Since major detergent and cleaning product makers and retailers are getting into the eco-friendly business and consumers are learning more about it, Belgium’s Ecover must compete on price and show that it is better for the environment than its competitors.
Global Industry Analysts Inc. says that by 2017, the world will spend $9.3 billion on green cleaning products, up from an estimated $2.7 billion in 2012.
However, this is still a small portion of the $150 billion market for all household cleaning products, which is relatively stable.
Ecover was founded in 1979 by a Belgian who left his position at a soap company to create phosphate-free washing powder.
Seventh Generation, based in Burlington, Vermont, was the biggest green cleaning company in the world until Ecover bought Method, based in San Francisco, last year.
It plans to make and sell Ecover in the U.S. and Europe, as well as Method’s unique line of colored liquids in clear bottles.
In June 2014, Ecover said that it would stop using palm oil and instead switch to oils made by algae that eat sugar and are made by the company Solazyme Inc. (SZYM).
Synthetic biology, in a word, is the process of building genetic material on purpose, like DNA, to make new forms of life or to “reprogram” existing species, like yeast and algae.
Synthetic biology companies say they can make millions of new organisms every day using a completely new set of engineering procedures that are not regulated. It is, in essence, the “cleaning up the world’s oceans” counterpart of the GM argument.
After the controversy became public, Ecover stopped testing algae oil, and ethical consumers said that no commercial products were ever made from it. With Ecover, we are protected from GMOs in terms of ingredients.
But in the press release that came after the trials were put on hold, Ecover said, “Any claims that we use synthetic biology are false,” even though it was completely true.
As well as making a number of other questionable claims regarding the ethics of Brazilian sugar and coconut oil, the regulation of synthetic organisms, and the company’s openness.
And in general, they are not the finest alternative available.
Is It Ethical?
When we looked at Ecover and its parent company, SC Johnson, we found a number of ethical problems.
Because of this, our grading system has penalized the company in a number of areas, such as pollution and toxins, human rights, supply chain management, animal testing, anti-social finance, and political actions.
Ecover receives praise for its political contributions from its parent firm.
When Ethical Consumer went to the Open Secrets website in January 2019, they found out that SC Johnson & Son Inc gave $440,732 to political causes during the 2017-2018 election cycle.
Both the Republican and Democratic parties got money, but a large majority went to the Republican party.
Because of this, Ethical Consumers gave the company the lowest rating for political activity and took away a full point in that category.
Welfare Of Animals
SC Johnson continues to test on animals.
The Naturewatch Foundation is now asking Ecover and Method to use their new influence with SC Johnson to get the company to stop testing all of its products on animals.
Naturewatch wants people to stop buying all SC Johnson products, like Ecover and Method, until the company as a whole stops using animals for testing.
Rights Of Labor
Ecover previously did not get any deductions for human rights violations. However, SC Johnson has companies operating in repressive countries.
China, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam were included. Consequently, SC Johnson and Ecover forfeited a half point for human rights.
Overall, Ecover got a “middle” score from Ethical Consumer for pollution and toxins because it has stopped using triclosan and phthalates in its products but has kept using parabens in some of them.
However, parent firm SC Johnson continued to utilize all three types of chemicals in a number of its other brands.
Difficulties With The Parent Firm
For more than two decades, Ethical Consumer has ranked some of the largest brands according to their ethical credentials.
SC Johnson has always been near the bottom of the list when it comes to ethics and the environment, getting some of our lowest scores in a number of different categories.
SC Johnson fails to function fairly in nearly every aspect that an ethical consumer could consider important.
SC Johnson conducts animal testing on certain of its products and chemicals. Its corporate statements are not clear about the scope of these tests and are full of vague phrases like “we look forward to the day when animal testing is no longer necessary.”
With its enormous impact in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and home cleaning industries, SC Johnson arguably has the ability to bring about this day. However, SC Johnson continues to conduct animal testing.
Tax evasion – SC Johnson is likely to employ tax avoidance methods, as it has six high-risk holding entities.
Pollution and poisons – Many SC Johnson goods include harmful compounds, including:
Phthalates – which have been related to early puberty in girls and are a breast cancer risk factor in later life.
Parabens – are associated with hormone disruption, reproductive, immunological, and neurotoxicity, as well as skin irritation.
Triclosan – affects the endocrine system and is bad for aquatic animals in the long run. It may also help bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.
Environmental impact – SC Johnson fails to report any environmental impact reduction goals. There are no laws regarding the use of microplastics or non-biodegradable liquid polymers, yet sodium polyacrylate is listed as an ingredient.
Russia and Saudi Arabia are two examples of countries where the history of human rights is not clear.
Even though the algae oil controversy seems to be over, Ecover’s track record of being open about finances and product development makes me doubtful.
I can’t help but think that if a company says it cares about the environment and acts ethically, there should be more transparency. I want to know, especially if you are wealthy, that you pay your taxes.
I wonder if Ecover and Method could be viewed as greenwashers who put more emphasis on maintaining their image than on their ethical standards or environmental impact (or the people who claimed that ethics may be compromised if you don’t pay taxes).