Sometimes I read what Procter & Gamble, Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline, Colgate and Johnson & Johnson are doing on sustainability front. I don’t really have to. I shop daily for products for myself and family and research ingredients. I have no doubt these big names have many initiatives which will help them become more sustainable (1% more? 5% more?) by some far away future, in 2030 or 2050. My question is why are they not doing it faster?
I’ll give a very personal example.
I have to budget at the moment, unfortunately, like many of us I guess, and I have considered giving up buying organic cleaning products, like Method or Bio-D. As I watch my Method dishwashing liquid level drop further and further in a beautiful ergonomic bottle, I do have to contemplate what I might buy instead. P&G’s Fairy?
It is one of the popular brands out there, and ingredients are cleverly concealed by listing their groups, instead of all of them. P&G do a lot of consumer research, and they probably know that customers’ awareness of what long ingredients lists mean – not good for health or environment – is growing. Or maybe they just don’t bother. Anyway, those who read about ingredients in their favourite dishwashing liquid are in for a shock. Have a read. Not only you are poisoning yourself and your family, but also your local rivers and oceans, and whatever wildlife comes into contact with that water you used for dishwashing. Not so much value for money, is it?
Compare above to ingredients listed on your Method bottle. Then check this lovely guide for more details. ‘Non toxic’ and ‘biodegradable’ are the words you will see.
And here is my question – if a small company like Method can create a product which is better for our health and planet, and only slightly more expensive, why can’t a giant like P&G do the same? And not by 1% or 5% and by 2030 or 2050, but now? Overnight. Tomorrow. It’s simple. Why not value us, customers, and planet above profits? Why not use your powerful marketing machine to make this world a little bit better and save a bit more of our planet?
Another example, skincare. I literally hurt to see people buying Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and other big brands without reading the ingredients. I have recently bought an Aquafresh toothpaste for my little one, and forgot to check the list of ingredients. When I did, I had such a shock that I immediately proceeded to buying an organic toothpaste from an organic shop. I mean common. Putting all these toxins into their little mouths, how does that make you feel as a parent? As a customer? We have to get more educated on these things.
The other day I was buying my little one shampoo and bath wash, and I saw Johnson & Johnson’s Natural range. Initial joy with a big name going organic, was quickly soured by the ingredients list which read like Tolstoy’s War & Peace. And I could find all the usual toxic stuff in there. I remember I was so p*ssed off at the time, because it’s our babies, our children, it’s the last sacred area of our lives where we expect big companies to be honest. To be caring. To value us above profits. I wonder if P&G, J&J, GSK, Colgate and Unilever executives use their own brands on their skin, teeth and their childrens’? Do they? Yet they continue selling their toxic products to us with their shameless tactics.
Could all these big names overhaul their operations and start producing healthier, more environment friendly products tomorrow? With their resources, I bet they could. Why do they not? Now this is a good question. As customers, we should educate ourself about what goes into products we buy, how it impacts environment around us, and complain, demand and push big companies to change.
P&G and other big names’ CSR departments are busy issuing press releases on sustainability but most of them are about their packaging and supply chains. This is very good, and they should by all means continue. However they are missing out on the elephant in the room – a more urgent, immediate need, priority, which is what actually goes inside their bottles or packs or boxes, and how it impacts health of their customers.