Diversey, Inc. is one of the world's largest providers of industrial cleaning, sanitation and hygiene products. The company, formerly known as JohnsonDiversey, generates approximately $3.1 Billion in revenue and operates in 175 countries. (Diversey is a combination of the former Johnson Wax Professional business, once part of S.C. Johnson & Son, and DiverseyLever, formerly owned by Unilever.) The company's stated purpose is to "protect lives, preserve the environment and transform the industry."
Greenbiz.com's Heather King talks to President & CEO Ed Lonergan about the Johnson family legacy of sustainability, innovations that save water, energy and labor, and how his team has reinvented his first summer job: waxing grocery store floors.
Heather King: A recent P&G sponsored IPSOS report on the industrial cleaning market indicates that there is not yet strong customer interest in sustainability. What exactly is driving Diversey's commitment to develop "environmentally sound products?"
Ed Lonergan: Our Johnson family heritage is a key driver to our sustainability commitment. In 1935, H.F. Johnson, the company's second generation President and CEO, recognized the importance of sustainable resources to his business. Back then, the company did not have a lasting supply of carnauba wax, a key ingredient in its floor finishing products, so he created one in Brazil. Before he started extracting the wax, he developed a sustainable process for capturing it as well as the infrastructure to ensure the longstanding viability of the adjacent community -- including schools, medical facilities, and agriculture. Diversey is a product of that heritage.
Today, we actively choose to build on that legacy. Corporations can't ignore the realities of social, environmental, and economic shifts. We have to find a way to integrate sustainability into our business.
I'm not sure I agree with the IPSOS report. Although it fits with our understanding of the market, I learned from my years in the consumer goods business that one way retailers can win is to know what customers want before customers know they want it. I believe sustainability is one of those trends. If we can find ways to make our products more sustainable, and deliver the same or better value in the process, then customers will get on board.
HK: How is innovation playing into Diversey's sustainability strategy?
EL: As I talk to peers around the world, it's interesting to see where sustainability fits into various corporate cultures. At Diversey, it is who we are, and so, divorcing sustainable innovation from the broad innovation of the company is virtually impossible.
Since I've joined, we have stepped up our industry research. We are using deep market insights as fuel for our innovations. Some of our key questions in evaluating these innovations are:
Does it impact the amount of water used in the process of cleaning? Does it impact the amount of energy used? Does it change the amount of labor required? Does it change the effluence stream from the facility that uses that product? Does it transform the industry?
If the answers to these questions are "yes", then the innovation has a good shot of coming to life. I can't think of an innovation in the last four years that didn't improve sustainability in one way or another.