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Method Soap’s New Brand Campaign Celebrates Sustainable Chicago Factory

By Julia Brenner Method Soap recently launched a new brand campaign, “There’s Good Inside,” to celebrate the environmental and community-related benefits of its LEED-Platinum certified Chicago factory, nicknamed "the Soapbox," located in the city's Pullman neighborhood. While Method is known as a leader in eco-friendly cleaning products, their latest campaign is designed to highlight "what's good" about the brand beyond its products, according to Doug Piwinski, Method’s Global Chief Marketing Officer. Piwinski explains that the campaign "is meant to draw attention to the beauty of what’s inside our bottles–ultimately how we are connected to the homes and people who use and love Method.” The campaign stars the employees of Method’s Chicago factory, as well as shining a light on the innovative approach Method embraced in creating their south side Chicago facility, located on the site of a former steel manufacturing plant. Saskia van Gendt, Method’s Captain Planet, explained why the San Francisco-based company chose to base a sustainably run manufacturing plant in Chicago, citing criteria such as the need for an urban location, proximity to rail (which van Gendt notes is much more fuel efficient and less carbon intensive than trucks) and the proximity to The Great Lakes, since water is a key ingredient in many of their products. As part of their operations goals and their partnership with The Nature Conservancy, the company aims to recharge 30 million gallons of water back into the Watershed over the course of five years. When asked why the team chose their Pullman location specifically, van Gendt stated: Ultimately it was the Pullman community and the potential to bring new jobs and economic benefit to the south side of Chicago that made us decide to make Pullman home. Before we broke ground, we made a commitment to hire locally wherever possible, and have continued to hire, train and build experts out of people with no previous manufacturing experience. Van Gendt further added that, "while Chicago’s south side has a rich manufacturing history, in past decades many of those factories left, taking jobs and leaving social problems." Presently, the Soapbox represents regional economic growth, but the Method team maintains a longer term goal of inspiring a new era of green manufacturing in Pullman. Moreover, Piwinski hopes that the new brand campaign will do double duty by showing the public that "it’s the people in Pullman who make our products great" while also showing a viable business model that is taking a stand against "the threat of AI [that] looms large over corporate America and manufacturing." The Soapbox currently employs 130 Chicago residents, with almost half of all employees living in Pullman and the surrounding communities. The Soapbox is a new $27 million build (2015) on a former steel manufacturing site and is LEED-Platinum certified–the highest level of LEED certification and the only LEED Platinum factory in the soap making industry. The facility is 150,000 square feet with a 75,000 square foot rooftop greenhouse. The plant sits on 22 acres of land located in the Pullman neighborhood; 3.5 is used by the facility and the remainder is being restored as a native Illinois prairie for open space and native habitat. The site’s steel manufacturing history left the soil contaminated and was designated an EPA Brownfield. Method worked with the City of Chicago to rehabilitate heavy metals from the soil before construction. The plant produces renewable energy onsite with a 230-foot-tall, 600kW wind turbine, along with three 50kW solar trees. Wind and solar provides approximately one-third of the total factory energy needs, and the company buys the remaining renewable energy from their utility partner. By making and filling bottles on site, travel has reduced from 1,000 miles to 1,000 feet during production. The rooftop greenhouse was built and is operated by Gotham Greens, which grows 500 tons of produce per year to distribute throughout the Chicago area. The plant produces all-purpose cleaner, hand soap, dish liquid, refills, shower spray, glass cleaner and limited edition designed products. To date, Method's Soapbox employees have produced more than 50 million bottles of soap.

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