Brand owners go green

04 January 2011

NEW YORK: Brand owners such as Procter & Gamble, Nike and Microsoft are focusing on enhancing their green credentials.

Procter & Gamble, the FMCG giant, has established targets like powering plants solely with renewable energy, only utilising renewable or recycled materials in manufacturing and reducing the waste going to landfill to zero.

"It was in 1956 that we published our first paper evaluating the environmental safety of the products we were using at the time. We pioneered the concept of life-cycle development," Len Sauers, Procter's vp, global sustainability, told The National.

Looking ahead, the maker of Tide and Pampers believes several significant trends could pose substantial future obstacles.

"By 2050, we estimate that there will be 9bn people on the planet," said Sauers. "P&G will have to change to meet the challenges of solid waste, climate change and water availability."

PepsiCo's US beverage arm is seeking to recycle 20m pounds of bottles and cans this year through the Dream Machine programme.

It is also rolling out new, low-carbon agricultural techniques when growing oranges included in Tropicana, and extending its use of recycled content for containers.

Tim Carey, director of sustainability and technology at PepsiCo Americas Beverages, argued greater numbers of shoppers would soon make buying decisions based on the environmental record of companies.

"Sustainability at PepsiCo has evolved over the past few years to be something that we consider, measure and apply in a way that reaches every aspect of our business - from how we develop packaging, to how we bring our products to market, to how we engage our consumers," he said.

Elsewhere, Microsoft has embarked on a similar process to integrate the sustainability agenda into each element of corporate governance.

"In just a few years, we went from seeing sustainability as an area of interest to being embedded in everything we do," said Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmental strategist.

But Bernard suggested further work is still required by big industry players to make a difference in the long term.

"A year won't be enough time for all the changes needed to ensure sustainability. If asked what story I'd like to tell in 2022, I'd say that I envision a radical evolution of the entire energy infrastructure," he said.

Sportswear specialist Nike has sought to foster a collective response by building the GreenXChange, an information-sharing hub, and the Environmental Apparel Design Tool, assessing the ecological impact of potential launches.

"These are market-based solutions that address sustainability challenges," said Hannah Jones, Nike's vp, sustainable business and innovation.

"Our hope is that by releasing our tools we will spur collaboration and create global standards to level the playing field and fast track sustainable innovation."

Method has been a trailblazer in the eco-friendly sector, selling a range of cleaning goods in stylish packaging closer to the cosmetics than household category.

"We have built analytical tools, taught techniques and created incentives in everyone's job … that really allows sustainability to manifest in many more ways than is typical in a company," said co-founder Adam Lowry.

"Where we sit today is with a highly differentiated product line that people appreciate for being truly better, and greener."

Indeed, Warren Wilson, a senior analyst at research firm Ovum, agreed there are tangible advantages to this kind of approach.

"Adopting more efficient processes can reduce energy costs and wastes, and also can deliver top-line improvements by strengthening the brands of those companies that are committed to the green economy," he said.

Data sourced from The National/Green Biz; additional content by Warc staff