S C Johnson, headquartered in Racine, Wisconsin is one of the world’s leading makers of household brands. The company generates over $10 billion in sales with operations in more than 70 countries.
This case study describes a futures studies project that was conducted in 2013 for SC Johnson. The company had identified a need for greater perspective and clarity on future planning and strategy and the need for product innovations and the development of new markets and partnerships. It was believed that such initiatives would reinvigorate the company’s flat lining performance and build platforms for sustainable development into the 21st Century.
The Centre for Future Studies was engaged to facilitate the development stages of these initiatives.
Outline of the project
In summary, the structure of the project was as follows:
- Horizon scanning to identify drivers of change and their impacts.
- Audit current level of creative thinking skills in the strategic product development team and provide training to enhance their creative thinking ability.
- Generate scenarios depicting possible future worlds.
- Brainstorm possible new product concepts.
Following completion of these activities, SC Johnson's strategic product development team conducted detailed analyses of the profitability and organisational implications of introducing each of the new product concepts. They then submitted formal product development proposals to their senior management team for approval.
A number of critical themes emerged from the work including:
- Environmental and resource depletion problems
- Sustainability issues
- Increasing urbanisation
- Need for transparency
- Profound changes to the economic, political and social fabric of cities
- The emerging circular economy with resource efficient collaborative consumption
- Microbiotic energy
- 3D printing
- Auto-clean surfaces
Two initiatives stemming from the work are the company’s expansion into commercial markets and the disclosure of fragrance ingredients; this in response to mounting interest and pressure from consumers and retailers who have been demanding to know what’s in everyday household products.