CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

The struggle to make plastics more sustainable

May 14, 2021, 10:08 AM UTC

Good morning.

SC Johnson—the company that makes Windex, Pledge and Glade, among other things—had a good pandemic. “We’ve been one of the fortunate few,” says CEO Fisk Johnson, the fifth generation of his family to lead the company. “All our categories have been strong, with one exception.” The exception? “Shoe polish.”

These days, Johnson spends much of his time talking about plastic waste. “Social responsibility dates back to my great-great grandfather,” he told me last week. “We were the first company to eliminate CFCs from our products. We did it at great cost. We were ten years ahead of the Montreal Protocol.” Now, he says, “I spend quite a bit of my time on sustainability efforts in particular, because it is very important to the company.”

The plastic waste problem is worsening—the percentage of plastic that gets recycled has been falling, and the amount that ends up in the ocean is rising. Cheap oil means virgin plastic is cheaper than recycled plastic, and will remain so for years to come. Yet Johnson is an optimist. He sees a convergence of three forces: consumers willing to pay for environmentally friendly products, governments willing to regulate to ensure recycling, and businesses taking increased responsibility for the environmental problems their plastic products create. “We are finally able to get some traction. We are seeing slow progress, but progress nevertheless.”

This week, SC Johnson announced a partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks, similar to its partnership with the Milwaukee Brewers, to collect plastic cups at the sports arena and turn them into recycled bottles for its Scrubbing Bubbles product.

Separately, if you are one of the folks still scratching your head over why Elon Musk abandoned bitcoin, here’s a clue: Yesterday he tweeted out a link to this story by Fortune’s Shawn Tully.

More news below.

Alan Murray


Alibaba fine  

China's e-commerce giant has announced its first-ever loss since going public, largely due to a $2.8 billion antitrust fine levied by the Chinese government, writes Fortune's Yvonne Lau. The company's operating loss was $1.2 billion. It called the fine a "one time" impact, but investors are still jittery about Alibaba's battle with Beijing. Fortune

Masks off 

Vaccinated Americans can now officially take their masks off, according to the CDC—and they don't have to socially distance, either. The surprise announcement opened a new chapter for the country even as India and some parts of Asia were back under lockdown or struggling with the worst peak in cases yet. But for many Americans, it was a time to breathe a sigh of relief. “We have all longed for this moment,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday. NYT

Ransom paid 

Colonial Pipeline paid almost $5 million to a shadowy criminal hacking group called DarkSide, according to reports. The group brought the key supply line for gasoline and diesel on the U.S. East Coast to a halt for five days, briefly spurring panic buying. The reports contradict earlier claims that the company had no intention of paying the hackers. Bloomberg

Disney streaming 

Disney's flagship streaming platform, Disney+, added less subscribers than analysts had hoped—facing headwinds from a reopening economy that has also hit streaming gains for rival Netflix. On the other hand, if Disney fans aren't on their couches, there is somewhere else they can be: in the company's theme parks. WSJ


More Dogecoin

This is your daily dogecoin update. I repeat, this is your daily dogecoin update. Coinbase now says it will offer the coin on its platform in six to eight weeks (though it seems that the Dogecoin derivative joke, Shiba Inu Coin, is still not going to be offered.) Meanwhile, the governor of the Bank of England offered, with a sigh, a piece of advice on Bitcoin: "Buy it if you want but it has no intrinsic value.” Fortune

McDonald's wages 

McDonald's announced it would raise wages, with the average hourly pay at restaurants the company owns rising to $13/hour (the full range is between $11 and $17 per hour.) The hikes come alongside comparable raises from Chipotle, and as a widespread labor shortage at current pay rates has dogged the food industry. However, the raises won't be automatic at franchised restaurants. Fortune

Gaza Violence 

The violence in Israel and the Gaza Srip escalated once again on Friday morning, as Israeli ground forces carried out ground attacks on the strip. It's not clear if the attacks are a prelude to a full scale invasion, but as mob violence mounts alongside rocket fire and air strikes, some in Israel have increasingly warned of the risk of civil war. In Gaza, 119 people have been killed, while eight people have been killed in Israel, one of them a soldier. NYT

Cuba's homegrown vaccine 

Cuba is starting its vaccination drive—using two shots, Abdala and Soberana 2—which have yet to receive the full regulatory go ahead from the government. Cuba saw its worst month for infections in April, and is the main driver for cases in the Caribbean. Cuban health officials say the vaccines are safe, but have not released the trial data. FT

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Katherine Dunn.

Our mission to make business better is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.