SC Johnson to power US headquarters with geothermal energy

The move builds on SC Johnson's existing portfolio of wind

The company, which owns brands such as Pledge, Glade and Windex, announced this week that it has applied for city and state permissions to install a GeoExchange system at its Frank Lloyd Wright campus. The technology uses the constant temperature of the Earth to act as both a heat source and a heat sink. 

SC Johnson claims that the installation of the system would reduce annual energy consumption across the site by around 40%. It is also planning to install a solar array and a string of energy efficiency technologies on the campus, which it claims would, when combined with the GeoExchange technology, result in a total facility-wide energy consumption reduction of 57-62%, against a 2018 baseline.

A start and completion date for the GeoExchange system installation have not yet been revealed by SC Johnson, as the move still has to be approved by city-level and state-level planning.

But the fact that the company is willing to invest in a geothermal array serves to evidence its “all of the above” approach to clean energy, according to chairman and chief executive Fisk Johnson. The approach is based on the belief that SC Johnson should maintain a diverse portfolio of low-carbon generation technologies, matching each of its sites with the most appropriate sources of clean power.

“Leading the industry in an environmentally responsible manner starts at home and. for us, that meant taking a look at our operations and finding where we can lessen our impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, addressing air quality and increasing the amount of energy from renewable resources,” Johnson said.

“Transitioning to geothermal energy at our headquarters goes a long way toward accomplishing those goals.”

Low-carbon leadership

SC Johnson has been investing in renewable energy for 15 years and currently meets around one-third of its global power demands with energy generated from renewable or energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities. This power is sourced through a mixture of onsite arrays, wholly owned external arrays and power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Wind power makes up the largest proportion of the firm’s investment in clean power and is used to meet 100% of the power needs at its factories in Bay City, Michigan; Mijdrecht, Holland and Gorzow, Poland, as well as a proportion of the power needs at two other processing plants. The Mijdrecht facility notably hosts an onsite turbine, which generates around half of its energy.

According to SC Johnson, this shift to renewables has been a key factor in driving a 62% reduction in the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of its global factories, against a 2000 baseline.

The company notably achieved its overarching 2020 GHG target – to cut its overall GHG footprint by 15% against a 2015 baseline – three years ahead of schedule.

When this progress was revealed last year, SC Johnson tweaked its brand purpose to reflect its growing focus on sustainability, altering its tagline from “a family company” to “a family company at work for a better world”.

Johnson explained at the time that this change reflected the company’s desire to embed sustainability across all operations and to continue its heritage of purpose-led corporate activism.

Since 1937, SC Johnson has donated 5% of pre-tax profits to charities, including a $15m donation for personal insect repellents when the Zika virus first broke out, for example. It additionally spearheads a reforestation initiative with Conservation International, which aims to protect up to 5,000 acres of Amazon rainforest, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy scheme, which commits plastic industry stakeholders to creating a circular economy for the material and preventing environmental plastic pollution.

Johnson recently spoke to edie about its participation in the New Plastics Economy initiative and the other actions which consumers, governments and businesses will now need to take to truly close the plastics loop. You can read that interview in full here.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie