Method: Entrepreneurial Innovation, Health, Environment, and Sustainable Business Design

7 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by Andrea Larson

Andrea Larson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


With Method standing at number seven on Inc. magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in 2006, cofounder Adam Lowry is searching for a biodegradable cleaning cloth to expand Method's line of “green” household products. Sustainable design principles have been a guiding force in Method's strategy, and being biofriendly is critical. So is sourcing in the United States. But only China can manufacture the corn-based cloth Lowry has in mind, and there is no way to certify that the product is free of genetically modified organisms. Lowry has to balance his firm's fundamental commitment to environmental sustainability against the fact that some retailers refuse to carry products containing GMOs.




It was spring 2007, and Method cofounder Adam Lowry sat deep in thought over enchiladas at Mercedes, a restaurant a block from his company's office on Commercial Street in San Francisco. He began to sketch out ideas on a piece of paper to sort through the issues troubling him. As a company known for environmentally healthy household products with designer brand appeal, Method was eager to develop a biodegradable cleaning cloth. Sourcing polylactic acid (PLA) cloth from China had not been in his plans, but every U.S. PLA manufacturer Lowry had talked to told him it was impossible for them to create the dry floor dusting cloth he wanted. And then there was the genetic modification issue. U.S. PLA producers did not screen their corn plant feedstock to determine whether it came from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In any case, however, weren't any biobased and biodegradable materials a better alternative than oil-based polyester, the material used by the competition? Yet certain major retailers were unwilling to stock products that weren't certifiably GMO-free. It was hard enough to manage a fast-growing new company, but why were there some people who seemed willing to stop progress while they held out for perfection on the environmental front? The naysayers made him have to think carefully about what it meant to be true to the environmental philosophy that formed the backbone of his business. He had often said that Method's business was to change the way business was conducted. But where did you draw the line?

. . .

Keywords: entrepreneurship, innovation, environmental sustainability, strategy, branding, green chemistry

Suggested Citation

Larson, Andrea, Method: Entrepreneurial Innovation, Health, Environment, and Sustainable Business Design. Darden Case No. UVA-ENT-0099, Available at SSRN:

Andrea Larson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States


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