P&G outlines broad sustainability plans

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Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. has announced a sweeping sustainability effort — one likely to have far-reaching impact on the plastics industry.

The long-term goals announced Sept. 27 in a webcast by Cincinnati-based P&G were:

* All packaging will be made from renewable or recyclable materials.

* P&G's manufacturing plants to be powered with 100 percent renewable energy.

* Zero waste will go from P&G or its consumers to landfills.

* Products will be designed to both please consumers and maximize available resources.

Officials announced several goals to be reached by 2020, including:

* Replace 25 percent of all petroleum-based materials with “sustainably sourced” renewables.

* Reduce packaging.

* Engineer detergents so that all P&G products will work in cold water.

* Reduce overall company waste to less than 0.5 percent.

* Reduce truck transportation 20 percent.

During the webcast, Bob McDonald, P&G chairman, president and CEO, said the measures aim to grow the company's customer base to 5 billion by 2015, 1 billion more than the present base.

“What is important is that we don't treat environmental sustainability as different from our base business,” he said. “When we operate sustainably, we earn gratitude, admiration and trust that lead to opportunity, partnerships and growth.”

In a Sept. 27 e-mail, P&G spokeswoman Rotha Penn confirmed that the company's long-term vision is to eliminate all petroleum-based virgin plastic. P&G earlier this year announced plans to use Braskem SA's sugar cane-derived polyethylene in selected packaging for P&G's Pantene Pro-V, Covergirl and Max Factor products.

Len Sauers, P&G's vice president of global sustainability, said during the event that in the near term, P&G will install additional solar panels and wind turbines at its manufacturing plants in California and Europe. Also, a new P&G plant in the West will be powered by geothermal energy.

“Our new vision is a continuation of our sustainability initiatives and, in fact, we've already been working [on] some of its key points,” Sauers said.

He said current programs have allowed P&G since 2007 to reduce by 300,000 tons its packaging materials usage.

P&G plans to entirely eliminate PVC packaging within two years, he said.

P&G began to avoid the use of PVC in packaging in the early 1990s, Penn said. “Today, PVC represents less than 1.5 percent of the company's total use of plastic packaging materials,” she said.

“[The overall sustainability goals] won't be achieved in 10 years or perhaps even 40 years, but we will hold ourselves accountable to progress,” McDonald said.

P&G set up its sustainability division in 1999. In 2009, the company announced a goal of selling $50 billion in sustainability-driven products by 2012 — a goal that officials said they are close to meeting.

In May, the company launched a sustainability scorecard to measure and improve the environmental performance of its key suppliers.

Using measures similar to the packaging scorecard introduced in 2007 by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the P&G model will assess its suppliers' environmental footprints and encourage improvement by measuring year-to-year energy use, water use, waste disposal and greenhouse gas emissions.