SC Johnson and Clorox: Leaders in product ingredient disclosure

Last week, the major consumer packaged goods (CPG) company SC Johnson announced it would "expand its ingredient disclosure efforts by providing product-specific fragrance ingredient information" at the product level.  

SC Johnson is again mirroring the actions of its biggest competitor, Clorox, who has also been an industry leader in this area and was the first major CPG company to voluntarily disclose ingredients for its cleaning/disinfection and laundry products.  (Since then, Clorox has expanded these disclosures to preservatives, dyes and fragrances and, most recently, released a "Preferred Ingredient Calculator" intended "to help the company's product developers consider the sustainability profiles of different raw materials and formulations when making decisions about ingredients used in the company's cleaning products, including an analysis of human health, environmental health and sustainability metrics.")  In 2009, both companies established public databases and web sites to provide information on ingredients in some products SCJ started with cleaning and air care products).  SCJ also later expanded its disclosures to include other products in its portfolio, namely pest control products.

SCJ will first release ingredient information for its air care products (sprays, candles, oils and gels) in North America, with Europe to follow.  Typically, a "fragrance" is a complex of up to several hundred individual compounds, most of which have already been disclosed to the public (see the list maintained by the International Fragrance Association here).  However, the blending of these individual compounds into a proprietary mix is intellectual property that needs to be maintained and thus SCJ, Clorox and others will need to find that delicate balance between staying competitive in the marketplace and answering to the public call for transparency (i.e ingredient disclosure).  What is different about last week's move by SCJ is that it "represents the first attempt to disclose all fragrance ingredients on a product-by-product basis."  All parties will have to continue to work with the "fragrance houses" that supply the proprietary mixes and want to protect their intellectual property, which they have successfully done to date to provide all these disclosure data to the public.