Sc Johnson's Greenlist: Health, Ecology, Profits

5 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017

See all articles by Andrea Larson

Andrea Larson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Geoffrey Archer

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


This minicase is one of 10 in a set of short cases written to illustrate the business benefits companies realize through adopting sustainable business strategies. SC Johnson developed its GreenList to screen chemicals and avoid incorporating hazardous and toxic materials into its household cleaning product lines. This minicase discusses the list and how the company has benefited in the marketplace by being out front with a solutions-oriented approach.





In 2001, SC Johnson launched Greenlist™, a screening system that identified the environmental and health characteristics of 90% of the chemicals in the company's products. Greenlist resulted in environmentally preferable reformulations that preserved or enhanced product effectiveness with no increase in cost. By 2006, Greenlist had decreased the environmental footprint of SC Johnson's products by more than 25%, without increasing costs, and in the case of Windex® Blue Glass Cleaner, increased revenue and market share. (“Footprint assessments” measure a company's resource use and environmental and health impacts.) Greenlist provided a visible and practical tool consistent with the company's long-standing integration of sustainability concerns (health, ecology, community) into corporate strategy. In mature markets, with commodity products and continual cost pressures, Greenlist was designed to help protect the company's brand names, differentiate products, and improve product performance. With a patent on the Greenlist process granted in 2005, and given SC Johnson's industry status as a major player in its product categories (including household cleaning, air fresheners, toiletries, and food storage), Greenlist became a strategic play.

Company Background and Category Killers

Dominant consumer-packaged goods (CPG) are called “category killers” and often define the entire product category with their distinct brand name. For example, it is hard to imagine a child asking for a “sandwich creme cookie” instead of an OREO® (Nabisco). Trying to repress a sneeze, would you ask for a “facial tissue” or a Kleenex® (Kimberly-Clark)? Do you want “chlorine-free bleach” or Clorox®? In some parts of the United States, any kind of cola is commonly called a coke, regardless of Coca-Cola® and Coke's® registered trademarks.

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Keywords: Innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainable business, sustainability, triple bottom line, natural environment, environmental, ecology, ecological, strategy, implementation, financial returns

Suggested Citation

Larson, Andrea and Archer, Geoffrey, Sc Johnson's Greenlist: Health, Ecology, Profits. Darden Case No. UVA-ENT-0086, 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


Geoffrey Archer

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

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

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