The Greenwash Brigade

99% natural and 42% market share, GreenWorks flexes its muscle

Heidi Siegelbaum Jan 23, 2009

Greenworks ™ cleaning products have now captured a robust 42% of the consumer cleaning products market despite consternation over Clorox’s takeover of Burt’s Bees and the introduction of this product line alongside the company’s traditional products. Clorox is associating itself with progressive causes and organizations and it has a winner of a product — but it has a long way to go.

It’s hard to be upset about this story, albeit the cause marketing aspect, in which the Sierra Club logo now appears on this product line, gifting the non-profit over $470,000 from eight months of sales and which caused widespread ire within its ranks. In fact, it even led to a can of whoop–s delivered to its now defunct Florida Chapter whose ire was just too much for the Sierra Club to endure for this much money. The chapter is poof… gone.

This is an encouraging product line development story: big cozy, recognizable name with market credibility (not sure if I get the fuzzies), partners with sexy recognizable non-profit to develop environmentally-preferable cleaning products for a reasonable price. Who could argue with this? Some detractors may find fault with:

  • Clorox slow to come to sustainability table (well, wait your place in line?);
  • Clorox still carries a stable of products made from petroleum based synthetic products with no labeling;
  • Clorox is working to create its own “natural” definition in the vacuum created by Federal regulators’ failure to create one first; and
  • Through its affiliation with the American Chemistry Council, Clorox may be (though I’m not sure) thwarting efforts at credible US federal chemical policy reform.

The company insinuated that other green cleaning products were not efficacious and claimed the Greenworks products were “the only natural cleaning products that have been proven to clean as well as conventional cleaners on most soils.” Well, you know the litigation guy came-a-knockin’ on that one and Clorox lost on that unsupported claim which it had to withdraw.

I think we hate big — we want to root for the small guy and we want to see the whole company risen to meet the standards of newly introduced green products. For better or worse, Clorox then introduced another EPA Design for Environment (DfE) product, its biodegradable cleaning wipes.

Just get a rag and wash it rather than contributing to our national fiesta of waste. The last time I saw a landfilled product claim biodegradation, the generally reticent Federal Trade Commission walloped the makers of Glad bags for making that claim under its so-called Green Guide. You will just have to decide what kind of product — and company — you want to vote your dollars with.

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