5 Key Learnings on How Procter & Gamble is Shifting to Plastic Free Packaging Globally

It’s no secret that a large part of what’s causing the rampant changes in weather, seasons, and general climate, is the unfettered consumerism that has taken place in the last several decades. Ever since the industrial revolution, it’s been observed that we as a people have exponentially increased our carbon dioxide production. While a part of this might be attributed to the way we spend and consume everyday goods, an arguably larger part can be levied on the side of capitalizing businesses that utilize non-biodegradable packaging and inputs that are left as waste once disposed of.

Despite what seems to be a race to the bottom in terms of how we are currently utilizing our natural resources and dealing with the subsequent waste, there are companies that are attempting to change our course to something more sustainable in the future. Case in point, P&G had recently announced an organization-wide shift away from plastic in an effort to curb the amount of waste that their products generate.

How P&G is Addressing Plastic Waste

P&G began their move towards better sustainability by pledging that its businesses move towards 100% recyclable or reusable packaging while also limiting its use of virgin petroleum-based plastic products by 50%. All these changes are slated to take effect in full by 2030.

It’s certainly no small feat to achieve all of this in less than 10 years, with much of their products hinging on the protection and durability that plastic provides. But P&G has been working on this goal for much longer than we realize now, with the past decade dedicated to research on reducing consumer plastic use, which itself resulted in about 200,000 metric tons of avoided waste.  

5 Key Learnings on P&G’s Shift to Plastic-Free

Despite P&G’s valiant efforts, it’s understood that climate change in itself is a much larger behemoth to tackle beyond the efforts of just one company. But there are some key learnings we can take away from realizing such a sizeable effort in one respect.

CPGs Continue to Contribute Heavily to Plastic Waste

It’s hard to imagine a world where climate change wasn’t such a pressing issue that remained on the back of everyone’s minds. But back in the early years of the industrial revolution, the majority of consumers were actually turning towards recycling in a much more effective way than they do today. The reasons for this vary but can be generally attributed to an ecosystem that supported a “recycle” lifestyle, such as “scrappers” that would go door-to-door to purchase old goods for utilization and sale in other industries. But as industries matured and the world changed, lifestyles and consuming habits evolved alongside.

An example of this would be the disposables trend that occurred in a post-World War II society, where efficiency and home economics paved the way for households to begin utilizing much more plastics and disposable materials to cut down on management.

It wasn’t long then for companies to take notice and begin their shift to cater to such an era of excess. This snowballed to where we are today, with over 14.5 million tons of plastic waste generated back in 2018. If you imagine the number of garbage trucks it took to manage that amount of garbage, you’re looking at more than 450,000 garbage haulers with a full load just trying to manage all trash.  

Businesses Need to Plan Long-Term Strategies

One of the most identifiable effects of P&Gs shift to a plastic-free production is the realization that it isn’t just P&G shifting, but the industry as well. Despite the view that many companies are focused on profits alone, there is a growing understanding that true profit can only be borne out of sustainable long-term strategies. As mentioned previously, P&G has had a good opportunity in this respect, developing their own internal packaging company known as iMFLUX which focuses on plastic processing. But other companies have begun following suit, as ESGs become more apparent as focus points of the companies, with green bonds growing in ubiquity amongst companies to fund sustainability projects.

Consumers Need to Act Accordingly

More apparent in our current times is the complex relationship we have with plastics as consumers. On the one hand, information has been readily available and the general consensus with plastics is that they are detrimental to the environment as a whole.

Yet the recent pandemic has also shed a light on our reliance on disposables as a means for an easily accessible (and perceived hygienic) option for use. As consumers, we need to revisit our stance on plastics on two grounds: avoidance and recycling. The common consumer needs to properly be aware of the shortcomings that plastics have while adapting their use of these materials through recycling and reuse.  

Companies Need to Act Before They Are Forced To

It may seem like companies are just now realizing the importance of managing and curbing their plastic production, but these technologies take time to develop and refine. P&G, one of the biggest CPG companies on the planet, understood that the way plastics were being developed was not sustainable in the long run. But with the packaging being so integral to their business, they need to begin developing better ways to reduce the amount of plastic generated by their business practices.

Companies will also need to act sooner rather than later as governments are now looking to regulate material usage within companies. As an example, Canada has implemented a “zero-plastic waste” agenda, starting with banning businesses’ use of plastic bags.

New Companies Offer New Innovations

To truly find the most innovative solutions, companies will need to look beyond their standard operations and toward sources of true lateral thinking. In today’s business landscape, that means tapping into the start-up industry to identify exciting and new developments in relevant fields. One of these start-up companies looking to revolutionize plastic use is Algarmo, a Chilean company utilizing circular economy concepts to better manage plastic use.

Key Takeaways

P&G has long been an innovator in its own right when it comes to the multitude of products that it has developed over the years. Now, in the dawn of a growing sustainability focus in the future of business, P&G has began developing new and novel ways to combat the known reality of the harm that fast-moving consumer goods manufacturing does.

  • P&G itself has already been addressing the waste problem through the usage of new recycling methods that can better mitigate the waste generated through their manufacturing processes.
  • The company’s recycling push is partly motivated by CPG’s large contribution to the waste problem in general, which threatens the overall sustainability and longevity of the business itself.
  • Other companies need to start thinking in the same long-term strategy that P&G has adopted to truly develop a sustainable business model.
  • Consumers also have a hand in influencing how companies act, with personal choices regarding the usage of sustainable and reusable materials likely to send signals to the market at large.
  • Companies are also in danger of being forced to act if they choose not to do anything to curb their environmental impact by regulators and government authorities.
  • A key pillar in a company’s ability to adapt to a more sustainable practice lies in their focus on cultivating innovative practices to address these challenges. These can take the form of new manufacturing processes, automated solutions, smarter operations, and more.

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Published on 

Feb 10, 2023


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