P&G reports absolute reductions in waste, water, CO2 and energyJanuary 2014
Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble has reported making significant progress in meeting its sustainability in its 15th sustainability report.
Len Sauers, vp of sustainability at the Ariel maker, told Ethical Performance that the company’s absolute reductions in four key areas were the most impressive statistics to come out of the report. “That means we’ve reduced CO2 emissions at the same time as growing the business,” he said. “And advances in our zero waste to refill goal has actually meant $1bn to P&G’s bottom line.”
Sauers has been with P&G for 27 years, starting off as a toxicologist in new product R&D. “It’s a key part of P&G’s approach to sustainability that I’m a technical person,” he explained. “Most sustainability issues are science-based.”
Sauers says that the biggest sustainability challenge the company faces continues to be consumer attitudes towards the subject. “A huge mainstream of 70% of consumers may be eco aware but they’re not willing to trade off in either performance or price. So the challenge is not only do we have to build sustainability into our products but we also have to see the performance have a meaningful benefit.”
He cites cold water washing as a good example of a technical innovation that creates a sustainable product without performance trade-off, though he admits “you still have to convince consumers that they give the same performance.” (Hot water washes are the company’s largest energy footprint.)
Another is Downey Single Rinse. In the developing world such The Philippines or India, most washing is done by hand. Women usually need four bowls of water; one to wash and three to rinse. “Given that water scarcity is another issue in these markets, we’ve halved the amount of water required. It is marketed from a convenience angle rather than a sustainable one, ” Sauers stated.
P&G’s consistent sustainability message to the consumer is that there is no trade off. “You save money; you save time,” explains Sauers. “We don’t talk about the greenhouse gas emissions which are saved too. That’s not part of our on-shelf message. Consumers can seek out that information if they want to.”
With regards to consumer behaviour change, Sauers is honest: “We don’t care why they change as long as they do.”
Sauers says that there is a growing realization in sustainability that the company can’t “do this all on our own.”
“For society to transform to this sustainable model, that’s why we value our partnerships. We’ve just renewed our WWF partnership - they aid us in responsible sourcing of materials. I think we’ll see a lot more collaborations in the future.”
During the past fiscal year, P&G’s plant in Huangpu, China partnered with a local utility supplier to install rooftop solar panels, which is expected to eliminate 600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually from the local community. And this year, P&G helped improve life for more than 60m people in need, exceeding its annual goal of 50 million.
Through the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, the Company shared its six billionth liter of clean drinking water with a family in Myanmar. In addition, P&G supported people in need by providing 20,000 personal care kits to disaster victims and empowering nearly 3,000 employees to help build and clean homes with Habitat for Humanity by the end of this year.
“All of these efforts mark significant progress through partnerships toward helping make every day better for people and the planet,” said Sauers. “We look forward to deepening our existing partnerships and forging new ones as we work toward our goals and the future of 7bn people.”
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