Proctor and Gamble processes millions of pounds of materials and chemicals every year to bring you some of the best known products on the market, like Tide, Duracell and Pampers. They are so good at branding and marketing, its surprising they even take on CSR reporting.
Well, awesome that they do, and I appreciate transparency and accountability. Too bad they have to try and spin it so hard. Here are the highlight figures they put forward:
$80 Bn net product sales $13 Bn "Sustainable Innovation Products" sales 16.25% of their products by net sales.
Sounds good. But lets look at how they calculate it.
17 products listed as improved, out of how many total products? Not listed. It would be nice to know the percentage of products they are actually putting under an environmental lens.
They report selling: $13.1 Bilion in “sustainable innovation products,” which are products that have an improved environmental profile.(1)
So what are “sustainable innovation products”?
"(1) Sustainable Innovation Products are included if they have launched in market since July 1, 2007, and have a greater than 10% reduction in one or more of the following indicators without negatively impacting the overall Sustainability profile of the product: A. Energy, B. Water, C. Transportation, D. Amount of material used in packaging or products, E. Substitution of nonrenewable energy or materials with renewable sources."
I have to say, this is pretty weak.
If they reduced the packaging by 10%, a product could be considered a "sustainable innovation product" even if they start printing on it with a TOXC INC... so long as the overall impact isn't worse than it was before. (The report states they are using "science is based upon life-cycle thinking", so I assume they are using Life Cycle Assessment to calculate the "overall impact".) Essentially they could make a product with one change, that is actually NO BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AT ALL, and call it a sustainable innovation.
That type of spin is not fair to consumers who want to make sustainable purchases, or investors who want to make $ without sacrificing the environment.
They have actually done some nice things with their operations, Since 2002: Energy Usage -48% CO2 Emissions -52% Waste Disposal -53% Water Usage -52%
And some social responsibility initiatives, especially bringing almost 1 billion liters of clean drinking water to children in developing countries, with a commitment to 4 billion more liters by 2012.
But I'd say Business Week's #12 ranking “World’s Most Innovative Companies” is looking pretty week on eco-innovation in their products themselves.
I don't have any illusions about the complexity of these issues, nor the challenge it is to implement them in a global supply chain. It seems to me they need to get more designers at the table with their marketing group, CSR team, and LCA scientists, to see where they can really make a difference in their products. And then change that weak standard to greater than 10% difference in the overall impact, as opposed the greater than or equal 0% they effectively have now.
Check out the details for yourself: www.pg.com/sustainability