SUSTAINABILITY TAKES ROOT
The journey towards sustainable cleaning is long and paved with challenges, but are we making progress?
Well, it is reassuring to look around and see the ample signs of progress.
Sustainability principles and procedures are becoming systemic in the supplying and producing industry.
Simply take a look at the numerous publications and events where suppliers and producers share their latest innovations, product and market case studies. You will for example find a report in this HPC magazine on the successful ‘Household Sustainability Summit’ (Copenhagen, December 2013), where Novozymes brought together key partners from the entire value chain. In 2014, the industry will continue to meet to bring sustainability to the next level, such as at the ‘Cleaning Products Europe’ event in March 2014 (Manchester) and the ‘World Conference on Fabric and Home Care’, organized by AOCS in October 2014 (Montreux).
Very reassuring is the convergence of sustainability goals, principles and approaches. These shared visions and goals will help to improve consumers’ lives and will help our consumers to live more sustainably by continually improving products through innovation and by continually shrinking the footprint and increasing the resource efficiency of detergents and cleaning products. Lifecycle analysis has become the most commonly used scientific tool guiding everyone to measure and report progress. Innovation has always been the fuel for business growth and societal progress, so it is very encouraging to see that sustainable design principles are becoming the ‘new normal’ in our industry.
Strong, public sustainability commitments have been made by all major actors across the value chain, covering supplying as well as producing companies.
An era has emerged with unprecedented collaboration and partnerships. Many of the challenges that we face in advancing sustainability are impossible for any organization to achieve on its own. And many sustainability initiatives and business building opportunities can be made bigger and better through collaboration. An example is the ‘I Prefer 30o’ programme, the latest multi-stakeholder initiative from A.I.S.E. and its national associations developed with an impressive and growing list of stakeholders in several European countries. I encourage you to read the A.I.S.E. article which shows how the detergent industry constantly renews its commitment towards sustainable cleaning products and practices. At P&G, we recently published a qualitative research project conducted with the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and 2 UK partners (Ref. Stalmans et al, H&PC Today, Vol, 8, Nr.6, 2013). This novel collaborative approach led to break-through insights around how to engage consumers through social media towards more sustainable washing behavior, specifically washing at 30oC.
Turning to the market place, it is encouraging to know that already 50% of consumers worldwide have turned their machine washes to low wash temperatures, up from 38% in 2010, which helps consumers to save energy. Branded sustainability initiatives are expected to grow significantly both in terms of number and impact. So, taking into account the early market successes and the ample signals that sustainable design is becoming the ‘new normal’, we can be optimistic that sustainability has taken root and is becoming mainstream.
As could be expected, there is work to be done, since not all developments go in the same direction. For example, there continues to be interest to introduce hazard-based schemes in product sustainability evaluations (as opposed to risk-based schemes). This may affect the innovation process which has proven crucial to combine sustainable development with the long term growth of our industry. We also need to learn what the respective roles of regulated, mandatory and highly harmonized measures are, as compared to voluntary, consumer-focused, business building market initiatives. Finding the right mix and effective multi-stakeholder collaborative models will pave the way towards sustainable cleaning.
With sustainability clearly taking root, we need to continue joining our forces and nurture the emerging culture of sustainable innovation to bring it to maturity in the market place. The journey will be most productive if we all stay focused on our long term goal: achieving the broad-based transition to more sustainable consumer practices with sustainably designed detergents and cleaning products - and eventually to a truly sustainable lifestyle.