Product, Service & Design Innovation
Saskia Van Gendt:
Her ‘Method’ for Optimism & Innovation

How does Saskia Van Gendt, Method’s Senior Director of Greenskeeping, stay so positive facing the globally unsustainable manufacturing processes still in play today? She says it’s through science — that at Method, “the direction of sustainability is based on the right thing from a scientific perspective, not a whim.”

Saskia Van Gendt, Method’s Senior Director of Greenskeeping, exudes optimism — the type of energy you’d look for from one tasked with spearheading monumental change and being the face of all things hopeful for your company. What’s more, that energy is reflective of what Method, the self-appointed “people against dirty,” stands for: integrity inside, outside and all along the chain.

For those attending SB’19 Detroit in June, you’ll want to add Van Gendt’s panel — on commitments and initiatives tackling plastic pollution — to your conference agenda; you may want to personally connect with her because she’ll have you inspired in minutes. How does she stay so positive facing the globally unsustainable manufacturing processes still in play today? She says it’s through science — that at Method, “the direction of sustainability is based on the right thing from a scientific perspective, not a whim.” With a solid backing of data, this framework of decision-making is a cornerstone of what can become an emotional issue.

When asked how she keeps that faith for her colleagues, her sense of awe and pride shine through: “Feeling that your ideas and vision are actually things we can do, and the company has the appetite to innovate,” are the driving motivations for her perpetual optimism.

Method has been optimistically championing a better way to do things since 2001. At times, its better way (be it packaging design, recycled content, etc) has been criticized as potentially detrimental to its bottom line. However, this proud B Corporation is steadfastly committed to innovation and exploration. The brand is equally committed to advocating its business model: Its Soapbox facility in Chicago’s Pullman District prioritizes local hiring and has an open-door policy — even to competition. According to Van Gendt, sharing its approach to sustainable manufacturing goes beyond the bottle. Giving tours is just one way Method proves that what it does, and how it does it, works.

Being recognized for proving the profitable path through purpose, and redefining what good business is, has made Method a leader among socially and environmentally driven businesses. Van Gendt notes the accomplishments of Method proudly, but also appreciates competitors and peers in the space.

“I truly feel that there is, more than ever, a responsibility around plastic packaging for consumer brands. We can’t ignore that other brands and foundations have really stepped up, and we applaud them.”

Where Van Gendt really sees Method’s advantage, however, is in its B Corp standing. While large corporations have an institutional inertia hindering responsiveness, Method’s size and organizational approach keeps it nimble — allowing for innovations in both product and business. Innovations directly correlating to corporate initiatives and values are inherent in every step of production, providing Method a credibility with consumers few other brands have.

“Consumers are looking for leadership transparency. They have more skepticism around messaging, and being a B Corp is a great way to evaluate if a brand is doing what it says it’s doing.”

Van Gendt believes that industries have not yet seen the potential of B Corp status and can’t wait to see B Corps become the new norm. Where there was previously hesitation on brands’ part, Van Gendt now sees willingness. Brands seeking leadership positions within their communities are taking notice of established corporations and wholly owned subsidiaries being certified. Seeing respected names use the framework has shifted the conversation, with over 2,000 companies globally now with B Corp standing. Method and Van Gendt will continue to be outspoken as to the value gained.

“By using our B Corp standing as a platform, we continue to be honored among the best of the best,” she says.

Being the best of the best, for Method, means fostering internal employee pride and external education as part of the mission. van Gendt sees this especially with the Soapbox manufacturing plant, where Method creates solutions that can be replicated in other manufacturing industries and empowers its workforce to be part of those solutions: Employees at the Pullman location know every ingredient in the products they make. They have a voice to help identify efficiencies and are encouraged to collaborate on the processes. As they learn about the Method business, employees go forth as ambassadors into schools and the Chicago community.

“Our employees take pride in their jobs because they can go to their local Target and see the tangible effects of their work; that’s really rewarding,” van Gendt says.

She also knows that the work is never really done. Constant vigilance is required to be a steward for the environment, Method, and its employees and consumers.

“We look at innovations that will benefit us, maybe ten years down the road. Partnerships are how we test innovation, and we need to collaborate on new materials and processes.

“As an optimist, I have to hope that it is real change.”

Meet Saskia van Gendt and courageous optimists like her at SB’19 Detroit, June 3-6. Register with code JoinUs and you can get 20% off a pass of your choosing!

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