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Procter and Gamble unveil 'sustainability vision' for 2020

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Procter and Gamble, the largest consumer packaged goods corporation in the world, has announced a "sustainability vision" for 2020. On tap: renewable energy, recycled materials and water conservation.

Procter and Gamble, the largest consumer packaged goods corporation in the world, on Monday announced a "sustainability vision" that, if successful, could have a massive impact on the environment.

In a webcast, P&G president and CEO Bob McDonald outlined the company's long-term corporate sustainability strategy, which was based on four key pillars:

  • Power plants with 100 percent renewable energy.
  • Use 100 percent renewable or recycled materials for all products and packaging.
  • Ensure that zero consumer and manufacturing waste go to landfills.
  • Design products that delight consumers while maximizing the conservation of resources.

"We don't treat environmental sustainability as something separate from our base business," McDonald said during the webcast. He added later: "It's just good business."

Flowing forth from those four pillars are a series of 10-year "near-term" sustainability goals, which come in addition to the company's existing 2012 goals (which include operations reductions and sales targets for sustainable products). Progress for both will be reported on an annual basis.

P&G’s specific 2020 sustainability goals include:

  • Replace petroleum-based materials with sustainably sourced renewable materials by 25 percent.
  • Increase cold water washing to 70 percent of all machine loads.
  • Reduce packaging by 20 percent per consumer use.
  • Conduct pilot studies in developed and developing markets to understand how to eliminate landfilled/dumped consumer solid waste.
  • Increase renewable energy powering company plants to 30 percent of the total mix.
  • Reduce disposed manufacturing waste to less than 0.5 percent.
  • Reduce truck transportation by 20 percent (km/unit of volume) compared to 2010 baseline.

The company tops its vision off with a three-year partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to conserve water (via selling concentrated detergents), increase the use of renewable materials and reduce its use of plastic (via the use of sugar cane-derived bioplastics).

That venture joins a corporate social responsibility program started in 2009 to ensure safe drinking water for children in developing nations. (Goal: "save a life every hour," approx. 10,000 in total, via 2 billion liters of clean water.)

The major factor here is P&G's massive global footprint -- after all, this is the company responsible for the majority of consumer products in your home: Pampers, Tide, Always, Pantene, Gillete, Bounty, Dawn, Gain, Pringles, Charmin, Downy, Iams, Crest, Oral-B, Duracell and Olay are just some of its brands.

We've learned from Walmart that when it comes to corporate sustainability, size matters. Can P&G rise to the challenge?

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure