Case Study

GOJO goes to the ends of the earth for sustainability.

Biomimicry Fellowship. Innovation inspired by nature.

As inventors of PURELL® Hand Sanitizers, GOJO Industries is the global leader in advanced skin health and hygiene solutions for away-from-home settings. Based in Akron, Ohio, the company maintains an innovative product portfolio that includes hand cleaning, hand washing, hand sanitizing and skin care formulas under the GOJO®, PURELL® and PROVON® brand names.

A natural progression

Driven by a culture that values innovation and sustainability, GOJO Industries was an early adopter of biomimicry. As a way to further integrate biomimicry into their own process, GOJO is sponsoring a Biomimicry PhD Fellow, Emily Kennedy, from the University of Akron. Kennedy spends two days a week embedded in the GOJO Research and Development department, using nature as her living, learning laboratory to support sustainable product and process innovation.

GOJO conducts first Biomimicry Innovation Workshop

In early 2013, Kennedy collaborated with Tom Marting, GOJO Life Cycle Analysis and Sustainability Specialist, and Nick Ciavarella, GOJO Principal Engineer, New Technology and Alliances, to lead its first biomimicry innovation workshop.

The objective was to apply biomimicry principles and practices to invent next generation liquid formula dispensing systems. In total, a cross-functional team of 15 participants invested approximately 150 hours of time over three workshop sessions.

Session 1 – Researched how nature moves fluids
Session 2 – Identified engineering principles embodied by nature’s models
Session 3 – Brainstormed novel dispenser concepts

Amazingly, this workshop resulted in five patent applications for dispensing systems. All five patent-pending systems are projecting greater than 50 percent energy savings. And two have the potential to become platform technologies for the GOJO line of liquid soap and sanitizer dispensers.

Second workshop nets more positive results

In winter 2014, a second biomimicry innovation workshop focused on creating nature-inspired topical treatments that nourish and protect the skin. This workshop was led by Kennedy, Marting and Jessica Tittl, GOJO Product Development Lab Technician.

Biological models discussed included:

  • Abrasion-resistant skin of sand-dwelling reptiles
  • Cushioning properties of spittlebug froth
  • Dynamic moisture control exhibited by insect cuticles

Once again, biomimicry resulted in innovative and sustainable product concepts, proving the repeatability of the process.

Three new product concepts that emerged from the workshop are currently in development using chemical ingredients that are naturally derived and biodegradable, largely avoiding petroleum-based and environmentally toxic ingredients. They introduce novel, zero-waste solutions compared to products on the market. And they reinforce the outcome of the first workshop: biomimicry is a powerful tool that generates sustainable results.

Next steps: Back to nature we go

Inspired by the success of the workshop, additional biomimicry initiatives are now underway. For example: GOJO skin care scientists are gaining insights from biological models of cell regeneration.

Even at this early stage of the student-industry partnership, biomimicry is showing value as it becomes part of the GOJO culture and its sustainable ways of working.