P&G steps up circular economy commitment with bold zero-waste pledge

Multinational consumer goods firm P&G has announced a major environmental New Year's Resolution: to effectively eliminate all manufacturing waste from its global network of more than 100 production sites by 2020.

With more than half (56%) of P&G’s production sites already holding zero-waste-to-landfill status, the Ariel, Gillette and Oral-B brand owner announced yesterday (11 January) that it is now looking to make its entire manufacturing operations closed-loop, which will mean eliminating or beneficially re-using about 650,000 metric tonnes of waste that would typically go to landfill.

“We are accelerating progress towards our long-term vision and pushing ourselves to do more with less waste,” said Shailesh Jejurikar, P&G’s executive sponsor for sustainability and president of the group’s Global Fabric Care arm. “Since 2010, we’ve been working toward a vision of sending zero manufacturing and consumer waste to landfill. This announcement marks another step on that journey.”

‘Zero-loss mentality’

To reach 100% zero-manufacturing-waste-to-landfill status, P&G will ensure all incoming production materials are either converted into finished product; recycled internally or externally, or re-used in alternative ways through partnerships.

The group has already met its zero-waste goals in 19 countries worldwide, including the UK, Germany and Indonesia, and claims to be approaching the 100% target in China and India – two of the firm’s largest manufacturing hubs.  

P&G’s president of global product supply Yannis Skoufalos added: “Our employees are using the same innovation skills and zero-loss mentality they put into manufacturing our products to drive out waste.

“For example, surfactants from Head and Shoulders waste in China are repurposed into carwash, while scrap from our Tampax plant in Canada is used to make emergency spill containment products. These innovative external partnerships enable our sites to see scrap not as waste, but as potential worth for someone else.”

P&G’s pledge follows hot on the heels of fellow FMCG firm Unilever, which at the beginning of 2015 confirmed it had successfully hit zero-waste-to-landfill status across its global manufacturing network of 240 factories in 67 countries, saving more than €200m in waste costs. Ford, Vauxhall, Vacherin, MillerCoors and Nestle are among a host of other big companies that have hit zero-waste-to-landfill milestones over the past year. 

Big achiever

For P&G, this new commitment comes off the back of a series of significant milestones and pledges announced by the group as part of its ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability.

In the summer of 2015, P&G announced a ‘packaging overhaul’, which saw some of its flagship brands packaged in bottles made from recycled plastic.

In May last year, the group then announced it would cease phosphate use from all retail and professional Fairy dishwasher tablets by 2017, significantly reducing the environmental footprint of its products in addition to improving cleaning performance.

And at the end of 2016, P&G revealed that a new energy engagement initiative at manufacturing sites had improved energy efficiency by 5% in a 12-month period, helping the company hit a 2020 goal for energy reduction four years early.

P&G was recently the subject of a special episode of edie’s Sustainable Business Covered podcast, with the group’s then-global sustainability director Virginie Helias providing an insight into the skills and expertise she had acquired after 28 years’ experience with the FMCG firm. Listen to that podcast episode here.

Luke Nicholls

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