Interview: P&G's SVP North America Home Care Talks 2030 Sustainability Ambitions
This article is sponsored by P&G
The mounting, intertwined impacts of climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, and global poverty are challenging companies to continue to improve on issues of sustainability and social impact. The question facing many large companies is how, and by how much, they can continue to build upon their successes thus far, and their ambitions for the future. Proctor & Gamble, having achieved or surpassed many of the goals it wanted to achieve by 2020, has set new, more ambitious targets to reach by 2030.
Next on P&G’s agenda is Ambition 2030, a set of goals that includes purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity globally, cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half at P&G sites, boosting water efficiency by 35 percent, encouraging more recycling to keep P&G packaging from reaching the oceans, and several other targets related to sustainability and reducing carbon footprint. P&G also says it is integrating social and environmental sustainability as a key strategy in its global businesses, investing in educating employees about sustainability, and linking executive pay to progress in meeting environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.
TriplePundit recently spoke with Marchoe Northern, senior vice president for North America Home Care at P&G, to find out more about how she’s bringing P&G’s Ambition 2030 to life on her business.
TriplePundit: P&G is looking to respond to challenges such as global poverty, climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss through the Ambition 2030 strategy. Can you tell us a bit more about Ambition 2030 and how it influences the way P&G Home Care brands like Cascade and Dawn do business?
Marchoe Northern: Ambition 2030 is a set of broad-reaching goals aimed at enabling and inspiring positive impact for the planet while creating value for the company and consumers. It is the next step in our sustainability journey after achieving many of our 2020 goals and includes science-based targets that help pace our progress toward becoming net-zero by 2040. We will accelerate our use of renewable energy, advance technologies to decarbonize our supply chain, and invest in water accessibility to protect water for people and nature. Further, we will reduce our use of virgin petroleum plastic in packaging by 50 percent, and 100 percent of our consumer packaging will be recyclable or reusable by 2040.
If we have learned anything from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and other climate change research institutions, it’s that this decade is crucial to safeguarding a healthy planet for the future. We know we don’t have all the answers, and that it will take partnerships and collaboration to make meaningful progress and reimagine responsible consumption.
3p: How do P&G Home Care brands look to engage their key stakeholders — such as employees, suppliers and customers — in their sustainability work?
MN: An example of how we’re engaging stakeholders, suppliers and customers is through the launch of Dawn Powerwash — a product that employs recycled plastic, a refillable format, and spray activated suds that eliminate the need to pre-rinse or soak dishes. We can thank our R&D teams for the formula that saves up to 81 gallons of water per week for typical household dishwashing needs. We can thank partners like the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and PureCycle Technologies for creating new recycling streams and driving toward more consumer-friendly, circular solutions like the Powerwash refill format.
What’s great is that so many of our employees, like myself, are passionate about sustainability and are looking to connect innovation from one product portfolio to another. As a parent, I want the world to be a better place for my children, and I’ve heard that from our product designers, too; they want to design more sustainable products. It’s the same thing in talking with our partners and retailers; they want to help educate consumers, whether online, on-shelf or otherwise. Consumers also share they want to live more sustainably. We’ve seen a collective mindset shift toward sustainability among all our stakeholders, so it’s now about creating products and programs that meaningfully engage everyone in this ecosystem.
3p: What do you feel are some of the biggest accomplishments P&G Home Care brands have made in alignment with Ambition 2030 so far?
MN: I love the strides we’ve made in packaging. We recently overhauled our Swiffer package design for duster products that eliminated plastic packaging, effectively reducing plastic usage by 173 tons per year, as much weight as 122 Honda Accords.
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser recently switched from a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) tub design to one that uses recyclable carton boards. That innovation reduced our plastic usage by 482 tons per year. We’re making strides in our Dawn and Febreze portfolios. In addition to a formula that reduces water usage by up to 50 percent, Dawn Powerwash features a reusable trigger and recyclable refill, and we’ve done a lot of work to reduce our reliance of virgin plastic with Febreze, currently using 25 to 50 percent post-consumer recycled content (PCR) within the portfolio. By innovating individual Febreze product lines, such as completely eliminating plastic thermoform PET blisters from our Plug refill packaging, we’ll save an estimated 175 million pounds of plastic across the entire portfolio by 2030.
3p: What are some of the most powerful partnerships to come out of the strategy? What do you feel other business leaders can learn from them about establishing relationships that drive positive impact?
MN: We know we need to be clear-headed about our own capabilities and gaps, and we need partners to help with the pieces we can’t do on our own. One of the most powerful examples of this is our partnership between Cascade, a household brand helping millions of people reduce their daily water footprint, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s Change the Course campaign, a water conservation initiative to restore and protect water at the source.
The partnership consists of a project portfolio that will restore more than 2.6 billion gallons of water to rivers and wetlands across the United States in some of our most water-stressed regions. Cascade and Change the Course work together on water stewardship education, while Cascade supports critical funding of the project portfolio, and Change the Course manages local engagement, vetting on-the-ground projects, and working directly with communities.
3p: What can you tell us about the challenges P&G Home Care brands have faced on the journey toward Ambition 2030 and how they responded?
MN: What’s best for the planet usually isn’t easiest, fastest or cheapest. It’s often quite the opposite. We believe that sustainability shouldn’t compromise performance, and that perspective helps us innovate. When we land on those new innovations that make sustainability irresistible, it makes the positive impact even more satisfying.
Another challenge is how we partner with consumers when the product’s use presents a big opportunity to improve carbon impact, like with our Dawn and Cascade brands. Designing the products to work with less water and energy is only part of the equation. We need people to skip the pre-rinse or pre-soak, which isn’t necessary with the right product formula. People who use our products should know we won’t make them choose between sustainability and a safe, superior clean.
3p: Based on what P&G Home Care brands have learned on their sustainability journey so far, what advice would you give to business leaders looking to scale up sustainability efforts at their companies?
MN: Understand that being ambitious and realistic aren’t mutually exclusive. Set big goals but hold yourself to incremental progress. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was built.
Find partners that have the same end-goal but have different capabilities and viewpoints. Be honest about your strengths and do the same for your partners. Our recycling partners have capabilities that we don’t, but both of us ultimately want consumers to recycle more. Our wildlife partners like International Bird Rescue and the Marine Mammal Center have the personnel and conservation expertise that allow us to collectively support ecosystems and protect biodiversity. There is strength in numbers, so look for like-minded partners that you can work with to achieve collective goals.
Lastly, keep your focus on the people you’re serving. When it comes to sustainability we should think about what our companies can do, but we should also think about what we can enable others to do. Take dishwashing, for example. Combining research that shows consumers want to be more sustainable with lifecycle assessments that show 80 percent of dishwashing’s carbon impact occurs during consumer use leads to innovations like Dawn Powerwash.
Consumer behavior matters and that’s where marketing and communications are critical. Letting consumers know that you’re creating products and services that not only make their lives easier but enable them to create more sustainable habits are key to scaling sustainable impact.
This article is sponsored by P&G.