Trust. It can sound a lot like a buzzword or business jargon. A word or phrase thrown around by leaders when trying to identify, define or solve a problem. Sometimes it’s not even a consideration until it’s lost.
According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer study, only about half of the general population trusts business, government, media and nongovernmental organizations to do the right thing. Trust in business fell to 52 percent, and CEO credibility also fell globally.
In short, no one knows who to trust. For a business, this translates to moms and dads not knowing what brands they can trust to bring into their homes. That’s why at SC Johnson, we believe we must be transparent— transparent about our ingredients, our environmental initiatives, and our supply chain. Transparency is a critical way for us to earn trust. We strongly believe it’s the right thing to do, and hope other companies share this core belief.
Throughout our company’s history, SC Johnson has undertaken several initiatives to increase our level of transparency. One example is our ingredient disclosure program. Back in 2009, SC Johnson made an industry-leading decision to voluntarily disclose all ingredients – including dyes, preservatives and fragrance ingredients – online at WhatsInsideSCJohnson.com and by phone. We started with the U.S. and Canada, and have since expanded the program to the EU and Asia, with Latin America to follow next year. Today, our ingredient website offers information on more than 5,300 products in 34 languages sold by SC Johnson in 52 countries worldwide and serves more than 5 billion consumers.
We also understand this amount of information can be overwhelming to a consumer. How can you build trust if your consumers aren’t a part of your conversation? We approach that by initiating a dialogue about transparency. That includes being open about the ingredients we choose, where and how we use them, and the science behind the selection. Every ingredient in every SC Johnson product goes through our rigorous Greenlist™ program, launched in 2001, which includes four-step ingredient selection process that combines hazard and risk to ensure safety and continuous improvement.
In 2012, we shared our Exclusive Fragrance Palette, being the first company to provide a complete list of approved fragrance ingredients for our products. We also published a list of “not-allowable” ingredients. Earlier this year, we disclosed a list of 368 skin allergens that may occur in our products.
In 2016, we launched Glade® Fresh Citrus Blossoms, the first line from a consumer packaged goods company to disclose 100% of fragrance ingredients down to the component level. We also take part in an honest discussion rooted in scientific fact through forums such as this one, and are committed to tackling myths and misinformation so families can make informed choices in the products they’re buying.
We’ve been pleased to see other companies in our industry ramping up their efforts to build their ingredient transparency programs. We strongly believe this type of honesty and transparency can move the needle on trust and reverse the decline we’re seeing. But we can’t stop with what’s minimally required.
We must take consumer’s concerns seriously. We need to go beyond mere compliance with government regulations and build trust with our consumers through greater transparency. I will be leading an interactive discussion at this year’s Sustainable Brands conference in Copenhagen on the opportunities and challenges for leadership in transparency. I hope to see you there at SB’17 Copenhagen, where you can learn more about how transparency can improve trust with consumers.
Kelly M. Semrau
Senior Vice President – Global Corporate Affairs, Communication & Sustainability
October 26, 2017