Ecover and Method are some of the latest ethical and sustainable brands to sell out to big organisations with conflicting standards. The sale is a big win for SC Johnson. It gets to cash in on the growing community of consumers who want to spend their hard-earned money on brands that are non-polluting, cruelty-free and sustainable.
But the consumer? They’re left funding a parent organisation that tests on animals, avoids tax, releases harmful toxins into the environment and operates in oppressive regimes.
Tim Hunt from Ethical Consumer Magazine explains the reasons behind the Ecover and Method boycott and asks consumers to pressure the brands to change SC Johnson from within.
The secrets lurking behind the ‘ethical’ brands
Ecover and Method traditionally have a lot of good going for them. They are cruelty-free, carry the Leaping Bunny mark and contain plant-based and biodegradable ingredients. This is all great news for consumers looking for a greener clean. But it was even better news for SC Johnson as they moved into the ethically conscious market.
In December 2017, SC Johnson took over Ecover and Method. They moved into a ready-made market without having to change their business model or live up to the sustainable and ethical promises made by these brands elsewhere in their business. Unsurprisingly, Ecover and Method have been keen to keep this relationship on the down-low. There is no mention of the parent brand on the Ecover website and only one small mention in an FAQ on the Method UK site.
So, what’s the problem with SC Johnson?
For over 20 years, Ethical Consumer has been monitoring some of the biggest brands and ranking them according to their ethical credentials. SC Johnson has frequently ranked at the very bottom of the list when it comes to ethics and sustainability, achieving some of our worst ratings for many categories. In fact, both Ecover and Method dropped from scores of 11.5 and 12 out of 20, respectively, before the buyout to scores of 3.5 now.
SC Johnson fails to operate fairly in nearly every category that an ethically-minded consumer might be concerned about:
- Animal testing – SC Johnson tests some of its products and ingredients on animals. Its corporate statements are unclear about the extent of this testing and are full of vague rhetoric such as “we look forward to a day when there’s no more animal testing.” Arguably, SC Johnson has the power to make this day come, with its huge influence in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and household cleaning sectors. Yet, SC Johnson continues to test on animals.
- Environmental impact – SC Johnson fails to report any targets for reducing its environmental impact. It has no policies on the use of microplastics or non-biodegradable liquid polymers and lists the non-biodegradable liquid polymer sodium polyacrylate as an ingredient.
- Pollution and toxins – toxic chemicals are used in many of SC Johnson’s products, including:
- Parabens – which are linked to hormone disruption, reproductive, immuno- and neurotoxicity and skin irritation.
- Phthalates – which are linked to early puberty in girls and are a risk factor for later-life breast cancer.
- Triclosan – which affects the hormone system, has long-term, toxic effects on aquatic organisms and may contribute to antimicrobial resistance.
- Tax avoidance – SC Johnson is likely to use tax avoidance strategies, operating six holding companies that are classified as high-risk types.
- Operations in oppressive regimes – the company operates in locations with dubious human rights records, including Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Time to take action
Ecover and Method have a responsibility to be more transparent about their relationship with SC Johnson. Until then, more customers will faithfully invest in a brand claiming high ethical and environmental standards only to be funding the unethical activity of SC Johnson.
Naturewatch launched a campaign in April 2018 asking consumers to boycott Method and Ecover products until SC Johnson is cruelty-free. Ecover and Method have the means to influence SC Johnson from within to campaign for greener, fairer and cruelty-free practices.
How can you help?
Simply take action with Naturewatch:
- Go to your independent health or ethical store and ask them to replace Ecover and Method products with other cruelty-free alternatives.
- Get in touch with Ecover and Method and request that they come clean about their relationship with SC Johnson. Reach Ecover by Twitter and Facebook or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach Method by Twitter and Facebook or by email at email@example.com.
- Keep campaigning until SC Johnson is cruelty-free.
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