The pandemic sparked many of us to become intimately involved with our cleaning supplies. It also led to a 241% surge in sales growth of plant-based versus synthetic cleaning supplies, as per Statista.
We were not always so interested in our environment. While the natural cleaning products market boomed in the early 2000s thanks to new introductions by Clorox and Windex, sales fell flat a decade later due to the increased price point.
However, there were star brands who brought more to the table. Newcomers, like Method, introduced higher end design to an environmentally-driven product. The brand became so successful at Target that it garnered an eye-catching presence in each segment it entered. In 2017, Method was purchased by SC Johnson. This was almost a decade after Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day had been purchased. Seventh Generation, which touted sustainability early on before it was a buzzword, was purchased by Unilever in 2016 for an estimated $700 million. A consumer study conducted a year later found that a third of shoppers globally prefer sustainable brands.
Fast forward to 2019, just prior to the pandemic, 41% of consumers were most concerned about the safety of the ingredients in the cleaning products they were using, according to Statista. Accuracy and familiarity with the claims and ingredients were the #2 and #3 attributes of interest. Eco-friendly was #4. Then, the pandemic struck, and we all sought products that would kill 99.99% of viruses and bacteria. We all became better acquainted with our cleaning products and demanded more.
Products are not always as environmentally-friendly – or even as effective -- as one might think. Here are a few callouts:
Green – This is a rather broad term used to refer to products that have less of an effect on human health and the environment than conventional products. However, there is no true standard.
Nontoxic – Usually this means that a product is not made with potentially toxic chemicals. However, much like the word “natural”, this is not regulated by the government.
In fact, the plethora of “green” products in the cleaning category has sparked watchdog groups to release databases for consumers to check their products. To ensure your products are all that they claim to be, it's best to check one of the sites mentioned below.
The Environmental Protection Agency offers a downloadable spreadsheet of Safer Choice-certified products.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on research and advocacy focused on environmental health, provides its list of top products along with a label decoder.
But do eco-products clean? According to Tom Welton, professor of sustainable chemistry at Imperial College London, there are two fallacies that need to be addressed:
Sometimes the basics are better plus being environmentally-friendly. Soap, for example, is enough to battle germs from the coronavirus on hands and dishes. Shifting to hard surfaces, consumers may need to add bleach to their cleaning mixture. Several DTC brands are making this simplistic approach even easier for consumers.
Podsy offers a line of eco-cleaning concentrate sachets which can be used in their reusable containers. No more empty bottles or water (as an ingredient) being shipped across the country.
Force of Nature takes it several steps further. The company uses electricity to convert water, salt and vinegar into a cleaning agent. Unlike other perceived natural cleaners, it touts that it is free of preservatives, skin irritants and respiratory irritants.
Ecos uses the cleaning power of plant-derived ingredients, like orange oil and parsley, to power their products. Not just the brand is eco-conscious, the company is carbon neutral, water neutral and zero waste.
In the end, there may be a bit of trial and error as consumers strive to both save the environment for future generations, while keeping the current one safe from germs.
Annette is skilled at identifying growth opportunities and successfully guiding products from concept to launch. At Compass, she advises leading brands and category disruptors in the health & wellness, personal care and digital health sectors.See All Works
How to achieve real growth and transformation with a focus on sustainability