PARSIPPANY, NJ — The company behind Woolite, French's mustard and numerous other brands is halfway to its goal of cutting its products' carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent.
Reckitt Benckiser is aiming to meet that goal by 2020 as part of its Carbon20 program it launched in 2007. By the end of 2009, two years into its work on products, it had cut CO2 emissions by 11 percent per unit dose.
The company has worked on reducing emissions across the entire life cycles of its products, which include household, health and personal care brands like Lysol, Calgon, Air Wick and Mucinex.
Reckitt Benckiser says it's especially looking at emissions embedded in raw materials and packaging it brings in from suppliers along with the impact from people using and disposing of its products. It's Lysol wipes package, for instance, as changed so the cap is made with less plastic and also makes it easier to get wipes out.
"When you're producing millions of products, every small reduction adds up," said Edward Butt, Reckitt Benckiser's vice president of sustainability.
Customer use has been identified as one of the main areas of product impact for things like detergents due to the amount of energy or heat needed when the products are used. Procter & Gamble, with its Future Friendly campaign, has been working to cut emissions on the customer end by making products more concentrated or able to work in colder water.
Along with redesigning products so they require fewer resources and energy while making less waste, Reckitt Benckiser is working with suppliers to reduce energy from producing, packaging and distributing goods.
In addition, the company has launched education campaigns like Our Home Our Planet, which gives advice on packaging and brand websites about how to use products in ways that consume less energy. Dishwashing products, for example, mention washing in cold water and not hand-rinsing dishes before putting them in the washer. Beyond simply telling customers what they can do to save resources, Reckitt Benckiser surveys customers to find out how they are using products, Butt said. The company can then measure how much the customer-impact portion of its products' emissions have gone down.
On the production end, Reckitt Benckiser is switching factories and plants to run on combined heat and power systems as well as use solar power for heating water and lighting. Some plants in developing area have started moving away from coal-based energy by getting more power from burning local agricultural waste.
Reckitt Benckiser, which makes 6 billion products a year, analyzes the life cycle carbon impact of its goods with a measurement system developed with URS, an environmental consultant firm, and verified by Deloitte.
Butt said that because the company oversees so many different products, it chose to measure it's impact per dose of product (such as one dishwashing tablet) in order to have a more normalized measurement.
[Editor's note: This article has been updated with the correct date the emissions were achieved by and additional information on Reckitt Benckiser's work.]
Lysol - CC license by Flickr user bnilsen