Every ingredient in every SC Johnson product goes through the rigorous Greenlist™ programme. Its centrepiece is a science-based, four-step evaluation that looks at both hazard and risk. It’s grounded in best-in-class data collection, and driven by our commitment to continually improve our products.
The four-step evaluation at the heart of the Greenlist™ programme looks at these criteria:
If an ingredient passes the four steps but does not reach the highest achievable level on each of the criteria, the results can be used by SC Johnson scientists to search for more desirable ingredient options. This pushes our scientists to use better and better ingredients in the reformulation of existing products or the development of new ones.
We take great care to choose ingredients that pass each of the steps in our four-step evaluation process. There are a small number of cases where the best available ingredient, like the active ingredient in an insecticide, might fail one of these steps. If so, it goes through a risk assessment to determine the level that is safe for humans and the environment, and we then apply an added degree of caution.
The risk assessment uses a built-in safety factor that ensures the concentration of the ingredient is multiple times lower than the lowest concentration that could possibly have a negative impact on human health or the environment.
In some cases, the assessment may show that the ingredient’s concentration in the product would be lower than the acceptable level, making it allowable for use in our products. In other cases, we may choose to phase out the ingredient altogether, looking at how we can replace it with an alternative that has validated science proving it to be a better choice. The packaging, use instructions or other features might also be altered to mitigate exposure.
The first, and perhaps most critical, step in the Greenlist™ four-step evaluation looks at whether any valid scientific evidence indicates that an ingredient could cause chronic human health conditions. This includes evidence of exposure resulting in cancer, reproductive or developmental impacts, mutagenicity or endocrine disruption. Given the gravity of these impacts, and the high level of concern they may cause consumers, they are considered first in our evaluation.
Our data sources for Step 1 include:
Ingredients pass this evaluation if they meet our criteria and are categorised as either Acceptable or Best. Our commitment to continuous improvement includes looking for opportunities to move up from Acceptable to Best when possible. If any ingredient fails to meet either of those levels, it triggers a risk assessment as explained above.
We take an abundance of precaution with Step 1, and the vast majority of ingredients we use pass this step. Of the very few ingredients that fail, which tend to be ingredients in products like insecticides, we set a safety factor that is over a thousand times lower than the lowest level that could possibly impact human health or the environment negatively.
An indication of a hazard alone doesn’t mean an ingredient shouldn’t be used. In fact, many chemicals found in nature contain hazardous, toxic components. Therefore, the product risk assessment is a required step to understand exposure and determine if and how risk can be mitigated in product development.
Leading a Dialogue about What’s Inside
SC Johnson makes an ongoing, concerted effort to disclose details about the ingredients in its products. For example, we were the first major consumer products company to reveal 100% of the fragrance ingredients in a product collection to illustrate that a product with synthetic ingredients can be formulated to exclude known carcinogens that are found in nature.
The second step in the Greenlist™ four-step evaluation assesses whether ingredients have the potential to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic, also known as being a “PBT”. This looks for ingredients that stick around in an environment, accumulate inside people or other organisms, and are toxic to marine and freshwater life.
Our data sources for Step 2 include:
Like Step 1, any indication of being a PBT will cause an ingredient to fail the evaluation, triggering a product risk assessment, as explained on pages 8-9. This includes meeting just one of the three criteria (P, B or T) or one of the criteria for being very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB), when analysing data from the European Union, United States or Canada. vPvB criteria are stricter than PBT criteria and reflect ingredients that have a much longer half-life.
SC Johnson maintains a list of ingredients that are not allowed. This list is termed the “Not Allowable” list. It includes over 200 unique raw materials in roughly 90 material categories, and over 2400 fragrance materials.
These materials all meet legal and regulatory requirements — and are often used by our competitors. But they simply do not meet SC Johnson standards.
Some ingredients get on the list pretty quickly, such as PVCs. Others require more extensive assessment related to potential exposure and risk considerations for products. The Not Allowable list is reviewed regularly to ensure it captures any new science or changes in government policies or regulations.
While we work to avoid Not Allowable materials in SC Johnson products, occasionally situations arise where we cannot avoid them. This is typically because there isn’t an available alternative that delivers the same performance or meets requirements for the manufacturing process, or because available options are too cost restrictive.
In these very few cases, an exception to continue using the material may be granted, but these exceptions are rare and are reviewed every two years at the highest level of the organisation.
Instead of long-term effects like those examined in Steps 1 and 2, the third step in the Greenlist™ four-step evaluation looks for problems that have potential short-term effects. These acute impacts range from skin irritation, to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, to aquatic toxicity.
Our data sources for Step 3 include:
Steps 1, 2 and 4 of the Greenlist™ evaluation have “Acceptable” and “Best” categorisations of ingredients, which are based on the amount of scientific evidence there is to support the categorisation.
For acute effects, however, there is scientific consensus that there are degrees of impact. Based on this, for Step 3, we use three categories: “Acceptable,” “Better” and “Best.” This follows scientific best practice. For example, our biodegradability criteria follow the widely used OECD standards. Irritation/corrosion follow the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, which is also a robust and internationally recognised data set.
The intended use of some of our products influences ingredient evaluation as well. For example, we want our insecticides to be toxic to insects but safe for humans. So, for certain ingredients, when used in certain products, we allow for different levels of impact.