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Categories: transparency

This post is about transparency. It’s based on an article in a special edition of Scientific American.  For full disclosure, we should notice that this special edition is produced by Scientific American Custom Media, produced for SC Johnson, the article’s subject.  By telling you this, I want to be transparent about the transparency about which I’m writing.

Here are some of the highlights from an article called “The Deepest Family Trust”:

I’ll key in on a few points which will be of interest to project managers.

The Greenlist™process (and program)

Going back to 2001, SC Johnson developed and instituted Greenlist, which evaluates ingredients on environmental and human impact.  The four steps are shown below.

The Greenlist process may look familiar to those of us in product development – a sort of gate process for release of hardware or software products, in which the criteria are not feature and functionality focused but rather ‘impact’ focused.

The Greenlist program has yielded results.  See the chart below for an illustration.

It’s a risk assessment on an ingredient level, which results in elimination if an ingredient doesn’t meet standards on effects on human health and environment.  SC Johnson intends to publish the scientific criteria behind the Greenlist program.  The process looks to be a good benchmark for others to follow, however, in the name of transparency, here is an alternate view.

Regardless of your view, it is clear (excuse the pun) that SC Johnson has put significant effort and has the “right” idea.  From the section of the article which contained an interview with CEO Fisk Johnson, he says:

“It was not a small task.  There were tens of thousands of raw materials and components, and countless ways to classify and rate them, so we had to figure out how to simplify and systemize the approach.  The biggest challenge by far was one of internal resistance. People were concerned it would increase costs or reduce efficacy of our products and put us at a competitive disadvantage.  That certainly ended up being the case in certain instances, like when we eliminated some of the insecticides in our bug killers.  But, because it was so important to make those changes, we accepted those costs or changes efficacy.

What’s Inside

SCJohnson is indeed focused on ingredients. In addition to the Greenlist program which helps determine what goes in to the products, you as a consumer can find out what’s in the products – and what each ingredient does.

Visit to look up a product for detailed ingredient information.  Since Windex® is a product used to clean glass and make it more transparent, we chose it as an example to illustrate the website for you, and focus on one ingredient - Lauryl dimethyl amine oxide.

Lauryl dimethyl amine oxide is a cleaning agent, or "surfactant," that can also be found in a variety of products including shampoos and dishwashing detergents. We use it in our products to remove dirt and deposits by surrounding dirt particles to loosen them from the surface they're attached to, so they can be rinsed away.

Are your projects transparent?  More importantly, are the products of your projects focused on ‘trustworthiness’?  And, probably most importantly, is your organization’s culture such that it promotes this form of transparency in its portfolio of projects?  Do you have parity with this level of clarity? The SC Johnson story can be a trigger or inspiration.


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: August 06, 2017 07:38 PM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Interesting and informative article. Thank you for sharing.

Thanks for sharing.

Informative. Thanks for sharing

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