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How CPG Companies Use Life Cycle Assessments

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This article is sponsored by P&G

As buyers continue to turn to more sustainable productsconsumer goods companies are challenged to develop new innovations that answer the call and refine how they communicate with consumers about what makes a product sustainable.

While interest in sustainable product alternatives is on the rise across the board, studies show consumers are beginning to tire of generic “green” marketing and instead search for particular product attributes that align with their values ​​and help them live more sustainable lives without sacrificing the need for the product to deliver quality performance.

Life Cycle Assessments, or LCAs, can be a valuable tool for consumer companies looking to meet consumer expectations for sustainability. A proven exercise since the 1990s, LCAs are used to assess the environmental impact of a product at every stage of its life – from raw material sourcing to processing, manufacturing, distribution, use and distribution. ‘elimination.

“A life cycle assessment is a science-based approach that gives companies a holistic way to look at the total environmental impact of all these steps in the process – and the relative impact of each step,” said Terry Hare, senior director research development for Procter & Gamble Dish Care.

Given the growing interest in product sustainability, consumer goods companies are finding new value in LCAs to not only analyze the impact of their products on the planet and identify ways to reduce that impact down to size. thanks to product innovation, but also to best share these opportunities to reduce the impact on its consumers.

P&G uses an LCA based on carbon emissions to evaluate its products. With dish soaps and detergents like Dawn and Cascade, P&G’s LCA found that up to 80% or more of the carbon emissions associated with dish care products like Dawn and Cascade come from the cleaning phase. consumer use. But this does not mean that the company has no role to play in reducing these impacts. By better understanding consumer behavior, the company can design products that promote more sustainable habits, while identifying ways to reduce its share of the total product footprint, Hare said.

Leveraging LCAs to Solve Consumer (and Environmental) Problems

“We see that consumers continue to increasingly want to do the right thing when it comes to sustainability and make smart choices when it comes to caring for the planet,” Hare told us. “We’re also seeing a general frustration figuring out what the right thing is.”

For instance, studies show washing dishes by hand with the faucet running has the greatest impact on the environment in terms of wasted water and energy, yet many Americans still leave the faucet running while performing this daily chore in Automatic pilot. It’s certainly understandable – most of us have had enough – but US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that each of us can save up to 10 gallons of water per load of dishes and enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 18 hours, just by turning off the faucet.

Consumer goods companies have a role to play in promoting better habits like these through product design and innovation, Hare said. For example, P&G has designed a new dish care product Dawn (Dawn Powerwash dish spray) with the explicit goal of reducing water and energy consumption on the consumer side, including a spray-activated foaming soap that essentially eliminates the need for water until it’s time to rinse a load of dishes. “We inherently built that in early on in the design,” Hare explained.

At the same time, if a company like P&G is considering promoting a product as enabling a more sustainable lifestyle, it must also do its part to ensure that the other parts of that product’s life cycle – from materials to manufacturing and packaging – also have less impact compared to other options on the store shelf.

For its part, P&G says it increased the use of recycled plastic in product packaging by 32% in the last fiscal year and purchased 98% renewable energy for all company-owned facilities, among other efforts to drive sustainability in manufacturing.

“Follow where science leads you”

As more companies in the consumer goods segment and other industries look to leverage LCAs to improve product sustainability, Hare advises business leaders to “get into these types of assessments with an open mind and be ready to follow where the science takes you”.

“You might find that a space you put a lot of resources, time and energy into might just be a small piece of the pie,” she explained. “So be open to changing your mindset and pursuing things that may have been counter-intuitive to you at first. If science tells you ‘this is where you can have an impact’, be ready to explore that and to explore what is possible.

This article is sponsored by P&G

Image courtesy of P&G