Method, a green cleaning company that Fast Company designated one of theWorld’s Most Innovative Companies in 2008, has a good thing going. Its nontoxic products are popular and accessible (find them in your local Target). The company has a healthy corporate culture. It has built a $100 million business in 11 years. But last week, Method announced it was being acquired by Belgian green cleaning competitor Ecover.
While this acquisition will create the biggest green cleaning company on the planet (combined sales of the two companies is over $200 million), it’s not necessarily a bad thing—Method won’t, according to co-founder Eric Ryan, get swallowed up whole.
"We’re venture backed, and whenever you raise outside capital, you’ve committed yourself to at some point making that liquid," says Ryan. "We raised a fair amount of capital because we fundamentally believe the only way we can shake up this category and go against the likes of [Procter & Gamble] is to do it fast."
Method didn’t set out to get acquired this year; in fact, says Ryan, the company is having "a record year on every possible metric." But Method and Ecover have been in talks for years. "They love our culture, they read our book multiple times, and they buy into how we do business," says Ryan. "We will continue to run as as an independent company that’s 100% aligned with their mission and values."
There will be changes, of course. Method will leverage Ecover’s large presence in Europe, using its ultra-sustainable manufacturing plants on the continent instead of shipping products from the U.S. The two companies will collaborate on research and development. And both Ryan and Method co-founder Adam Lowry will take more global roles in the new, larger company—including helping Ecover relaunch its brand in the U.S—while still keeping their focus on brand design and marketing (Ryan) and sustainability (Lowry).
But the most immediate change? At a Method event last week in San Francisco to welcome their new Belgian colleagues, Ecover "brought an incredible selection of Belgian beer," laughs Ryan.
Ultimately, the acquisition may give Method and Ecover a real shot at competing with bigger competitors—like Procter & Gamble’s line of Clorox Green Works products. "We’ve always had a stable business, and now it’s incredibly stable with a long-term vision," says Ryan. "What we’re really proud of is that we were able to sell without selling out."