“Today’s consumers want more than just great performing products – they want to know that the products they purchase come from a responsible company.”
In this interview with Virginie Helias, Vice President of Global Sustainability at P&G, we discuss the inspiration behind P&G’s new Ambition 2030 Goals. These goals set a new vision for how P&G plans to think about its brands, supply chain, employees, and broader impacts on society and the environment while creating value for consumers and the company. Having achieved many of their 2020 environmental sustainability goals, P&G now plans to lead by engaging front-line employees all the way up to executives in executing and championing their 2030 goals. Tim Nixon, Managing Editor, Thomson Reuters Sustainability, and Meg Parker Young, Management Associate, Thomson Reuters.
Meg: The Ambition 2030 Goals seem to be tailored to the specific strengths and opportunities inherent within P&G’s global footprint. What served as your inspiration as you put this together, both within P&G as well as externally?
Virginie: We took inspiration from multiple sources, starting from understanding the expectations of the people we serve through our brands. Today’s consumers want more than just great performing products – they want to know that the products they purchase come from a responsible company. We also worked with our Sustainability Advisory Board – composed of some of the best sustainability thought-leaders and practitioners. Finally, we used the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our focus – this is why the central idea to Ambition 2030 is about enabling and inspiring positive impact. We believe our global reach, our superior understanding of the five billion consumers we serve, and our innovation and supply chain capabilities uniquely position P&G to lead in this space.
Meg: How is the Executive Committee and Board involved in the goals? Which processes will ensure that these goals are taken into account during strategy development and budgeting decisions?
Virginie: We review our Citizenship efforts on a regular basis with our Board’s Governance and Public Responsibility Committee, and they are fully supportive of our efforts.
We are focused on integrating sustainability as a key strategy into our business plans, which in turn are tied to executive compensation. We want every employee to be able to contribute to our sustainability efforts within the work they do. We will place increased emphasis on ensuring individuals who have made significant contributions to advancing progress against our Ambition 2030 environmental sustainability goals are recognized and rewarded.
Meg: Which of these goals was the hardest fought for?
Virginie: All our goals are important and have strong advocates within the company. Plastics is a global topic right now, and in the absence of a globally-aligned definition of “recyclable,” we know the plastics recycling goal will be challenging, but we aren’t afraid to declare where we want to be. We know it will take collaboration, partnerships and innovation, both within and beyond P&G, to make a positive difference.
Meg: What metrics will you use to measure yourself against these goals and how will the results be shared internally and externally?
Virginie: We track and measure all we do. We set higher standards, such as our standards for packaging recyclability, and we put measurable plans in place to achieve those standards. A good example of this is our progress on our 2020 goals, many of which we’ve already achieved. We already communicate key efforts on an annual basis in our Citizenship Report and will continue measuring progress through our annual employee survey. We will also implement a system to recognize those employees who have made significant contributions to advancing progress against our goals, and environmental sustainability is now part of all business plan reviews. Our 2030 goals include:
- 100% of our leadership brands will enable and inspire responsible consumption.
- We have drafted criteria to assess our brands against this goal. We will finalize and share these criteria by July 2018 and begin reporting the progress of our leadership brands in 2019.
- 100% of our packaging will be recyclable or reusable.
- By 2025, all of our major packaging platforms will be recyclable or reusable. This will encompass ~95% of all packaging materials and we will make this happen through a combination of material choice, package design, and working with others to create new innovative solutions for recycling. By 2030, we will identify solutions for this packaging that will allow it to be recyclable or reusable.
- We will build even greater trust through transparency, ingredient innovation, and sharing our safety science.
- Our intent is to publish our principles that guide our efforts on ingredient transparency, the process we use to ensure the safety of our products, and our commitment to continuous improvement of our ingredients and product portfolio to better meet the range of consumer preferences in markets around the world by the end of 2018 and report progress on these principles via our Citizenship Report on an annual basis.
- We will reduce our footprint and strive for circular solutions:
- We will purchase 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and will cut our Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions in half at P&G sites by 2030.
- P&G sites will deliver a 35% increase in water efficiency and source at least five billion liters of water from circular sources.
- We will advance at least 10 significant supply chain partnerships to drive circularity on climate, water or waste.
- We will protect and enhance the forests we depend upon.
- We will partner to increase the area of certified forests globally while working to strengthen certification systems.
- We will play a leadership role in efforts to develop a Forest Positive approach for the forest products industry that is based on sound science and delivers forest health benefits. As the concept of a Forest Positive approach is better defined, we will seek to implement Forest Positive actions that we believe will serve to sustain and expand the protection of working forests P&G depends on.
- We will improve livelihoods of palm smallholders by increasing yields from existing lands.
- We will implement local programs to build capability in good agricultural practices with the objective of helping small farmers achieve an average production of 18 metric tons per hectare (the national average of palm production in Malaysia).
- We will find solutions so no P&G packaging will find its way to the ocean.
- We clearly cannot do this alone and will look at waste management holistically. Our efforts will include multi-stakeholder collaborative efforts that seek to catalyze development of sustainable waste management systems in key regions, as well as other efforts to improve recovery of value from waste.
- We will protect water for people and nature in priority basins.
- As a first step, we will identify where our consumers, suppliers and facilities are being most impacted by current and future water issues. We are already in the process of doing this using a data-based water risk assessment process across our value chain.
- By the end of 2020, we aim to have clearly defined our priority basins, the partners we will work with, and the impact measures needed to address the specific water challenges in each basin.
- We will advance recycling solutions for Absorbent Hygiene Products.
- We aim to have absorbent hygiene product waste recycling operational in 10 cities by 2030.
- We will integrate social and environmental sustainability as a key strategy in our business plans.
- We will educate employees across all levels.
- We will reward progress and integrate recognition in the individual’s performance assessment.
- We have developed and will deploy a detailed plan to engage our employees across all levels and organizations to ensure awareness of business sustainability plans and how they can embed social and environmental sustainability in the work they do.
- We will communicate key efforts on an annual basis and will measure our progress through our annual employee survey.
- We will implement a system to recognize those employees who have made significant contributions to advancing progress against our goals.
Meg: With such a large workforce, employee engagement is a critical component of this plan. What are your first few goals for employee engagement and where do you hope to see it growing to by 2030?
Virginie: Employees are our single greatest asset and the source of much of the passion, creativity, and innovation that drives our business. As we seek to advance our Ambition 2030 environmental sustainability goals, we will ensure our employees are engaged and equipped to help us drive progress against our goals. We have developed a detailed plan across the enterprise and all levels of P&G employees to help them understand how they can embed social and environmental sustainability in the work they do every day. We also created an online training about our environmental sustainability efforts, and we will continue to expand and refresh that training to maintain it as fundamental to our functional challenges and business processes. Lastly, we will implement a system for recognizing those employees who have made significant contributions to advancing progress against our Ambition 2030 goals, communicate key efforts on an annual basis and measure our progress through our annual employee survey.
Meg: How do the Ambition 2030 goals relate to the P&G Citizenship agenda?
Virginie: We developed our Ambition 2030 goals and broader Citizenship platform to help address some of the greatest challenges we face as a society. We understand that improving consumers’ lives also means caring for the world we all share. We think of this as being a force for good, and a force for growth. This comes to life through our new Ambition 2030 environmental sustainability goals, and through our other Citizenship focus areas of Ethics & Corporate Responsibility Community Impact, Diversity & Inclusion, and Gender Equality. By making a positive impact across all areas of our Citizenship agenda, we believe consumers and shareholders will reward us with their business and that in turn drives growth. Acting responsibly is the right thing to do, and we believe it results in long-term growth for the business.