SC Johnson’s Impact on Environmental Leadership

Categories: ISSA 100th Anniversary, ISSA Insights, ISSA Member Spotlight

By Jeff Cross | January 31, 2023 << Back to Articles SC Johnson’s Impact on Environmental Leadership

It was 1975. Sam Johnson, the fourth-generation leader of SC Johnson, a long-time ISSA manufacturer member company, shocked the chemical industry with a decision that put him in the crosshairs of executives in the cleaning industry who called him reckless and irresponsible. Some said he would ruin the industry.

That decision? SC Johnson would no longer use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in its products. And not just in certain demographics. This was a global ban.

This decision was made three years before the United States banned the use of CFCs and nearly a decade before the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the international treaty designed to reduce the production and the use of chemicals that contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Many felt this move by Johnson was premature and that more studies needed to be done on the effect of CFCs. Some said it was an emotional move. But was it?

Johnson, then serving as CEO, believed the evidence was clear. CFCs affected the ozone layer. As he said at the time, “Our own company scientists confirm that as a scientific hypothesis, [the idea that fluorocarbon propellants in some aerosol containers might be causing ozone depletion] may be possible.”

Johnson believed in his scientists and the mounting evidence he was observing. “Effective today,” he announced on June 17, 1975, “our company has removed all fluorocarbon propellants from our production lines.”

Founded by Samuel Curtis Johnson, Sr. in 1886, the Wisconsin-based corporation has focuses on sustainability, a healthier world, and the impact the cleaning industry can have on the global community.

About the Author.

Jeff Cross is the ISSA media director, with media brands that include ISSA Today, Cleaning & Maintenance Management, and Cleanfax. He can be reached at [email protected] or 740-973-4236.