P&G Ramps Up Sustainability and Product Transparency 

By Pat Lenius


Big brands think big. So, it makes sense for Procter & Gamble to accelerate its approach for protecting the environment and providing product transparency.

The consumer products giant wants to have a positive impact on the world by achieving broad-reaching environmental sustainability goals for 2030. Its new goals, titled “Ambition 2030,” aim to enable and inspire positive impact on the environment and society while creating value for the company and consumers.

Meanwhile, the company recently announced that more than 3,500 products from its 30 most popular brands are now present within SmartLabel, an online and mobile platform to help people make informed choices by providing ingredient, product and safety information in a clear, reliable and accessible manner. In fact,  P&G claims to have more items, across more categories, than any other consumer product goods company on the SmartLabel platform.

“We believe P&G can be a force for good and a force for growth, and we are taking a more deliberate approach to delighting consumers while enabling responsible consumption,” said David Taylor, P&G’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Consumers expect the brands they trust to deliver superior performance and to also help solve some of the most complex challenges facing our world. Our global reach, our understanding of the five billion consumers we serve, and our innovation capabilities give us a unique ability to make a positive difference.”

P&G’s “Ambition 2030” goals include:

  • Brands: P&G’s 20 top brands including Always, Ariel, Dawn, Fairy, Febreze, Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Pampers, and Tide will enable and inspire responsible consumption through packaging that is 100% recyclable or reusable, launching more sustainable innovations, and building trust through transparency and sharing our safety science.
  • Supply Chain: P&G manufacturing sites will cut greenhouse gas emissions in half and will buy enough renewable electricity to power 100% of its plants. The company will also source at least 5 billion liters of water from circular sources.
  • Society: P&G will continue to create transformative partnerships that enable people, the planet and its business to thrive, including those that stem the flow of plastic into the world’s ocean, protect and enhance forests, expand recycling solutions for absorbent hygiene products, and protect water in priority basins around the world.
  • Employees: P&G will engage, equip and reward employees for building sustainability thinking and practices into their everyday work. Progress will be recognized and integrated into performance assessments.

Erin Riggs Hennessey, Trade Standards Director at P&G, discussed these initiatives in her presentation at the Transparency IQ conference recently in Oakbrook, Ill. The event was hosted by EnsembleIQ, the Path to Purchase Institute and founding sponsor Label Insight.

To achieve its transparency goals, she said Procter & Gamble assembled a “Smart Team” that included the “best of the best” from each company function: Research & Development; Sales; Legal; Brand; Communications; IT; Insights. In addition, one person was assigned to serve as Initiative Design Leader, fully dedicated to SmartLabel and transparency efforts. The Initiative Design Leader was charged with keeping everyone on the Smart Team on track.

P&G sought people to serve on the Smart Team who were known to be passionate and open minded.
 
“They don’t all speak the same language,” Hennessey said. For example, because R&D people never actually work directly with consumers, they are challenged when attempting to communicate to them. Can they express what is in the product in a manner that will resonate with consumers? The Insights team members are more concerned with gaps in information and consumer marketing data; the IT team members are focused on what system will be most effective; the team members from Sales stress the need for consistency in the ingredient transparency that retailers are demanding.

Hennessey said everyone on the Smart Team had the greatest intention, and every function represented on the team had a different fear or concern.

SmartLabel works with any smart device, Hennessey noted. It provides much more information than what will fit on a package label. The consumer scans the UPC code using the app on his or her device to access product and usage information, regulated and non-regulated ingredients, packaging design, safety advisories, product claims. The same information can be found online at www.SmartLabel.org.

Asked how a company the size of Procter & Gamble has been able to achieve compliance across the enterprise, Hennessey responded, “We really tried to make sure people understood why we were doing what we were doing and where their information would show up. As people intellectualized the information, we did not need to mandate. People collaborated on what they wanted to share. It became more of a volunteer effort.”

Also each brand was treated individually as its own brand, with its own voice, familiar to consumers. The exact same ingredient may be used in different products for different reasons and purposes. Procter & Gamble learned how the consumer looks for information. The company discovered there are differences in what consumers look for depending on the product and the category. For example, what they want to see in a diaper is very different from what they look for in other products, such as a shampoo or a toothpaste.

SmartLabel helps get the consumer to information faster, Hennessey stressed. When the consumer clicks on a tab for the brand or sustainable sourcing, P&G’s branding and corporate staff take charge of the conversation. The next step is to continue the conversation for customer engagement, working through enablement.

“We are highly encouraging our retailers. They are dominating most of this effort,” she said. Brand managers and retailers are expected to harness feedback and really listen to what consumers are saying. “This is not just a one-way communication,” she added.

“Consumer trust begins with open conversation. We have been having open conversation with consumers for nearly 180 years. Consumer trust and transparency is core to Procter & Gamble,” she summed up.


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