Saskia Van Gendt, Method’s Senior Director of Greenskeeping, certainly exudes energy. The type of energy you’d desire from one tasked with spearheading monumental change and being the face of all things hopeful for your company. What’s more, that energy is inherently honest and derived from her core; a mirror image of that which Method, stands for — integrity inside, outside and all along the chain.
For those attending SB’19 Detroit this June, you’ll want to add Van Gendt’s panel to your conference agenda. You may want to personally connect with her because she’ll have you inspired in minutes. How does she stay so positive facing the globally unsustainable manufacturing processes at large today? She says it’s through science; that at Method, “the direction of sustainability is based on the right thing from a scientific perspective, not a whim.” With a solid backing of data, this framework of decision making is a cornerstone of what can become an emotional issue.
When asked how she keeps that faith for her colleagues, her sense of awe and pride shine through. “Feeling that your ideas and vision are actually things we can do, and the company has the appetite to innovate,” are the driving motivations for her perpetual optimism.
Method has not-so-quietly been optimistically championing a better way to do things since 2001. At times, their better way (be it packaging design, recycled content, etc.) has been criticized as potentially detrimental to their bottom line. However, this proud B Corporation is steadfastly committed to innovation and exploration. The brand is equally committed to advocating their new business model. Their Soapbox facility in the Pullman District of Chicago prioritizes local hiring and has an open door policy — even to competition. According to Van Gendt, sharing their approach to sustainable manufacturing goes beyond the bottle. Giving tours is just one way Method proves that what they do, and how they do it, works.
Being recognized for proving the profitable path through purpose, and redefining what good business is has made Method a leader among socially and environmentally driven businesses. Van Gendt notes the accomplishments of Method proudly, but also appreciates competitors and peers in the space. She finds motivation in the accomplishments of others; that competition helps drive and refine corporate culture, allowing Method to redefining what it means to be a leader.
I truly feel that there is, more than ever, a responsibility around plastic packaging for consumer brands. We can’t ignore that other brands and foundations have really stepped up, and we applaud them.
Where Van Gendt really sees Methods’ advantage, however, is in their B Corp standing. While large corporations have institutional inertia hindering responsiveness, Method’s size and organizational approach keep them nimble. This allows for innovations in both product and business. Innovations directly correlating to corporate initiatives and values are inherent in every step of production, providing Method credibility with consumers few others have.
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Consumers are looking for leadership transparency. They have more skepticism around messaging, and being a B Corp is a great way to evaluate if a brand is doing what it says it’s doing.
Van Gendt believes that industries have not yet seen the potential of B Corp status and can’t wait to see B Corps become more pervasive and the new norm. Where there was previously hesitation on the brands part, Van Gendt now sees willingness. Brands seeking leadership positions within their communities are taking notice of established corporations and wholly owned subsidiaries being certified. Seeing respected names use the framework has shifted the conversation with over 2,000 companies globally now with B Corp standing. Method and Van Gendt will continue to be outspoken as to the value gained.
By using our B Corp standing as a platform, we continue to be honored among the best of the best.
Being the best of the best, for Method, means fostering internal employee pride and external education as part of the mission. Van Gendt sees this especially with their Soapbox manufacturing plant. Method chooses to create solutions that inspire optimism, ones that can be replicated in other manufacturing industries and empowers their workforce to be part of those solutions.
“Our employees take pride in their jobs because they can go to their local Target and see the tangible effects of their work; that’s really rewarding,” Van Gendt says, and she’s right.
Employees at the Pullman location know every ingredient in the products they make. They have a voice to help identify efficiencies, are encouraged to collaborate on the processes. As they learn about the Method business, employees become ambassadors into schools and the Chicago community.
Saskia Van Gendt knows that the work is never really done. Constant vigilance is required to be a steward for the environment, the Method company, their employees, and their consumers. She is in it for the long term and noted, “We look at innovations that will benefit us, maybe ten years down the road. Partnerships are how we test innovation, and we need to collaborate on new materials and processes.” Again, because ‘green’ isn’t just the ingredients within the bottle, but within the entire construct of the corporation.
As an optimist, I have to hope that it is real change.
Meet Saskia Van Gendt and courageous optimists like her at SB’19 Detroit this June 3-6.
A long time “person against dirty”, Saskia is a Senior Director of Greenskeeping for Method. Filled with fearless thinkers, mad scientists and adventurous designers, method believes in defying the status quo with innovation and optimism. As a Greenskeeper, Saskia defines the company’s strategy for benefiting people and the planet. She has implemented sustainability initiatives on the ground for the European business and at the South Side Soapbox – Method’s LEED-Platinum soap factory in Chicago. Working with technical experts in packaging, formulation, supply chain and manufacturing, she guides the business to be a force for good.