This article is sponsored by P&G.
As the climate crisis grows and continues to demand more urgent action from business and government, Procter & Gamble has extended its environmental commitment by announcing an even bolder ambition, which is to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) across its entire global operations and supply chain from raw materials to shelf by 2040.
P&G brands, relied upon by billions across the globe, have an opportunity to play a critical role in drastically reducing GHG emissions. Beyond supporting P&G’s overarching climate goals, these brands have the potential to create benefits many magnitudes greater than the footprint of P&G’s supply chain given the reach of consumer use.
In this interview, Jerry Porter, senior vice president of research and development at P&G’s Fabric and Home Care sector, shares how the division behind Tide is harnessing the power of partnerships to drive innovation and impact as it works to support P&G’s net-zero ambition and meet its own 2030 brand goals.
Todd Cline: How important is partnership and collaboration in helping Tide meet its sustainability goals?
Jerry Porter: Companies need robust climate action plans now — there’s no more time to delay. But the reality is that today’s pressing environmental challenges cannot be solved by any one individual, organization or entity alone. Finding ways to reduce emissions in our own operations and along our supply chain is critical, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
In the case of a brand like Tide, for example, two-thirds of our impact comes from the consumer use phase. So, in order to drive the greatest impact possible, we must address both sides of that coin — find efficiencies at every turn in our operations, from design to manufacturing and distribution, and find ways to meaningfully bring consumers along on the sustainability journey.
Cline: What partnerships does Tide have in the works right now as it relates to speeding sustainability innovation?
Porter: Sustainability is an innovation challenge, and this will require partnership across the private, nonprofit and public sectors and involve every aspect of our P&G Fabric Care business, from the very beginning of our products’ lifecycle to the very end. This is what we call creating a decarbonized future through transformative collaboration.
One particularly interesting partnership is the work Tide is doing with NASA to test and uncover the first-ever laundry solution in resource-constrained environments of space, announced earlier this year. Via the collaboration, Tide and NASA scientists have developed a fully biodegradable detergent, dubbed NASA Tide, specifically for use in space to help combat a variety of challenges — malodor, cleanliness and stain removal — while ensuring that the water used for laundry can be reused on the station.
Space is always a hot topic, and as a brand with a history of reinventing and disrupting the category, we’re thrilled to be partnering with NASA to develop laundry solutions that support exploration of the next great frontier. Truth be told, though, we’re even more intrigued by what developing this technology could mean for consumers here on Earth. Ultimately, our goal with the NASA work is to take our learnings from laundering in water-restricted space and apply them to develop a low-water, low-energy laundry solution that’s more sustainable for consumers and the planet.
We are also partnering with suppliers to develop carbon-efficient ingredients to use in our fabric care products with no trade off on consumer’s delight, even in cold cycles, saving energy and CO2 in use.
Finally, we’re excited about a pilot development project underway with Twelve, a Silicon Valley-based startup making strides with carbon transformation and are eager to explore carbon capture as one of the ways to reduce our raw materials or upstream footprint — which is our second greatest area of potential impact after consumer use.
Refining and scaling carbon capture technologies over the coming years will be critical to our long-term net-zero goals, and we know this is an area many in manufacturing are eager to advance.
Cline: How is Tide leveraging partnerships to drive impact outside of innovating new technologies and products?
Porter: I’m energized by the unique partnerships underway focused on driving sustainable behavior change in the use phase.
Being a consumer goods company, we always have consumers at the core of everything we do. We listen to them to better understand their needs and expectations connected with sustainability. We learned that they are interested in sustainable products, and while they expect companies to do their part, many of them don’t want sustainability benefits to come at the expense of product benefits. For instance, if we take the laundry category, consumers are expecting the same level of cleaning for their detergents but with a sustainable approach.
We also learned that often, lower-performing products can encourage negative compensating behaviors that are eventually worse environmentally — such as washing in hot water or re-washing an item if the stains are not removed. Importantly, the consumers are delighted less by these propositions, which undermines sustainable behaviors.
We therefore have a double task: We need to reduce our own footprint, and we need to help consumers reduce their footprint when they use our products by offering them more sustainable and superior products with no trade-off.
As mentioned, the largest portion of Tide’s climate footprint comes from the consumer use phase and more specifically from the energy required to heat water in the wash cycle. Consumers often choose to wash in hot or warm because they believe it cleans better, and historically that was true. In recent years, however, Tide has worked hard to change that.
The potential environmental impact of consumers switching to cold is huge. If just three in four Tide consumers switched to cold water washing, it would reduce GHG emissions equivalent to removing a million cars from the road for a year.
The challenge is that behavior change is hard. We need to not only educate consumers that washing in cold works, but we need to drive a habit change by reminding them of the action and its benefits at every turn. This is where partnerships have been invaluable in terms of spreading education and awareness.
For example, Tide partnered with the NFL — an organization with a tremendous amount of sweat-stained, mud-stained, blood-stained laundry — to generate awareness of Tide cleaning power in cold and lead NFL fans on a "turn to cold" journey. Via the partnership, 16 NFL teams pledged to cold water washing, aiming to move 1 million pounds of their laundry to cold with Tide each year, while inspiring 80 million households of NFL fans to join and turn their dial from hot to cold water.
We also joined forces with clothing giant Hanes to further prove that even T-shirts, underwear and socks can be washed in cold. Recent collaboration efforts include a consumer call-to-action to turn to cold product packaging, as well as the inclusion of Tide coupons and Tide Pod samples with Hanes’ purchases to encourage consumers to make the switch.
Cline: Any final thoughts for GreenBiz readers as it relates to harnessing the power of partnerships to advance sustainability goals?
Porter: The climate crisis affects all of us, and therefore we all have the responsibility to do something about it; moreover, consumers rightly expect the brands they love, trust and support to lead the way when it comes to fighting climate change.
What this means at the end of the day is that, as businesses, we all share common goals. And when that’s the case, the possibilities for organic and mutually (and, ultimately, universally) beneficial collaborations are endless, if we only look for them and keep the lines of communication open.