at every level, even powering their plants with wind power and cogeneration turbines that run on natural gas and waste methane from a public landfill.
Take a look at the company's policy (pdf) because it's there for the world to see.
So when S.C. Johnson committed itself to rolling out a new line of cleaners dubbed Nature's Source, you knew it had to be the real deal. The focus: products that really work, absolute transparency (read: full disclosure of ingredient information that exceed Federal guidelines), affordable. The company has also committed itself to 'clean up' its Windex and Glade brands as well, to ensure they also exceed Federal guidelines.
My point: it's important to not only make statements, but to back them up with transparency, honesty and real values consumers can believe in; especially these days, when so many companies and institutions, it seems, have let us down.
It looks like the time is right for environmental cleaners on several levels:

  • Consumers are more likely to think green cleaners can be efficacious without harsh chemicals.

  • An SDA (Soap and Detergent Association) survey shows that 60% of Americans are doing more cleaning themselves rather than hiring professional cleaning services.

  • Consumers are in DIY mode due to the weak economy. Current trends point to Americans' increasing focus on self sufficiency. They're purchasing generators, deep freezers and canning supplies and they're planting large gardens.

  • The SDA study revealed that 61% of consumers are looking for cleaners that are 'less harmful to the environment', up from 38% in SDA's survey last year.

  • The new mentality: practicality vs indulgence and getting back to basics.

Since these trends are likely to continue to grow, I started wondering about how many other companies out there, large or small, are pioneering new ideas.
  • Are you aware of any new companies or services that have sprung up in response to emerging consumer trends that I noted above?

  • Are you aware of any well-known companies that have taken steps as S.C. Johnson has, over time, to become more environmentally conscious or socially aware?

  • What would you like to see companies do in the way of changing their products or operations?

I'd love to hear from you.

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Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni