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Method: Entrepreneurial Innovation, Environment, Health, and Sustainable Business

Company name

Andrea Larson

Darden Publishing Company 

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Method: Entrepreneurial Innovation, Environment, Health, and Sustainable Business Design

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With Method standing at number seven on Inc. magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in 2006, cofounder Adam Lowry is searching for a biodegradable cleaning cloth to expand Method's line of 'green' household products. Sustainable design principles have been a guiding force in Method's strategy, and being biofriendly is critical. So is sourcing in the United States. But only China can manufacture the corn-based cloth Lowry has in mind, and there is no way to certify that the product is free of genetically modified organisms. Lowry has to balance his firm's fundamental commitment to environmental sustainability against the fact that some retailers refuse to carry products containing GMOs.

Teaching note

  • Assignment by Robert T. Clemen, The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, 2009. Method: PLA vs PET Modeling and Analysis for Environmental Sustainability
  • Solutions 

    Adam Lowry has asked you to help him understand in more detail the environmental implications of using PLA versus polyester wipes for the O-mop. After digging around on the Internet, he has located a detailed LCA by a German institute known as IFEU (Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung, or Institute for Energy and Environmental Research). The LCA compares PLA with polypropylene, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Because polyester fibers are usually made of PET, this LCA appears to be quite appropriate. Although he found several other articles describing LCA for PLA, Adam noticed that most of them included authors who were employees of NatureWorks, LLC, the producer of PLA. Even though the IFEU study was commissioned by NatureWorks, it appears to have been conducted by the IFEU staff, without any NatureWorks involvement. Finally, even though the results are given in terms of 1000 “clamshells” (small, hinged containers for food, used in restaurants and grocery stores), Adam would prefer to convert the numbers so that they are impacts per kg of material. To that end, he has determined that a clamshell, whether made of PLA or PET, typically weighs about 26 grams.

Key Management Reading

  • Ambec, S. & Lanoie, P. (2008). Does it pay to be green? A systematic overview. Academy of Management Perspectives. 45-62
  • Reinhardt, F. (1999). Bringing the Environment Down to Earth. Harvard Business Review. July; 149-157 

    Other Readings

    • N/A

    Audio/Visual Material

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    Discussion Questions

    • N/A 

        Green Chemistry Principle

        • Principle 1 Prevent Waste 
        • Principle 7 Renewable Feedstocks
        • Principle 10 Design for Degradation

        Soaps and Detergents

        Teaching Topic
        Corporate citizenship
        Environmental issues
        Global/transnational issues
        Social Marketing
        Social process of production
        Supply chain management, Life cycle analysis

        Management Discipline

        Business Logic
        Product differentiation
        Managing environmental risk

        Environmental Issue

        Self Identified as Green Chemistry?

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