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Everything is Chemistry: Why SC Johnson is Tackling Negative Perceptions about Synthetic Chemicals

When it comes to chemicals, natural vs. synthetic is less important than what works and is safe for your family.
SC Johnson’s Greenlist™ program reviews every chemical it uses for human safety and environmental health.

Have you ever considered what’s in a rose? Or a banana, raspberry or Brussels sprout? They’re made up of chemicals, just like everything else on Earth.

That might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often we hear from people saying they want household products that are “chemical-free.” So, we wanted to start a conversation about chemistry, responsibility and transparency, and the steps SC Johnson takes to make choices you can trust.

There’s a lot of confusion about the safety of the ingredients that companies are using. As a scientist, this concerns me. And as a father, I care deeply about the safety of products for not only my family, but also for yours.
Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson

Many people assume that natural chemicals are better than synthetic chemicals. And, unfortunately, claiming “natural” as a product benefit has become a bit of a marketing trend. 

As our Chairman and CEO, Fisk Johnson, explains, “For too long, some companies have perpetuated the myth that so-called ‘natural’ products are chemical-free or somehow are always safer. And that’s simply not true. The truth is: All of nature contains chemicals.”

Importantly, sometimes synthetic chemicals can be a responsible choice. For example, if not harvested sustainably, using a natural ingredient like palm oil could lead to negative impacts such as deforestation. Alternatively, a natural ingredient might include an allergen that can be engineered out in a synthetic version. 

So, sometimes a synthetic ingredient is a better choice. And, other times, a natural ingredient might be perfect for a product formula. At SC Johnson, we think what matters most is evaluating the options for any given product and making an informed choice.

Natural vs. Chemical
Many people assume natural chemicals are better or safer than synthetic ones. But is it true?

At SC Johnson, we carefully review every chemical we use for human health and environmental impact. We created a way to evaluate ingredients called the Greenlist™ program, which has rigorous standards and helps us continually improve our products. 

Part of this is setting standards for what’s safe. Any potential ingredient on Earth – including oxygen and water – can be toxic at a high enough amount. So, every ingredient in an SC Johnson product is assessed to determine how much is and is not safe. We take the industry standards for safe, and then we go further.

Importantly, we don’t assume we have all the answers. The Greenlist™ program’s foundation is an ongoing effort to collect best-in-class scientific data about ingredients and their potential impact on health and the environment. 

We get information from suppliers and fill gaps with publicly available, scientifically rigorous data. We also took our entire program to a panel of experts on human and environmental toxicity, for their independent review.

I want you to know that we’re working to make the best possible choices for your family. That’s why we’re making the information behind our Greenlist™ program publicly available.
Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson

Our Greenlist™ program and commitment to transparency are currently featured on the U.S. version of, our ingredient website. You can see more about the conversation we’re trying to encourage and why it matters.

All chemicals aren’t equal, but with scientific data and responsible choices, we believe we’re making products you can trust for your home. We wouldn’t expect any less for our own.

GreenlistExplaining the SC Johnson Greenlist™ Program: An Excerpt from Our 2017 Sustainability Report

IngredientsSC Johnson’s Greenlist™ Program: Choosing Product Ingredients to Better Protect Human Health and the Environment

GreenlistThe SC Johnson Greenlist™ Program is a Peer Reviewed Program: An Excerpt from Our 2017 Sustainability Report

GreenlistThe SC Johnson Greenlist™ Program Sets Standards for Safe: An Excerpt from Our 2017 Sustainability Report

GreenlistThe SC Johnson Greenlist™ Program Starts with Data: An Excerpt from Our 2017 Sustainability Report

GreenlistThe SC Johnson Greenlist™ Program Has Four Steps to Better

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