We Hear Ya: Answers to Questions about the Sierra Club and Green Works


We've been listening closely at the Sierra Club to the public discussion -- on blogs and elsewhere -- about our endorsement of the new Green Works line from the makers of Clorox products. It's been a fascinating debate with folks lining up in various camps often for different reasons. The issues we've seen being raised are the same concerns that came up when members of various Sierra Club committees considered this new alliance.

After a thorough review of the company and its new product line, we decided to move forward with our collective eyes wide open. In response to the lively debate that's ensued, we've posted an FAQ on our website that answers questions like "What is Clorox's overall environmental record?" and "Isn't Clorox a big dumper of chlorine into the environment?" I hope it helps those of you who have following the discussion on Treehugger and elsewhere to understand why we made the decision we did.Everyone should understand that Green Works is the first new product line that Clorox has launched in 20 years. I think this is a remarkable thing -- and a sign that major companies see the green market maturing and recognize it's possible to manufacture and sell products that will be good both for business and for the planet. As Sierra Club's Executive Director Carl Pope was quoted when Treehugger writer Collin Dunn blogged about the news in January, "We hope we are transforming the marketplace by doing this."

Beyond what we do as individuals and what we push our leaders to do on our behalf, industry has to be a part of the solution and the Sierra Club has the power to influence corporations to move in the right direction. We believe and hope that this will be a selling proposition that other companies will be quick to adopt. (Think about how eager we all are for U.S. auto manufacturers to bring more hybrids online.) We know that choosing to partner with a big, market-changing company like Clorox has consequences. The Sierra Club has chosen to be selective and to partner only with companies whose environmental performance is much better than average. But we have also determined that we will not achieve our overall goal of changing consumer behavior by making affordable, natural products available to the majority of Americans if we avoid partnering with companies because they have had environmental violations in the past, or make some product lines which we think could be improved.

Some have called our endorsement greenwashing. But the bottom line is that the Green Works products are environmentally safe, made from corn- or coconut-based cleaning agents, essential lemon oils, and other natural ingredients; they contain no toxic chemicals, phosphorus, or bleach, and are hypo-allergenic. They do not use aerosol and did not involve animal testing.

And they're affordable and available to mainstream America. Accessibility is key here. As I read in one comment on the Treehugger discussion, people who stay away from some eco-friendly products "because they don't come from a conventional/trusted source will green up their homes with something they trust. If it takes Clorox to do this, more power to them."

This point is being proven by sales figures on Green Works products, which are far exceeding initial expectations.

Promoting the use of environmentally sustainable products and helping people find ways to make their lifestyles "greener" is integral to our mission of protecting the planet. But finding ways to do that on a large scale -- the kind of scale that can really make a difference -- has not always been easy.

Our endorsement of Green Works provides that kind of scale.

Image credit::OrganicMania, Greeworks product on shelf with sale price.

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