How the Earthwards program helps J&J design greener products

How the Earthwards program helps J&J design greener products

Band-Aid image by STILLFX via Shutterstock.

[Editor's note: This is part of a six-part series on CSRwire about Earthwards, a Johnson & Johnson program designed to promote greener product development throughout the enterprise. Here, Al Iannuzzi, J&J's senior director of worldwide environment, health and safety, explains the Earthwards criteria and how the process was successfully adopted across all three sectors of J&J's business to promote a culture of sustainable product development.]

Companies often refer to sustainability as a journey, and innovation as a key driver in the sustainable product development process.

This is also true for Johnson & Johnson, where we created a formal process to spur greener product innovation called Earthwards.

Based on lifecycle thinking, the Earthwards process has been and will continue to be applied to an array of products from our consumer products, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and diagnostics sectors. Products that successfully emerge from the Earthwards process are recognized as such only if they have achieved a greater than 10 percent improvement in at least three of 12 goals across seven impact areas: materials used, packaging, energy reduction, waste reduction, water reduction, positive social impact or benefit; and product innovation.

To date, 36 products have received Earthwards recognition.

While we have further to go to achieve the company's Healthy Future goal of 60 Earthwards products by 2015, the journey is teaching us how to better focus our efforts and infuse innovative thinking into our product development process.

Our five-year strategic roadmap, Healthy Future 2015, focuses on seven priorities designed for our businesses to achieve the greatest impact, including:

1. Advancing global health.
2. Safeguarding the planet.
3. Supplier sustainability.
4. Engaged, health-conscious employees.
5. Advancing community wellness.
6. Philanthropy measurement.
7. Transparency and collaborations.

All of our work on Earthwards supports Healthy Future 2015.

A bump in the road  

We had one case in which a product went through the Earthwards process, but needed further revamping later. Simponi, a product offered by our pharmaceutical company Janssen, initially used packaging to ship product samples that had room for improvement, and we heard about it from some of our health care customers.

The original packaging we used to ship samples to rheumatologists included large single-use foam containers with cooling packs to maintain proper temperature. We got some unfiltered feedback, which we heard loud and clear: "Your insulated box was not big enough! Please send a Volkswagen-sized box next time."

Our team took this feedback to heart and revamped the packaging by using a greener shipping box that was a fraction of the size of the foam shipper and 50 percent lighter than the original packaging. The container can be reused up to 100 times, uses USA-certified, bio-based cooling materials, and can be 100 percent recycled at the end of its life. The new shipper also helps prevent the disposal of more than 99,000 cubic feet of foam annually. Now, our customers receive a smaller, more convenient package that saves them space and the cost of disposing of the shipping packaging.

Environmental and social benefits

Through Earthwards, we also support social initiatives and help communities around the globe. A great example of this is our o.b. tampons line in Europe. Not only do we use 15 percent more sustainable packaging materials than the previous version of the product, it uses 100 percent renewable energy in the product manufacturing process. Additionally, the product sales support community health education programs in Germany.

Another example is our Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages. We achieved a more than 10 percent reduction in secondary packaging and 20 percent weight reduction of tertiary packaging. The manufacturing process now requires 30 percent less energy compared to the previous process and we work with socially responsible local Brazilian cooperatives to produce recycled paper for the product.

Band-Aid image by STILLFX via Shutterstock