Throughout her career, Dr. Priscilla Johnson has seen firsthand the power that companies of all sizes can have on the environment — whether it be for better or worse.
She’s worked at Dow, PG&E, Microsoft and she’s an entrepreneur with her own company.
Now, the founder and CEO of EcoDaisy has a dream to protect the environment, leave a legacy and help others do the same with her environmentally friendly cleaning products.
Priscilla, who was a self-proclaimed environmentalist since she was 13 years old growing up in North Carolina, said she was disturbed by the damaging ingredients that she found in her everyday cleaning products. She was determined to find something better.
“I realized that we have been devastating the planet and in terms of just dumping all kinds of pollution into our waterways, and it's to the point where you can't recreate in some areas, you can't eat the fish, you can't hunt, you can't just enjoy the outside,” said Priscilla, an environmental engineer who was director of water strategy at Microsoft for three years.
“I was going to make products that you can wash down the drain and not have a fear of damaging the environment,” said Priscilla from her home in the San Francisco Bay Area.
With a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Purdue University in environmental engineering, Priscilla used her extensive knowledge to research and explore the best formulas for her company’s sustainable, eco-friendly line of surface cleaners, hand soaps, dish soaps, and more, which are used in homes, businesses, hospitals, and the hospitality industry.
She wanted to ensure the products were healthy for both the consumer to use and breathe in. She also focused on their environmental impact, specifically for aquatic life.
“I can talk to you about every single ingredient,” she said. “I can tell you what it is and what it does.”
Priscilla has been using the same formula for 13 years. She began selling her first products in 2009 at a small farmers’ market in North Carolina, with her toddler son — and “biggest inspiration” — in tow.
Those early sales at the farmers’ market and limited shelf-space at retail stores prompted Priscilla to begin selling the EcoDaisy products online, an uncommon strategy she was excited to experiment with. She also began selling directly to the hospitality industry early on.
EcoDaisy products are now sold on 14 different platforms. The products are popular among retailers who are trying to reduce waste because EcoDaisy will refill the company’s bottles instead of providing new ones.
As the leader of EcoDaisy, Priscilla is determined to make sure her company does the right thing not only by providing trustworthy products, but also through mentorship and giving back.
Priscilla is in the process of building a board to launch her new mentorship program for those in the environmental industry. She hopes to share her experiences with others who have the same mission as her.
“I was really happy and lucky to grow up in Eastern North Carolina where I had that experience of community and appreciating the environment,” said Priscilla, “but being a protector of the environment, I just didn't realize how perilous a path it could be until I started working in corporate America.”
Priscilla worked in many different areas including the chemical and energy industries, wastewater treatment, and even tech data centers, for which she still consults.
Priscilla said the hardest part of working towards environmental change is working with people who have power and resources but “don’t all realize the urgency of our environmental crisis.”
She said the most common fear is that it costs too much.
Priscilla urges people to let go of the fears holding them back and just make the decision to put in the work, because the issue is pressing.
“These companies have a lot of responsibility, they can do really great things, and they could do not so great things that can really impact us for decades,” said Priscilla, who believes that integrity is crucial for environmental change.
At Microsoft, Priscilla was director of water strategy for three years, specifically working with Cloud. She helped create strategies to reduce the amount of water being used to run Microsoft data centers around the world. The strategies she worked on are still being used today.
One of Priscilla’s most memorable projects was when Microsoft was launching cloud services for Africa. She helped research, strategize and execute a plan to procure enough water to reach the 100,000-liter goal through atmospheric water generation, which pulls water from the air to preserve reservoirs and other bodies of water.
“There's a way to work symbiotically with the environment,” said Priscilla, who is constantly looking for more efficient ways to preserve resources and encourages other corporations to do the same.
Priscilla is passionate about her work, but admits the environmental industry is not the easiest to be a part of. Her lived industry experiences shaped the way she runs EcoDaisy, and the legacy she wants to leave.
She has big plans for the future of EcoDaisy. While she knows it won’t be an easy feat, she remains undaunted and refuses to be pigeonholed.
Priscilla is determined to make EcoDaisy a household brand nationwide and ensure that daily-used products are safe for all. EcoDaisy is moving to a vegan formula. It’s also focusing on more compostable packaging and subscription services that will create the opportunity for reusing more bottles.
“I don't believe that people have small businesses because their dreams are not small,” Priscilla said. “The perception of me having a woman-owned business, a minority-owned business, a small business… it's just this constant barrage of categories that seems to minimize a person’s dream, and my scale is to impact the environment… that’s not a small vision.”
source: Microsoft Alumni Network