Ecolab, Inc. history, profile and history video

     Ecolab, Inc. provides water, hygiene and energy technologies and services which provides and protects clean water, safe food, abundant energy and healthy environments. It develops and markets premium programs, products and services for the hospitality, foodservice, healthcare, industrial and energy markets. The company’s technologies, chemicals and services are also used in water treatment, pollution control, energy conservation, oil production and refining, steelmaking, papermaking, mining, and other industrial processes. It operates through six reportable segments: U.S. Cleaning and Sanitizing, U.S. Other Services, International Cleaning, Sanitizing and Other Services, Global Water, Global Paper and Global Energy. The U.S. Cleaning and Sanitizing segment is comprised of five operating units which provide cleaning and sanitizing products and programs to U.S. markets. Its operating units include: Institutional, Food and Beverage, Kay, Healthcare and Textile Care. The Institutional division sells specialized cleaners and sanitizers for washing dishes, glassware, flatware, foodservice utensils and kitchen equipment, for on premise laundries and for general housekeeping functions, as well as food safety products and equipment, water filters, dishwasher racks and related kitchen sundries to the foodservice, lodging, educational and healthcare industries. The Food and Beverage division addresses cleaning and sanitation at the beginning of the food chain to facilitate the processing of products for human consumption. The Kay business unit supplies cleaning and sanitizing chemical products and related items primarily to regional, national and international quick service restaurant chains and to regional and national food retailers. The Healthcare division provides infection prevention and other healthcare related offerings to acute care hospitals, surgery centers, dental offices and veterinary clinics. The Textile Care division provides products and services that manage the entire wash process through custom-designed programs, premium products, dispensing equipment, water and energy management, and real-time data management for large-scale, complex commercial operations including uniform rental, hospitality, linen rental and healthcare laundries. The U.S. Other Services segment is comprised of two operating units: Pest Elimination and Equipment Care. The Pest Elimination division provides services designed to detect, eliminate and prevent pests, such as rodents and insects, in restaurants, food and beverage processors, educational and healthcare facilities, hotels, quick service restaurant and grocery operations and other institutional and commercial customers. The Equipment Care division provides equipment repair, maintenance and preventive maintenance services for the commercial food service industry. The International Cleaning, Sanitizing & Other Services segment directly operates in countries outside of the U.S. through wholly-owned subsidiaries, in the case of Venezuela, through a joint venture with a local partner. The Global Water segment serves customers across industrial and institutional markets, with the exception of the pulp and paper industry which is serviced by its global paper business and the energy industries which are served by the global energy business. The Global Paper segment provides water and process applications for the pulp and paper industries. The Global Energy segment provides on-site, technology-driven solutions to the global drilling, oil and gas production, refining, and petrochemical industries. Ecolab was founded by Merritt J. Osborn in 1923 and is headquartered in St. Paul, MN.

    Ecolab History

    Early years : 1923 – 1950s

    Merritt J. “M.J.” Osborn was a traveling salesman early in his career. While staying at hotels, he saw that guest room carpets were sent out for cleaning. Cleaning could take a week or more – and, while the carpet was away, the hotel closed the room, foregoing revenues. Years later, at age 44 and with two sons about ready for college, M.J. was in desperate need of a new business idea. He set about developing a product to clean guest carpets in the rooms. By cleaning the carpet in place in the morning, the room would be ready for guests that evening. M.J. called his product Absorbit and, in 1923, he formed a company and called it Economics Laboratory. Its tagline: “Saving time, lightening labor and reducing costs to those we serve.”

    Absorbit did not turn into the money-maker M.J. had hoped. But that didn’t stop him. He looked from the hotel room to the hotel kitchen, where electric dish machines were beginning to appear. M.J. foresaw human dishwashers being displaced by the machines. But at the time, there was a problem: The machines did a poor job of washing dishes, in large part because there were no effective dish machine soaps. M.J. saw the opportunity – and he worked to develop a better soap. The result was SOILAX. The earliest formulation of SOILAX may not have delivered perfect results. But it was the best option on the market. It was well received – and it provided the young company with more stable financial footing.

    During the 1930s, it expanded throughout the United States; and the sales reached US$5.4 million by the end of 1940’s. It acquired the Magnus Company in the early 1950s, which gave the company access to Magnus’s industrial specialty businesses – including pulp and paper, metalworking, transportation, and petrochemical processing.

    Transition to a public corp. and expansion : 1950s – 1986

    In the 1950s, international expansion of Economics Laboratory started, with the establishment of its first overseas subsidiary in Sweden in 1956. It became a publicly traded corporation in 1957, and continued to expand during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1979, it acquired Apollo Technologies; but in 1983, the acquired Apollo subsidiary was shut down.

    Ecolab Inc. : 1986 – present

    In 1986, the company changed its name from Economics Laboratory to Ecolab Inc.

    In 1987, Ecolab purchased the lawncare servicer provider, ChemLawn for US$376 million. It sold the acquisition in 1992 to Service Master, for US$103 million as it couldn’t turn ChemLawn into a profitable business. Ecolab and the German fast-moving consumer goods firm, Henkel KGaA formed a 50:50 European joint venture called ‘Henkel-Ecolab’ in mid-1991 to expand into European/Russian markets.

    Ecolab would continue to acquire companies in the 1990s, namely : Kay Chemical (1993); Australia-based Gibson Chemical Industries Ltd (1997) ; and GCS Service Inc (1998). In 2001, it bought out its partner Henkel’s 50% stake in the European JV, Henkel-Ecolab. Subsequently Ecolab integrated the former Henkel-Ecolab into its existing global operations. As a legacy of the Henkel-Ecolab cooperation from 1991-2001, Henkel would continue to hold a 29.5% stake in Ecolab Inc after the sale of the joint venture.

    In the mid-2000s, strategic acquisitions continued; and Ecolab diversified its portfolio of customer offerings, by venturing into food safety management business as well as a healthcare business unit. In 2005, it opened a new global research, development and engineering center in Eagan, Minnesota.

    In 2008, Henkel sold all of the 73 million shares, i.e. nearly 29.5% stake it held in Ecolab, ending the two decade long partnership. The same year, Ecolab established Zurichas its EMEA headquarters.

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    In 2010, Ecolab was ranked #365 in Fortune 500 magazine, and in 2011, Ecolab was named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere magazine.

    In July 2011, Ecolab announced a merger with Nalco Holding Company, Inc.; and in December 2011, Nalco became a wholly owned subsidiary of Ecolab Inc., after it completed its US$5.4 billion acquisition.

    In May 2012, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates through his investment vehicles – Cascade Investment and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; increased the current stake of 10.8% in Ecolab to 25%.

    In October 2012, Ecolab entered an agreement to acquire Champion Technologies. That purchase closed in April 2013.”

    *Information from and

    **Video published on YouTube by “Ecolab Latinoamericacentral



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