We combine two key strengths—consumer understanding and science—to deliver sustainable innovations that don’t require trade-offs in performance or value.
At P&G, every Sustainability innovation begins with a deep understanding of consumers. Because we are in touch with the consumers’ reality, we can make innovation decisions based on their needs. We know that most consumers are unwilling to make trade-offs on performance or value in an effort to be more sustainable. This insight is consistent across regions throughout the world.
We have found that two relatively small groups exist on the ends of a decision-making spectrum. On one end, “niche” consumers are willing to sacrifice performance or value for a more sustainable product. On the other, a small segment is focused on providing “basic living” for their families and do not make purchases based on Sustainability factors. But between these segments lie the vast majority of consumers: the “sustainable mainstream.”
Amounting to 70% of consumers overall, this sustainable mainstream group wants choices that have demonstrated improvements to their environmental profile. But they will only alter purchasing decisions when they can have the performance they require and the value they need. They won’t—and can’t—sacrifice performance or price for environmental benefits, especially in tough economic times.
At P&G, the sustainable mainstream is the focus of our Sustainability efforts. This largest consumer segment matters most to us, because meeting their needs lets us deliver the greatest positive impact.
In addition to consumer insights, we apply a second key element to making Sustainability decisions: a unique, holistic view of technology. We use life-cycle thinking, a discipline we helped pioneer, to determine a product’s entire environmental footprint, from the procurement of raw materials to the product’s use by consumers and ultimate disposal. By examining multiple factors in each step, we assess the product’s overall environmental impact.
With this holistic insight, we can then find opportunities where a sustainability improvement can have the biggest positive impact. In the case of laundry detergent, for instance, our life cycle assessment revealed that one step of the product’s life cycle consumed far more energy than any other: the heating of wash water during its use in the home. As such, this step clearly offered the biggest opportunity for energy reduction—so that is where we focused our Sustainability efforts, first with Ariel in Western Europe and then with Tide in North America. We introduced a formulation of Ariel and Tide that is optimized for use in cold water, avoiding the need to heat water for washing altogether.
Sometimes, like in the case of Tide Coldwater, our technology insight reveals that changing a product’s formulation will yield the biggest impact. Other times, our assessment provokes a new approach to packaging. The Ariel brand has examples of both kinds of improvements in action.
Formulation Breakthrough: Ariel Excel Gel
Ariel Excel Gel, the newest generation of Ariel detergents, was designed from scratch for ultimate cleaning at low temperatures. This formulation change has helped bring about reductions in environmental impact, expending less energy, water, packaging, and waste. Ultimately the new formulation has significantly improved both the product’s environmental profile and its consumer experience.
The science behind Ariel Excel Gel’s low-temperature performance is called catalytic detergency—a type of chemistry that actually regenerates itself. At first, stains are broken down and suspended in the water away from clothes. But Ariel Excel Gel then returns to the clothes and removes additional stains, again and again. This means a small amount of gel will achieve fantastic results as low as 15°C.
Why does this matter? During the laundry life cycle, 70% of energy consumption happens during the product’s use, heating the water needed to wash. Eliminating the need to heat the water cuts energy use dramatically.
But Ariel Excel Gel takes Sustainability a step further. The formula only uses ingredients that add value to cleaning performance, adding no thickeners, solvents, or stabilizers. Thanks to a breakthrough formulation that forms a gel naturally, the product’s easy-squeeze consistency is achieved without the need for any structuring agents. This makes it possible to handle the same number of loads in a highly concentrated formula, leading to a dramatic reduction in packaging.
Packaging Breakthrough: Ariel Packaging in Turkey
By replacing cardboard shipping boxes on Ariel with seal-tight plastic bags, P&G teams in Turkey found a way to use significantly less material while delivering a superior product to market. The team designed a new process that packed Ariel in large, sealtight polyethylene bags. Entirely recyclable, these bags require 80% less packaging material than boxes, take up 20% less space during transport and storage, and help speed up the packaging line.
For our retail customers, the new transparent film outer covering allows for easier stock management with faster recognition of brands and sizes. Because the packaging can be opened without tools, it is easier to handle. And it maximizes shelf space, helping reduce out-of-stock situations.
The success of this packaging advance has inspired its expansion beyond Turkey. The new process is currently being reapplied across multiple regions, with three more plants scheduled to be up and running by early next year.