Bill Morrissey VP Environmental Sustainability, Clorox Corporation

The first surprise for me here is how many brands Clorox owns: STP, Armor All, BRITA, Glad bags, Hidden Valley Dressings, (on their brand heirarchy chart, Hidden Valley was sandwiched in between Kingsford Charcoal and Scoop Away Cat litter. Yum.), and one example of a recent brand absorption that disappointed my eco-entrepreneurial heart: Burts Bees.

Like Dow, Clorox is leveraging Sustainability for growth. Their 2007 Clorox Eco Demand study showed the following breakdowns of groups:
Eco Committed 15%
Deep greens – 15 – 30%
Consumers open to environmental information and products: Another 25 – 35%

One of the most interesting distinctions to me was the distinction between ‘My’ environment vs. ‘The’ environment. To be successful, a brand should have benefits on both sides.

‘My Environment’ they broke down into three further categories: ‘In me, On me, and Around me’ Mr. Morrissey then brought forward a brand example for each category.

In me: BRITA
The killer stat: 60 million water bottles are thrown away EVERY DAY in the US – only 14% are recycled. This led to the brand positioning ‘Drink Responsibly’, showing a BRITA filter refilling a plastic water bottle (pre BPA, presumably). Check out the web site at

On me – Burts Bees
This company started in 1984 in Maine, when Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz teamed up selling candles made from the beeswax created as a by-product of Burt’s honey business. They were receltly bought by Clorox for 5x sales – (a huge premium in the corporate takeover world)

Burts Bees Print AdTo their credit, Mr. Morrissey said Clorox’s first priority was “Not to screw the brand up.” Their new ads focus directly on ingredients, which are 99% natural.

How do you get all the youthful without all the yuck? (Beeswax vs. Petrolatum)
And, for kids’ products: How do you get all the snuggly without the scary? (Buttermilk vs. Parabins)

Interestingly, Clorox bought Burts Bees for the financial opportunity. But as Morrissey observes, “We ended up with an environmental exemplar that Clorox can learn from.”

An addendum: Burt, now a multi millionaire, remained in Maine, living in a cabin, tending his bees. He’s my hero.

Around me – GreenWorks
Wanting to be “on the right side of the sustainability business in their core business of cleaners”, Clorox launched their first new brand in 20 years, with GreenWorks. According to Morrissey it’s the first natural cleaner with national distribution and brand building, that is biodegradable, ‘minimally’ toxic, has no animal testing, shows full ingredient transparency, boasts recyclable packaging and is 99% Natural,

The key is that the products need to perform as well as or better than the LEADERS in their respective categories. Product launch was actually delayed twice until GreenWorks met this criteria. The brand positioning speaks to this advantage directly: Powerful Cleaning Done Naturally

As they have entered the marketplace, year one projections have been revised up to 4x higher due to the products’ success.

One attendee asked Morrissey why Clorox didn’t just re-formulate their existing cleaning suite rather than creating an altogether new brand. He responded that it was a strategic call. “This was a big idea, if we do it right. It deserves it’s own brand, and as such we don’t have to live within the confines of our existing categories.”

It will be interesting to see which products become the tail and which become the dog.


One in a series of articles on Lorne’s Sustainable Journey to the Sustainable Brands 08 Conference in Monterey CA. Click here for the full list of sessions, or here for the ‘Fear & Loathing’ road trip journals.


Previous: «
Next: »