Until 3-4 years ago, some companies chose short-term activities related to sustainable development, implementing individual solutions and not taking into account the broader and longer perspective. The development strategies of the world’s largest companies do not work that way, quite the contrary. Market leaders decide not only to take actions related to current challenges in the field of carbon footprint, but also those that will provide realistic solutions in a perspective of several or several years. The market has evolved considerably in recent years, now there are completely different priorities.
– Why does this happen? Because companies understand that if they don’t implement these principles in their business, they will be out of the game. Today, the long-term cost of ignoring the sustainable business idea is greater than the cost of implementing it. implemented. Perhaps in the short term such a strategy will work, but even a two-year perspective will prove to be a dead end. That’s why we’re inundated with information about new brands that focus on both production and their business activities that are responsible for the planet. A sustainable business might not be the easiest way to run a business today, but it sure is the smartest. If you look at the market, you’ll see these changes everywhere – from financial analysis to new reporting standards. It’s simply a new normal for running a business – he comments Virginie Helias, director of sustainable development Procter & Gamble.
Commercial strategy is not everything, you need partnerships
When scientists advised that the world had until 2050 for not just businesses but entire countries to become climate neutral, some business representatives said the prospect was far too distant and the pace of change was too slow. At more than one international conference or climate summit, market representatives from investors, across brands, and consumers have been discussing looking for a middle ground. Experts unanimously agreed that individual strategies for reducing environmental impact are not enough. Only a common approach to environmental protection can halt impending climate change. This is why many multinational companies are announcing their zero-emissions strategies, focusing not only on operational activities, but also on the supply chain, raw material suppliers and ultimately the retailer.
– Responsibility for commitments is key to a truly sustainable business, but we recognize that tackling climate change is a challenge that even the biggest companies are overwhelmed with. We said this directly and invited other concerns, but also scientists, startups and suppliers to cooperate, because even if we managed to lead to a situation where 4 of our more than 100 factories are at zero emission, we know that the goal of complete climate neutrality requires the use of technologies, which do not yet exist. To develop them, we need cooperation with the whole innovation ecosystem – adds Virginie Helias, Chief Sustainability Officer P&G. Of course, a strategic approach is essential, but the modern world expects cross-industry partnerships. Consumers are even demanding that governments and business representatives take responsibility for their actions, but also that they create opportunities to make good decisions for the environment, whether by choosing eco-transports or products whose packaging is sourced and recyclable. An example of this is the “HolyGrail” project. Its principle is simple, a digital watermark is applied to the packaging of the products, which the customer cannot see, but which the machines of the waste sorting plant can see.
– Thanks to this solution, the machines are able to separate plastic waste in such a way as to recycle materials made from the same raw material, since there is not only one plastic. Mixing plastics during processing reduces the quality of the recycled product, and finding a way to sort and recycle them so that the resulting plastic isn’t substandard has been the “holy grail” of a circular economy for years. – Explain Virginie Helias.
Convince yourself to be green
The need for change and its introduction drives development, and indeed the ever-changing needs of consumers drive companies to focus on innovation. However, innovation does not always have to be completely new ideas by definition. Each idea only “reprograms” another that already existed but that now fits the situation better. For example, already in the 1950s or 1960s, dairy farmers collected empty bottles in exchange for full bottles. Currently, many companies are launching products whose bottles or packaging can be reused or recycled. It is not new to the market, but it must be properly adapted to current consumer demands, market needs and carbon footprint issues. P&G has repurposed this solution, making the entire line of shampoos and conditioners available in foil bottles that can be refilled multiple times. It is important to note that the refill packaging is completely recyclable and 60% is used to produce it. less plastic. These products are part of the idea of a sustainable lifestyle and meet the current needs of customers. However, simply delivering the product is not enough. The key challenge is to convince or encourage consumers to change their daily habits, to use reusable products, to pay attention to the challenges of saving water or selective sorting of waste. That doesn’t sound like much, but it has enormous power on a grander scale.
– For a long time I convinced myself that consumers had to be persuaded to live more sustainably, but today I know that is impossible. The only person who can change anything in me is myself. And the same goes for customers. – he comments Virginie Helias of Procter & Gamble. According to the expert, the only option is to make the desire to act sustainably irresistible – the quality of products must be at the highest level while respecting the principles of ecological responsibility. For the customer, the option of a sustainable product must be the best and most attractive on the shelf.
Consumer needs drive innovation
Innovations are the key to the dynamic development of the company, and thus to gaining a greater market share. Transforming the business strategy towards sustainability is associated with investments in new production lines, new business partners, but above all in consumer education and paying attention to the greatest benefits of buying sustainably created products. or from sustainable suppliers. And here is the key issue in the case of the Poles, the price. These products can be more expensive and price is often the deciding factor. Science and innovation come to the rescue. They allow us to find a compromise between efficiency, price and what we call a sustainable business and life. – Consumers should not be left to choose between what is best for their wallet and what is best for the planet. For example, a toothbrush, if it is not electric, after a few weeks of use, you throw away and produce garbage. We managed to change it. We have created Oral-B Click, we can say a new generation of manual toothbrushes, which is designed primarily to improve the efficiency of toothbrushing, but also to reduce the amount of plastic waste, because after 3 months of use, you only have to replace the brush head. The handle remains the same, it reduces the amount of waste by about 80%” – said Virginie Helias. As a result, the customer stands in front of the store shelf and has to make a choice – to choose the brush he is used to or the one that, in addition to ensuring good hygiene, will help take care of the planet. – This is the magic of innovation – he completes Virginie Helias, P&G Sustainable Development Manager.
Water will be new oil
In the context of sustainable development and ongoing changes, access to water will still be largely underestimated, but the key issue. It will become one of the most important topics next to the just energy transition. Unfortunately, consumers don’t talk enough about water. They have the feeling that it will never run out. And here they are very wrong. As many as 14 of the world’s 20 largest cities, including Los Angeles, Tokyo and New Delhi, are grappling with the water crisis. The water deficit is strongly related to energy, since hot water is used in most cases. We need energy to heat water, and getting it has an impact on the climate crisis. In addition, household habits increase water consumption in almost all activities and appear in up to 18 categories of greenhouse gas emissions. And here are opportunities for businesses and governments to initiate meaningful environmental change in homes. Business at the level of providing high quality products with added value, for example in the form of reusable packaging, more efficient products that will last longer or reduce electricity consumption. And government-level legislation, including obtaining energy from renewable sources. However, as Virginie Helias of P&G points out, cross-industry partnership is important. An example of such an initiative is a 50 liter house, which aims to create and scale-up innovative home solutions to address water scarcity issues in urban areas. . – In this project, our partners are, for example, IKEA and Electrolux, and the CEO of the company responsible for the project was the former CEO of Home Depot. In addition, we cooperate with Kate Gallego – the mayor of Phoenix, where water consumption is of colossal importance. Now the most important step is ahead of us – how to launch the pilot program – adds Virginie Hélias.
Activities in the field of sustainable development require extensive cooperation between business representatives, the media, governmental and non-governmental institutions and consumers. Such cooperation is aimed at accelerating the implementation of global activities for the planet, of which we ultimately have only one planet.