Proctor and Gamble sets its sights high

One of the keynote speeches at the CBI Summit on Climate Change (November 17) was on what businesses are doing to make buying green more attractive to consumers.

Irwin Lee, Vice President of Proctor and Gamble UK & Ireland, spoke of the corporate responsibility to address the carbon footprint. He said that companies needed realistic strategies and to be open about the results.

He said: "We need to be part of the conversation and the solution on climate change and sustainability in general.

"We need to have big visions for the future with reality based strategies. We need to measure progress and be open about how far we've come."

In Mr Lee's view, the UK is particularly active in the climate change agenda in relation to other countries he has worked in.

While various stakeholders in government and business drive forward their sustainability agenda, getting consumers to act is a big challenge for business.

In P&G research, two thirds of the UK population say they would like to change their behaviour to limit their impact on climate change, however, they said they would be unwilling to pay more to achieve this.

He said: "There is a small minority that place green credentials above all else when buying a product... and they are often willing to pay significantly more for it.

"But the vast majority of consumers today are more savvy, more discerning and more demanding."

That is the challenge, but it can be done according to Mr Lee. He pointed to a successful campaign to get consumers to choose the greener option. This was the campaign for Ariel Excel Gel, a product which enables customers to wash at lower temperatures thereby cutting down on CO2 emissions.

He outlined P&G's commitment to sustainable operations and the work the company is doing to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacture of their products.

He gave figures of 2% for the company's waste from materials that entered their plants, and said they are working with suppliers to find out how to reduce this further.

The company's future goals include powering plants with 100% renewable energy, to use 100% renewable or recycled materials and have zero consumer and manufacturing landfill waste.

Ambitious targets indeed, and Mr Lee acknowledged it would take years to achieve this but said the business have set 10-year goals to move towards this aspiration. Alison Brown

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Water | Waste & resource management | Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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