RB struggles to align social and sustainability goals

Global consumer goods firm RB has reported mixed successes on progress towards its environmental targets in its 2014 Sustainability Report, released on Thursday.

The company (formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser), which owns Nurofen, Strepsil, and Durex amongst other major consumer product brands, has cut water use by 25% since 2012 and now has 74% of its factories sending zero waste to landfill.

However, 2014 saw an increase in total carbon and water impact – which includes product usage – compared with 2013.

The report explained: “This was partly due to growth in our bar soap and body wash categories in geographies with high carbon and water impact intensities. Since these products also account for a significant percentage of our total doses, they are having a disproportionate impact on our total footprint.”

“Moreover, the social benefit of improving hygiene from the use of these products highlights a conflict between our social and environmental ambitions. We will examine this further in 2015”.

The environmental ambitions are part of the firm’s ‘betterbusiness’ strategy, established in 2012, with three main 2020 targets: reduce emissions and water impact by one third, generate one third of net revenue from sustainable products, and help 200m people improve their health and hygiene.


While the business has made relatively slow progress on emissions and water impact (3% and 2% cuts since 2012), it is having more success designing sustainable products.

An online tool – the Sustainable Innovation Calculator – assesses the lifecycle impact of every product design, identifying opportunities for savings. For example, switching to film wrap instead of a box for the Vanish laundry bar cut packaging by 90%.

The use of the tool means 50% of the products in RB’s pipeline are considered sustainable, with roughly 5% of total revenue (£325m) coming from sustainable products already on the market.

“Since products can take a few years from concept to launch, we’ve laid a good foundation to meet our 2020 goal”, said the report.

‘Challenge ourselves’

RB CEO Rakesh Kapoor said: “This report demonstrates good progress against our betterbusiness strategy which charts a course for sustainable, responsible growth.

“While I am proud of the progress that we have made, we will continue to challenge ourselves to do more with less to achieve our vision of a world where people are healthier and live better.”

In October, the company announced it had achieved zero manufacturing waste to landfill across its European and North American factories.

Brad Allen


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