Women’s Voices for the Earth launched our Safe Cleaning Products Initiative in 2007, when no companies were listing ingredients in their cleaners. Not one of them. Not a single ingredient. Across industries—cleaning, personal care, feminine care, and beyond—companies routinely kept fragrance ingredients a secret. They said that fragrance disclosure was impossible because they could never reveal the ingredients that made their products “unique.”
This is a huge victory, a win by women and for women that will make waves across the entire consumer product industry. This victory is a tribute to women’s tremendous economic power to shift companies toward healthier and more transparent products, and ultimately toward a green economy.
Women spoke up for our right to have the information we need to protect our health and our families’ health. And because women make more than 85% of consumer decisions, companies listened.
Toxic Chemicals in Cleaners & Fragrance and Women’s Health
Studies show that women are greater users of cleaners & fragrances, and secret toxic chemicals in these products are disproportionately harming women’s and girls’ health. Research indicates certain chemicals in cleaning products can have significant lifelong effects on reproductive health and development, and that hormone disrupting chemicals in fragrance are building up in our blood, breast milk, and even newborns. In addition, women are two to three times more likely than men to suffer from fragrance allergies, and become sensitized much younger than men.
Taking on Giants
When WVE released our groundbreaking report Household Hazards in 2007, women wondered what they were supposed to clean their homes with that was safe. Our response: until we know what’s in cleaning products, we’ll make our own with non-toxic ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.
We launched the Green Cleaning Party Kit in 2008, and thousands of women all over the country hosted green cleaning parties that were covered in major media outlets like the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Ebony, and Univision.
These women’s refusal to buy mainstream cleaning products without ingredient information played a huge role in convincing giants like Clorox and SC Johnson to begin listing most ingredients in products on their websites a mere six months later. Other companies followed suit and began listing ingredients in their products – except for fragrance, which remained cloaked in secrecy.
The Glade’s Toxic Secrets Campaign
All along, SC Johnson marketed itself as the family company committed to honesty and transparency. It was the company that understood that “You want to know what’s in the products you use around your home and family”—except that it kept fragrance ingredients in its products a secret from its customers. In addition, product test results from WVE’s 2011 Dirty Secrets report revealed phthalates, synthetic musks, and allergens hiding in Glade.
To push SC Johnson to live up to its ideals of transparency, we released a spoof commercial, “Secret Toxic Chemicals from the SC Johnson Family to Yours,” that was viewed and shared by more than 13,000 women, and a spoof website, www.whatsreallyinsidescjohnson.com. We also teamed up with the advocacy group SumOfUs.org to deliver the cleaning product giant more than 51,000 signatures from consumers asking to know what ingredients make up the fragrances in the company’s scented products.
What It All Means
So this is why, when SC Johnson made their landmark announcement of full fragrance disclosure in response to the tens of thousands of women who demanded it, we celebrated this massive win across the country together.
We celebrated not just because of the announcement itself, but also because of its implications. SC Johnson just blew away other companies’ arguments that full fragrance disclosure is impossible. Not only is it possible, companies that continue to keep ingredients secret look like they have something to hide. We hope other companies across industries will follow SC Johnson’s lead if they want to keep consumer trust and loyalty, and ultimately increase their bottom line.
We’ve reached the beginning of the end of fragrance secrets. A huge and heartfelt thank you to all the women who raised their voices to protect our health and secure our right to know. You did it!