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In an industry where disclosure isn’t required, SC Johnson takes a bold step and comes clean about fragrance ingredients. Are household products finally cleaning up their act?
February 24, 2016
Though "transparency" has become the ultimate buzzword in consumer packaged goods, the conventional cleaning industry continues to hide from demand for ingredient disclosure. Until now.
SC Johnson has pledged to disclose all of the fragrance ingredients in its new Glade Fresh Citrus Blossoms collection—a first for a company of this size.
“We are very pleased to see disclosure of ingredients whether in personal care or cleaning products,” said Nneka Leiba, the Environmental Working Group’s deputy director of research. “Disclosure in home care is a trend we hope to see more of throughout the entire industry.”
Of all consumer product industries, cleaning is arguably the most opaque. Federal regulations do not require safety testing of the chemicals used; worse yet, companies don’t have to list any of their products’ ingredients.
“Really think about that—you’re using this product to clean a counter and then putting food on that counter, but you have no idea what is in that bottle,” said Leiba.
SC Johnson began by addressing the lack of transparency around fragrance ingredients—an issue that also plagues the personal care space where disclosure of constituent fragrance ingredients isn’t required, and all a company needs to list on a label is “fragrance." For cleaning products, not even that much is required, and nearly 3,000 chemicals can give your personal care or household items their fresh scent.
While the decision is commendable, it doesn't address whether or not SC Johnson’s ingredients are safe. However, according to Leiba what's most important is that it empowers consumers to make informed decisions. Once they know what’s in a product, they can assess whether it is the right choice for them. It also points to potential efforts to clean up other products (reformulation in the works?) and invest in areas such as green chemistry.
But what does this decision mean for natural brands? Opportunity. Most green cleaning companies are already revealing all ingredients in their products—where they have an advantage is that they’re committed to using safe ingredients and focusing on natural innovation. Similarly, ingredient suppliers focused on nontoxic solutions could see more demand from manufacturers. Disclosure is the first step in a series of formulation and marketing decisions that are meeting a shifting consumer demand of what clean means and will have implications across the supply chain.
"While we applaud SC Johnson, we want to give a huge round of applause to the consumer, because this change wouldn’t have happened had the consumer not spoken out,” said Leiba.
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