GOJO: How we pioneered our chemical footprint reduction target

Safe chemistry always has been a core business driver for GOJO, inventors of Purell hand sanitizer. This dates back to World War II, when co-founders Goldie and Jerry Lippman developed a safer, more effective hand cleaner as an alternative to the harsh, carcinogenic chemicals Goldie and her co-workers used to remove the carbon and tar from their skin while working at a rubber factory in Akron, Ohio.

Since its founding in 1946, GOJO has developed industry-leading hygiene solutions for use in hospitals, schools and professional settings, including hand sanitizers, soaps, wipes, skin lotions, surface disinfectant, dispensing products and electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring systems.

Sustainable chemistry progress starts with policy

The company established a sustainable chemistry and packaging policy in 2013 to guide material selection in ways that would elevate the sustainability profile of its core products. Today, over 34 percent of its global sales are from products with third-party ecolabels.

GOJO learned about the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) in 2014 during a meeting at its headquarters in Akron, Ohio, when a customer presented the concept to its leadership team, expressed the value of the project for his organization and requested GOJO's participation.

The CFP was created to benchmark and promote corporate chemicals management. Chemical footprinting is the process of assessing progress toward the use of safer chemicals and away from chemicals of high concern to human health or the environment. A chemical footprint provides a benchmark to document the actions an organization takes to advance the use of safer chemicals in its products and manufacturing operations.

The CFP assessment survey is completed through a web-based form. The survey offers a consistent metric for evaluating and communicating corporate chemical management performance. It includes 20 questions that evaluate this performance by considering four areas: management strategy; chemical inventory; footprint measurement; and public disclosure and verification.

An early opportunity to lead and learn

GOJO became an early CFP adopter during a pilot assessment survey with a small group of companies in 2014. As a result, it was among the first organizations to provide feedback. GOJO saw the CFP pilot as an opportunity to help shape a system that provided a useful framework with a consistent metric to guide the industry toward better chemicals management.

While evaluating the survey, the GOJO pilot team discovered that the four CFP components embodied shared ideals with the company’s sustainable chemistry policy. For example, GOJO commits to avoiding ingredients known to be harmful to humans and the environment and to assess health and environmental impacts by disclosing ingredient information. This reflects the CFP survey’s sections on management strategy and public disclosure.

Business and stakeholder value

When the CFP formally launched in 2015, GOJO chose to again participate based on the value and learning experienced from the pilot process. The CFP guided the implementation of the GOJO sustainable chemistry policy by helping team members define and prioritize ingredients to avoid and target for elimination or substitution.

GOJO also viewed participation as an opportunity to create new stakeholder value, as sustainable chemistry was identified as a top material topic in the company’s 2015 materiality assessment. The CFP led GOJO beyond its previous project-by-project approach for addressing chemicals of concern to a whole-systems approach that elevated the safety profile of its entire portfolio. Today, participation in the CFP is its key approach for advancing sustainable chemistry. 

Additionally, participating in the Chemical Footprint Project has led to increased engagement with stakeholders throughout the company, across functions and with customers, suppliers and leading third-party advocates for safer chemistry. 

The conversation topics range from the changing paradigms of risk-based approaches compared to hazard-based evaluations, to the importance of protecting vulnerable populations, to data- vs. perception-driven assessments of risk.

GOJO advances public chemical footprint reduction goal

Perhaps the most significant outcome is reflected in the organization’s first of its kind goal to reduce its chemical footprint by 50 percent by 2020. The company has made significant progress since announcing the goal at the 2015 BizNGO Chemical Footprinting Conference. 

It expects to achieve a 40 percent chemical footprint reduction by the end of 2018 and a 50 percent reduction by 2020.

GOJO began phasing out Triclosan as part of the implementation of its sustainable chemistry policy, even prior to learning about CFP. Post CFP participation, the company has implemented additional projects to dramatically reduce chemicals in existing products, including parabens and titanium dioxide.

It also avoids using these materials in new products. CFP reduction priorities are determined by multiple factors including hazard, functional value of the material to the formulation and evolving customer preferences.

Long term success takes a team

As a first step, GOJO developed a cross-functional team comprised of members from product safety, regulatory affairs, product development and marketing to focus on its chemical footprint reduction target. This team applied the CFP definition of chemicals of high concern to establish a baseline chemical footprint by number and mass of chemicals.

With a focus on long-term success, the team developed criteria and a process to evaluate and prioritize ingredients for reduction or substitution. The process guided team member thinking and decisions regarding the selection of specific categories of chemicals, such as colorants, preservatives and surfactants.

Being an early CFP adopter has been an immensely valuable learning experience for GOJO and provided new knowledge and tools to achieve concrete results. We are looking for other companies to join in establishing ambitious chemical footprint reduction goals.

GOJO will offer a breakout session at the GreenBiz 2017 event Feb. 14-16 in PhoenixLeveraging 360 Degree Stakeholder Engagement to Drive Win-Win Opportunities.