Cleaning products have never been as in-demand as they were during the beginning of the pandemic. Stores like Walmart and Lowe’s couldn’t keep cleaning products in stock, and companies that don’t normally produce them began making their own products to keep up with demand. Additionally, many major cleaning product manufacturers amped up their production levels to keep up with demand. One such company that kept its factories churning out products was Method. But Method didn’t let the increase in demand compromise their business values.
You may already be familiar with Method, as their products can be found in every cleaning aisle, especially now that production has stabilized. You may even have some Method products in your home. From dryer sheets to hand soap, Method makes just about every type of home-cleaning product that you can think of.
But it’s not just cleanliness that they have down to a science; Method has redefined what it means for a company to be environmentally conscious. Every single one of their soaps and cleaners is biodegradable and won’t harm plant or animal life. On top of that, they source all of their materials in the most environmentally friendly way they can, and they continually make improvements throughout each year.
Method got its start way back in 2000 when it was founded by friends Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan. They started with an idea to “disrupt” the cleaning industry. These days, you probably wouldn’t think of the word “disrupt” as a good thing, but Lowry, a chemical engineer, and Ryan, a marketer, had a plan.
The first thing they did was rethink what cleaning products had to be. For a long time, there was a stigma that environmentally friendly cleaning products couldn’t match the cleaning power of traditional soaps and solvents. And for a while, that was true. Traditional products, the ones we still see on store shelves today, are effective, but they’re also made with harsh chemicals that have to be handled with care. They work, but using them comes at a destructive cost.
To address this problem, Lowry and Ryan experimented with ingredients that were friendly to the environment, both in everyday use and in the way those ingredients were sourced and manufactured. These entrepreneurs knew what they wanted out of their company and were not willing to compromise on their business values, even if it would have brought in more profit. Method became a showcase for global environmental awareness by looking at how their ingredients and manufacturing processes affected individuals and communities.
Lowry and Ryan knew that creating an amazing, eco-friendly product was not going to be enough to compete with the major players in the cleaning product game like Clorox, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. They knew they had to create a brand that stood out to potential customers. Thus, Method wasn’t just about differentiating what was inside the product; the packaging around that product also had to be different. So, the company brought in renowned designer Karim Rashid to help. Rashid is a star in the design world; he has art on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and partnerships with Audi, Estee Lauder, and Samsung. With Rashid’s sharp eye and mind for design, Method’s brand became unique and unmistakable.
Method’s products did not take long to hit store shelves once they were developed. By 2002, you could walk into your local Target and see shelves upon shelves of Method products. While the customer base was intrigued by the environmentally friendly business values that Method held and proclaimed on their bottles, they were also drawn to the intricate design of the products’ packaging. By the mid to late 2000s, Method had become a $100 million business.
In 2012, a Belgian company, Ecover, bought Method. Ecover was founded in 1980 with goals that aligned with Method. Ecover wanted to expand into the North American market, and Method was the perfect option to introduce more products. The partnership was a success, and Method went from pulling in $100 million a year to $200 million a year.
Ecover would only own Method for five years before a true titan bought both Ecover and Method. S.C. Johnson bought the companies, which turned out to be mutually beneficial for everyone involved, and Method’s products were sold in more stores throughout America.
Today, Method has over 150 products on store shelves, and to the environment’s benefit, many other companies are following Method’s business values. If you walk down the cleaning aisle at your average grocery store, you’ll see countless products touting their environmental friendliness — and Method set the stage.
If you visit Method’s website, you’ll find the “Benefit Blueprint.” This blueprint essentially breaks down its philosophy of environmental awareness and showcases what it is doing to be a healthier business. Method lays out the metrics it hopes to achieve and outlines the steps it is taking to ensure they can reach their goals. It pays attention to the overall impact of the products, the water usage, and the carbon and waste footprints. From the packing to the actual products themselves, if Method notices that production is going against its core business values, it will develop a new system that’s beneficial for the environment and the business.
As part of its mission, Method is a certified Benefit Corporation, aka B Corp, which is a label granted to companies that meet high standards of sustainability, accountability, and transparency. In order to become certified as a B Corp, companies are assessed for social and environmental performance. Method has baked these criteria right into its business model. Everything they make and do revolves around environmental performance.
Method’s success story can be traced to smart branding and a commitment to its core business values. The company figured out its product, differentiated the brand, and went after the long-established competition. It understood the underlying narrative of environmentalism that grew in the early 21st century. No matter how difficult things got for Method or how much demand increased, it never strayed from its business values. As a result, consumers responded and helped make the brand a resounding success.