SC Johnson has reached an agreement on two lawsuits regarding use of its Greenlist logo on U.S. Windex products. The company will stop using the logo in its current form on Windex products, and the parties have agreed to an undisclosed settlement.
"We decided to settle for two reasons. First, while we believed we had a strong legal case, in retrospect we could have been more transparent about what the logo signified," says SC Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson. "Second, and very importantly, Greenlist is such a fundamentally sound and excellent process we use to green our products, that we didn't want consumers to be confused about it due to a logo on one product."
The suits were brought in federal court by Wayne Koh in California and by Howard Petlack in Wisconsin. SC Johnson's use of the Greenlist logo was intended to signify that the Windex products had achieved the highest internal ratings according to the company's patented Greenlist process. However, the plaintiffs said it was not clear Greenlist was an internally developed process rather than that of a third party and that the logo implied the products included environmentally friendly ingredients.
SC Johnson says that the Greenlist label met all applicable standards and regulations, and the company's intention was in no way to mislead consumers. Additionally, while the company disagreed with the plaintiffs' claim about the impression created by the logo, the Windex products did in fact meet the company's highest internal standards and the product ingredients are not harmful to the environment.
SC Johnson's Greenlist process is an internally developed environmental classification system used to help green the company's chemistry. The manufacturer says the process has received numerous external recognitions, including the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2006. In the Greenlist process, ingredients are rated according to their impact on the environment and human health. Using this information, company scientists work to select ingredients with better or best ratings when developing new products. When reformulating existing products, they must contain ingredients with equal or better ratings than the original formula.
"While companies always try to ensure labels are clear and understandable, different interpretations can arise," notes Kelly M. Semrau, Senior vp of global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability at SC Johnson. "We want to simply learn from the experience and move on."
SC Johnson plants to continue to use the Greenlist process in product development. The company says that the process has helped SC Johnson make numerous advances including reformulating to cut nearly 48 million pounds of VOCs from SC Johnson products in the last five years alone. Other benefits reported by SC Johnson since the Greenlist implementation in 2001, include reformulating Windex glass cleaner to remove 1.8 million pounds of VOCs while increasing cleaning power; using compressed air as a repellent in various products thus reducing their VOC content, e.g., in European Pledge aerosols, this reduced VOCs by more than 25 percent and eliminating the use of PVC and chlorine-bleached paperboard in packaging worldwide.