P&G Harnesses Innovation to Accelerate Sustainable Change
P&G's Virginie Helias
What if the power to create a more sustainable world was in the palm of your hand? Or your shopping cart? Or your shower? At Procter & Gamble, our ambition is to drive responsible consumption at scale through product innovations that make a sustainable lifestyle easy and irresistible. As a company that reaches 5 billion people around the world, our brands are embracing the responsibility to create products that delight consumers while helping solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, water insecurity, waste and resource scarcity.
The next decade represents a critical window to accelerate progress on climate change. That’s why this past July, we launched our most ambitious climate commitment to date: to be carbon neutral for the decade. We’ll achieve this by purchasing 100% renewable electricity globally, cutting greenhouse-gas emissions across our operations in half, and investing in a portfolio of projects around the world that protect, improve and restore critical natural ecosystems.
While we work diligently to minimize our carbon footprint, our brands are helping consumers do the same. Tide discovered that more than 60% of a laundry detergent’s footprint is in running the washing machine, mostly related to the energy used to heat the water. The brand redesigned its formula in 2015 to clean just as well in cold water, using 90% less energy per load. Since then, millions of loads washed in lower temperatures have avoided roughly 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of taking 3 million cars off the road.
We know that large-scale change starts with the small choices we make in our homes every day. Cascade’s Do It Every Night campaign is busting a popular myth and encouraging families to forgo handwashing for the dishwasher, which can save up to 100 gallons of water a week — and the energy needed to heat the water.
Finding the Holy Grail
Another way we enable and inspire responsible consumption is through packaging innovation. We are committed to ensuring packages are collected and recycled, with the material reclaimed for a “second life.” In Europe, P&G led a coalition of companies to solve one of the largest obstacles facing recycling: ineffective sorting at material-recovery facilities that impacts the quality of recycled material. Holy Grail is a “smart package” technology that uses digital watermarks embedded in packages to sort recyclables faster and more accurately. It will be tested in Europe next year.
As part of our commitment to ensuring 100% of our packaging will be recyclable or reusable by 2030, Crest and Oral-B recently announced a transition to high-density polyethylene (HDPE) tubes. HDPE provides the same product protection as current tubes, but enables them to be recycled where collection programs exist. This packaging innovation will help make toothpaste tubes recyclable at scale in existing recycling streams — a significant improvement for a product that hasn’t been recyclable to date.
Our commitment to environmental stewardship extends throughout our value chain, which requires partnering closely with our suppliers to ensure that all the raw materials we use are responsibly sourced. For example, 100% of the wood pulp that we source is from responsibly managed forests and certified by third-party experts. For every tree used, at least one is regrown. Bounty, Charmin and Puffs are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Rainforest Alliance certified, which means that each brand meets rigorous standards that promote healthy forests for generations to come. These three brands are also investing in partnerships that protect, restore and grow forests, including a collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 300,000 trees to restore forests in California that were devastated by wildfires.
These are just some of the ways our brands are leveraging the power of innovation to be a force for good and a force for growth at scale. But we can’t do it alone. Together with our retail partners, consumers, nonprofit partners and employees, we are committed to continually finding new ways to protect and improve the lives of our communities and our common home, our planet.
Virginie Helias is chief sustainability officer at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble.