Green Products for a Greener Environment

ECOS

7. Affordable and Clean Energy 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

ECOS is a company dedicated to providing safer alternatives to household cleaning products and works to protect the health of people, pets, and the environment. Its sustainable manufacturing practices allows its mission to be accomplished from raw materials to the finished product. The company’s sustainable manufacturing is an innovation in itself, but so are its household cleaning products as they are made from plant-powered ingredients yet remain affordable. ECOS is the definition of sustainable as it benefits the environment, economy, and society, and its positive impact is far from over.

Authors

Natalie Fella

Natalie Fella

Teja Vepuri

Teja Vepuri

Geetha Rajesh

Geetha Rajesh

School

Rutgers Business School

Rutgers Business School

Professor

Monique Okumakpeyi

Monique Okumakpeyi

Innovation

ECOS products are created with the mindset of sustainability. Using renewable and replenishable resources, the company has never shied away from complexity and worked to perfect its products, starting with being the first company in the world to achieve the “trifecta” of sustainable manufacturing: carbon neutrality, water neutrality, and TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification. Its vision correlates with many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as Affordable and Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Responsible Consumption and Production. ECOS believes in helping its communities; each of its four manufacturing facilities was created with the goal of being sustainable in which the locals can reciprocate. As a result, it was given the Leading Environmental Practices Award in 2017 by the Association of Washington Business. No company cares more about societal responsibility than ECOS. Its products are centered around being earth friendly and safer for consumers. Since many of its products are plant-powered, ECOS makes sure that everything, even from raw materials, does not have a negative impact on the environment.

Green Products for a Greener Environment

ECOS household cleaning products are made from plant-powered ingredients.

Inspiration

ECOS was founded by Van Vlahakis following his immigration from Greece in 1967. After graduating from Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL, Vlahakis worked as a chemist in the cleaning products industry. From this experience, he realized the negative effects of harsh chemicals and started a new company out of his garage. He started manufacturing cleaning products with safer ingredients. The company was renamed Earth Friendly Products in 1989 and today shares the same name as its products – ECOS. It is still a family-owned and -operated business that has expanded to four sustainable locations in the United States and over 200 products sold around the world. From the beginning, the company’s mission was to “innovate products that were safe for the planet, people, and pets”. The Vice President of Sustainability and Education, Dr. Nadereh Afsharmanesh, asserted that the company strives to establish a holistic approach to sustainable manufacturing, right from the raw materials entering the gate to the time the finished goods are delivered to its distribution centers. Sustainable manufacturing guidelines, procurement guidelines and every part of the processing is included in the big picture, including a zero-waste initiative. The process is reviewed each year to keep up with the technological advances and changes in the marketplace. Its greatest innovation is being the first company to achieve the “trifecta” of sustainable manufacturing: carbon neutrality, water neutrality and TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification.

The company management provides guidelines for all processes: sustainable manufacturing guidelines, sustainable procurement guidelines, sustainable office guidelines etc. The process is reviewed and overseen on a regular basis to try and implement the best solution. The company management believes that “the best solution is to deal with a problem before it becomes a problem.” This philosophy is applied across all aspects of manufacturing. For example, ECOS management makes sure that all the materials procured can be recycled to keep them aligned with its policy of minimizing waste from the get-go. The company not only follows sustainable business practices but also encourages eco-friendly lifestyle choices among its employees. It also encourages giving back to the community by promoting volunteerism and participation in numerous community activities. ECOS also distinguishes itself as being a majority women-led organization and owes a great deal of success to its powerful female leadership. The company cultivates a work environment where female voices not only matter but also prove instrumental in keeping its vision of sustainability and innovation.

Overall impact

The overall impact of ECOS’ products is that they help lower carbon footprints and the damage made to the environment. In the short-term, ECOS is able to provide a friendly solution that is not harmful like other household products. In the long term, ECOS gives other companies an idea of how to be socially responsible. Its products are plant-based and biodegradable. The company never tests on animals and its packaging is recyclable. Most importantly, ECOS is carbon neutral, water neutral, and TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certified, meaning the company successfully converts what would normally be considered waste into reusable and recyclable material. Thus, the company has set itself up to remain sustainable in the foreseeable future. A company that is sustainable will also have consumers that are loyal to the brand. ECOS is one of the most adaptable companies in the world. With the ever-changing economy, ECOS constantly improves its efforts to be more environmentally conscious than it already is. Dr. Nadereh Afsharmanesh mentions how the company implemented many sustainable guidelines from manufacturing to the release of the products, as the company chooses EPA Safer Choice ingredients, keeping in mind that its priority is consumer and environmental well-being. These efforts can be seen as ECOS has received many awards such as the U.S. EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year award in 2019, the U.S. EPA WasteWise Partner of the Year award in 2017, and the California Governor’s Environmental & Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) in 2016. Most recently, ECOS received certification for Quality Management System in 2019.

Business benefit

ECOS not only has a unique manufacturing process with the trifecta, but it also puts equal focus and a unique take on all its manufacturing facilities to make sure its entire company is constantly improving. Dr. Nadereh Afsharmanesh oversees all of ECOS’ manufacturing facilities, describing each location as “having its own personality” and utilizing the surrounding environment all across the country. For instance, its Cypress, California, headquarters location runs on 100% clean energy and is able to take advantage of the sunny surroundings with a solar panel garden. Afsharmanesh explained how the various locations across the country not only give its facilities the ability to take advantage of what the environment has to offer with renewable energy, but each location selects materials close to where it is. “We source materials like bottles, labels and boxes close to each of our facilities, and we source our plant-derived raw materials as close as possible to where those plants grow naturally” (ECOS). This close-to-home mindset benefits the business by not only supporting its sustainability initiatives with protecting natural resources and reducing its carbon footprint, but this also drives sales by utilizing the highest quality ingredients. As the company has grown, its sustainable products have blossomed from laundry detergent, to dish and hand soap, baby and pet care, and even treeless household paper products such as paper towels.

ECOS’ sustainable manufacturing and healthier cleaning products keep the business booming, but no company can be successful without its employees. Keeping with the motivation of a “greener” environment based on its innovations, ECOS offers green initiative bonuses to its employees. As its products expand across the country and internationally (its global sales office in Greece opened in 2013), ECOS is able to support its employees with one of the highest minimum wages in the industry at $17 per hour, paid family leave, and great health care benefits (ECOS). In 2018 and 2019, ECOS’ corporate headquarters was recognized as a Top Workplace from The Orange County Register for creating a positive workplace for its employees. It is clear that its motivation to protect the environment while creating healthy products results in a positive work environment in itself.

Social and environmental benefit

In 2013, ECOS achieved carbon neutrality. By doing so, over 56 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions are saved annually (ECOS). In 2015, it achieved “a 95% diversion of waste from landfills and incineration” at its four manufacturing sites (ECOS). Dr. Afsharmanesh emphasized that ECOS has a holistic approach for its manufacturing and products for the product’s life cycle from gate-to-gate. By constantly moving toward closing the loop on unnecessary waste, ECOS has “cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduced pollution and added value to the communities” where it does business (ECOS). Along with conserving water in production, office practices, and being a water-neutral manufacturer, it also invests in local water conservation programs. ECOS strives to illustrate the importance of breaking free from the dependency of oil in manufacturing by running on 100% renewable energy in all of its facilities. Its Cypress, California, location, as previously mentioned, runs on solar energy, but it also utilizes power from wind and water to keep its facilities running cleanly. The sustainable manufacturing trifecta that ECOS utilizes benefits the environment tremendously by protecting natural resources, eliminating unnecessary waste, reducing carbon emissions, and conserving water. It is constantly looking for ways to become even more environmentally friendly and sustainable as that is the purpose and backbone of the company.

Society is benefited immensely by ECOS cherishing the environment in itself, but its healthy alternatives to harmful cleaning products provide a direct benefit to its consumers. In 2019, ECOS was named U.S. EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year for the third time, emphasizing its dedication to “safer ingredients, ingredient transparency, and continually innovating greener products” (ECOS). Consumers are able to see whether each ingredient is plant-derived or mineral-based and the function of the ingredient in the product’s formula. This transparency allows its customers to be comforted in knowing that the ingredients are safer than those used in traditional cleaning products. ECOS continuously works to be a pioneer in the industry, leading the way to healthier products such as making the first phosphate-free auto dish gel. The health of people, pets, and the planet are at the forefront of ECOS’ mission, and consumers are able to reap those benefits in every product that is created. Amidst the current pandemic, consumer health will only become more important, and ECOS is ready to support its customers’ household health with its sustainable and innovative products.


*This story was reviewed and revised by ECOS.

Interview

Dr. Nadereh Afsharmanesh, Vice President, Sustainability & Education

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ECOS

ECOS

Cypress, California, US

Business Website: https://www.ecos.com

Year Founded: 1967

Number of Employees: 201 to 500

ECOS is a company motivated by providing safer alternatives to household cleaning products that are affordable yet also sustainable to the environment and consumers. It does this by utilizing its "trifecta" of sustainable manufacturing: carbon neutrality, water neutrality, and TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification. ECOS works with the best interest in mind for the health and well-being of the environment, its employees, and its consumers.