Sustainability at GOJO: Changing How the World Stays Well

AKRON, Ohio — GOJO Industries is an Ohio-based company and an important member of Green Energy Ohio (GEO).  GOJO is committed to making well-being solutions for consumers under the GOJO®, PURELL® and PROVON® brand names, with products such as hand sanitizers, hand soaps, surface sanitizing and disinfecting formulas, and more.  

As a GEO business member, GOJO is one of several who isn’t actually in the clean energy business.  Instead, GOJO makes use of clean energy as part of its corporate sustainability strategy.  The corporation has a committed team that has implemented very successful projects for the company in sustainability, particularly in clean energy.  

And no one is more familiar with the company’s sustainability initiatives and successes than Tom Marting, Facilities, Environmental, Health, Safety, and Sustainability Director at GOJO.

Meet Tom Marting

While Tom Marting was getting his chemical engineering degree at Ohio University in the 1990s, he was not thinking of sustainability as a career path.  But rather, after working at L’Oreal as a Project Engineer and later an Environmental Manager, he decided to pursue sustainability as a profession at GOJO.

Like GOJO, L’Oreal was an early adopter of incorporating sustainability in the corporate culture, establishing ambitious water, greenhouse gas, and waste reduction goals.  Along with the manufacturing and packaging of hair care products, Tom’s job was to make improvements to achieve those reduction goals.  Tom remembers the specific moment he became hooked on sustainability: when he was assigned to work on a Life Cycle Assessment study of L’Oreal’s products and realized that the reductions they worked so hard to make on their manufacturing phase were measured and calculated, they were found to account for only 5% of a shampoo’s overall environmental impacts.  “It was quite an epiphany. I had never really considered or fully understood the often hidden environmental impacts of the complete life cycle of a product before, from the point materials are initially extracted from nature to when it’s eventually disposed of.  It was startling.”

The project opened Tom’s eyes to the systemic aspects of sustainability and motivated him to find ways to do more in his career to make a difference, and he went on to do just that.  Nine years ago, he began working for GOJO as their LCA and Sustainability Specialist, with a passion and drive to apply ecodesign tools like biomimicry, which allowed him to incorporate life cycle thinking into his work.  As GOJO expanded as a company, they also grew their sustainability aspirations, and Tom moved into his current role as the Facilities, Environmental, Health, Safety, and Sustainability Director.

GOJO is Rooted in Green

The history of GOJO tells a story born of sustainable innovation.  In 1947, Goldie Lippman worked in a rubber factory and would come home every night to her husband Jerry Lippman with skin damaged by the harsh chemicals used in factories at that time to clean hands.  Mr. Lippman ended up creating the first-ever one-step, rinse-off GOJO® Hand Cleaner with the help of a chemist from Kent State, and sold the product, which he mixed at home and filled into pickle jars, out of the back of his car.  This innovation led to the founding of GOJO in 1946, and GOJO® Hand Cleaner is still sold as a dirt and grime remover today.

From the start, sustainability was a focus at GOJO.  Green chemistry helped create a well-being solution to meet a need in the community.  The product was packaged in repurposed pickle jars.  At its foundation, the GOJO company was built on the value of sustainability.

Tom says it’s great working with the owners and leadership at GOJO, who are very sustainability-conscious and have been advancing sustainability initiatives in all aspects of the company.  In particular, GOJO successfully met its 2020 renewable energy goal through solar power early, a project Tom implemented. “We know that environmental impacts also have human health impacts; the combustion of fossil fuels leads to air pollution, which causes health issues like respiratory disease. So we see a connection between renewable energy and our GOJO Purpose: Saving Lives and Making Life Better Through Well-Being Solutions,” Tom explained.

The Solar Success Story

633-kilowatt solar array on GOJO’s campus

Tom was one of the first GOJO employees to begin work at the large manufacturing facility GOJO acquired in Wooster in 2015, getting the facility ready for the manufacturing operations to come.  One of his tasks was to incorporate ecodesign approaches to the start-up of the facility.  There are several sustainability design elements in action at the GOJO Wooster facility, including waste heat recovery technologies; water side economizers on cooling water systems; white roofing to lower the heat island effect; high efficiency direct fire heaters; smart LED lightings systems; and 1,836 solar panels that power approximately one-third of the facility where GOJO makes bottles and pumps, blends PURELL® Hand Sanitizer, fills those bottles, and ships them out to their customers. 

With all of that activity taking place inside the Wooster facility, it uses a lot of energy.  GOJO set the goal in 2015 to generate enough renewable energy generation by 2020 to offset all of its order fulfillment and logistics operations.  Tom is proud to report that their 633-kilowatt solar array has generated just over 1.21 gigawatt-hours of power in the last 18 months. 

Executive Director, Jane Harf next to GOJO panels at 2019 GEO Tour

And energy generation is not the only success story. With Tom leading the charge, the initiative that began as an aspirational goal in 2015 was completed over a year earlier than initially planned.  With the expectation of having the project completed in 2020, the switch on the Wooster solar project was actually flipped on in December 2018.

Tom credits the company’s culture as the main factor for success.  “One of the great things about GOJO is once we’ve decided to pursue a goal, we are free to get to work,” says Tom.  This allows his team to maintain a strong focus and get the job done.

GEO was fortunate to have GOJO as a sponsor of the 2019 Green Energy Ohio Tour and to have the GOJO solar array as the first stop on the Wooster route.  When GOJO shares their story of commitment to sustainability and renewable energy, the message resonates with other businesses in the community.  Tom is always excited to share the GOJO story and lead by example.  He has shared existing incentive packages, current technologies, and other aspects of their systems with several local companies.  By doing so, those companies can get a head start on their own projects and don’t have to spend a year undertaking research.

Growing Demand

Only a couple of months ago, GOJO announced that they are beginning to prep a new facility for the manufacturing of PURELL® Surface Spray in response to the demand for surface disinfection products during the pandemic.  As people continue to follow guidelines on hand hygienge during the pandemic, GOJO is working hard to meet the increasing demand for PURELL, and they are using green energy to meet that need. 

Very early on in the pandemic, GOJO put safety precautions in place at their faciltities that we are all familiar with now: barriers, masks, socially distancing, and working from home when possible.  The collaborative culture of GOJO faces the challenge of these new workplace norms head-on.  With products in such high-demand, GOJO is working 24/7 to increase supply to get their essential products where they are needed most while preparing for a post-pandemic future. 

Tom says he believes that even when the pandemic is over, new and heightened levels of conscientiousness in hand hygiene will stay. With this in mind, GOJO is looking beyond the current pandemic and thinking long term, both in manufacturing and in sustainability.

The 2020 Plan

The Wooster solar project was a part of a comprehensive five-year plan called the 2020 Sustainable Value Strategies and Goals.  The details of these goals, how they were measured, and the stories of their successes are all shared in the GOJO Sustainability Report online. Tom confirms that as GOJO celebrates achieving their 2020 goals, they are not done, but are now looking to create the next set of corporate sustainability goals beyond 2020.

One of the main drivers in the creation of these goals is not to let the momentum slow.  Tom notes that it is important in sustainability planning to continue to strive for more.  “We have many different ideas and opportunities to continue to be leaders in sustainability,” Tom says.  With all the sustainable value potential open to GOJO, Tom is excited to see the next set of goals announced in the near future, as the next round will be even more ambitious than before.

By Courtney VanHuffel