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Method's madness sustainably clean, green and local

Method's Madness Sustainably Clean, Green and local

Reborn: Former brownfield site was scrubbed clean to make way for LEED Platinum soap factory. The design team was led by Heitman Architects and William McDonough + Partners. Cool rooftop farm is operated by Gotham Greens.

Reborn: Former brownfield site was scrubbed clean to make way for LEED Platinum soap factory. The design team was led by Heitman Architects and William McDonough + Partners. Cool rooftop farm is operated by Gotham Greens.

by THEA DURFEE POLANCIC, founder, Conscious Capitalism Chicago | Nov 20, 2015

Colorful awnings and flags waving in the breeze greeted our group when we arrived at Method’s new North American manufacturing headquarters in the historic Pullman Park neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. Earlier this fall, 30 intrepid members of our Chicago chapter converged on the site to get a private tour of the facility, and spent the next hour with our great tour guides.

Method is a $150-mil. soap company, founded by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry in San Francisco and now owned by the Sorenson family, founders of the Ecover brand. Method has been in a participant in the Conscious Capitalism movement for a while – some of us may remember Ryan, founder and then CEO, from our annual conference in San Francisco in 2013 – and how he entertained us with his 'live' re-enactment of the white jumpsuited “people against dirty” video.

  • Learn more about Method's creative construction at our next Project Innovation Series event, hosted by Heitman Architects here at BuiltWorlds, on Dec. 3. For tickets, click here.

Method has also been leading the way in the B Corp movement. The values and discipline of being a B Corp were really evident as we toured the plant. Method’s motivation for building the facility was driven by its desire to improve its B Corp ratings and to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to sustainable business practices.

Sincere smile: Our tour guide was one of the new local hires – and her joy in working in such a special place was obvious.

Sincere smile: Our tour guide was one of the new local hires – and her joy in working in such a special place was obvious.

In seeking a home for its new state-of-the-art facility, Method specifically sought out a brownfield site – one that was condemned due to contamination and was considered beyond repair. It’s worth noting that prior to starting construction, Method was tasked with cleaning up the 22-acre site, formerly occupied by Ryerson Steel. It should be noted that the commitment cleaning up the site, as well as to the construction of the facility all was done without the benefit of any tax breaks.

Method then proceeded to turn the site into a LEED-platinum certified plant that has an urban rooftop farm (operated by Gotham Greens) that cools the building without air conditioning and uses less energy than the standard building footprint. To date, Method is one of only two companies in the U.S. to earn LEED platinum certification.

We learned that Method’s environmental commitment didn’t end with the construction of the building. Method does all of its manufacturing, bottling, labeling, packaging, and distribution onsite. For example, the company also looked to its supply chain to reduce its environmental impact. These partnerships include Amcor Rigid Plastics and JB Hunt commercial trucking. Amcor operates an onsite bottle manufacturing facility to make all of Method’s corn-based plastic, post-consumer recyclable bottles. For its part, Hunt operates four dedicated bio-diesel trucks to fulfill Method’s low-emission transportation strategy for delivering its products to market.

COMING THURSDAY, DEC. 3: Heitman Architects is proud to host the next event in our Project Innovation Series.

COMING THURSDAY, DEC. 3: Heitman Architects is proud to host the next event in our Project Innovation Series.

Eventbrite - Project Innovation Series: Heitman Architects - Method Manufacturing

Method’s vision for this plant extends far beyond its ecological benefits. Also critical to the company is contributing to the economic and social well-being of the community. Currently, Method's facility employs 66 full-time employees, 30% of which live within the zip code of the plant. Method emphasizes the importance of hiring employees based on personality and values versus specific manufacturing or technical experience. Their philosophy is to utilize employee cross-training to help their people learn their roles.

After the tour we gathered together to connect and enjoy lunch. It was great to see new faces, and rewarding to hear “this is my tribe!” Thanks to all of you who came out. Finally, a big thank you also to Andrea Spudich for her contributions to this post, including photos. Andrea is a long-time advocate for sustainability-oriented leadership development.

For more on business leadership that combines purpose and profit, go to our blog here.

Employee mural > Together we can: Make a difference; Change the world! Believe in each other; Keep it weird!

Employee mural > Together we can: Make a differenceChange the world! Believe in each other; Keep it weird!

Based in Chicago, the author is a passionate advocate for the power of business to transform the world. Fluent in Russian, she began her career as an “intrapreneur” at Caterpillar Inc. in the 1990s, helping the firm to open new business in the emerging, former Soviet economy. Today, in addition to her work with the Chicago chapter of Conscious Capitalism, which now has more than 1,000 members, she is also managing partner of ClearSpace LLC, Oak Park IL, a consulting firm that helps leaders, teams and organizations to grow and thrive. Contact her via e-mail at tdpolancic@clearspace.net.

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