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Meaningful, continuing impact of sustainability efforts

IT'S a fact - our planet is not in its best shape. Our excessive consumption and our pattern of using and disposing is taking its toll on the environment, overloading landfills and increasing our dependence on scarce resources.

But it is not all doom and gloom. In recent times, we have seen a tremendous surge in environmental awareness. A growing number of people are shifting to more eco-friendly habits, many cities are introducing plans to ban single-use plastics and there is in general, greater awareness in reducing one's personal patterns of consumption to minimise waste.

However, to make a meaningful impact, everyone should play an even more active role in driving sustainability at scale.

It is imperative for large corporations everywhere to be even more focused on sustainability efforts and responsible consumption in their businesses. It is no longer enough to merely sell a product or a service. Today's socially aware consumers want brands that are unafraid to take a stand: to lead the way in influencing behaviours and offering solutions to pressing issues.

At P&G, we have long been committed to environmental sustainability. In April last year, we were proud to announce that we had achieved many of our 2020 sustainability goals, two years ahead of schedule. This year, to commemorate World Earth Week, we are boldly moving forward with Ambition 2030 to inspire and create even more positive impact on the world.

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For corporations that are seeking ways to inspire and lead environmental sustainability efforts that will have a lasting impact, here are three ways to get started.

1. Make responsible consumption mainstream for households

When companies create innovative, environmentally-friendly products, customers will want to use them because the product aligns with their personal earth-friendly consumption principles. Many brands are beginning to innovate to have as minimal an environmental impact as possible. Importantly, we must do our part to inspire consumers to make the educated switch by offering them superior products that help to save the world's resources at the same time.

Across P&G's brands, we are constantly striving to enable responsible consumption. For example, WATERL<SS is a new retail haircare brand we co-created with women in Cape Town, South Africa, that allows users to wash and condition their hair without needing water. This is one of our responses for personal care products in the face of the growing water crisis.

2. Innovation is only innovative if it can be executed end-to-end

Civic infrastructure must support innovation for sustainability efforts to be effective. The term "circular economy" is more than an industry buzzword. To make a meaningful and sustainable impact on a large scale, this is what all parties should strive to achieve through the entire supply chain from production to consumption.

In the production process, this requires thinking differently about the type of materials used and how they are sourced, the manufacturing work process - such as waste-management and water use - and the distribution and transport of products. At P&G's 25 manufacturing sites across Asia-Pacific, India, Middle East and Africa, 92 per cent of these sites are qualified as sending Zero Manufacturing Waste to Landfill (ZMWTL) and we will be 100 per cent by 2020.

During consumption, circularity requires an integrated waste management system including a new civic infrastructure which allow the transformation of the current consumption patterns of "consume and dispose" to "consume, collect, recycle and reuse".

3. Forge multiple partnerships

Global sustainability is a goal that no single company can achieve alone. It is essential to collaborate closely and form strategic alliances and partnerships with other innovators, suppliers, retailers, governments, NGOs and businesses to achieve a multiplier, scaleable effect. For instance, P&G is one of the founding members of the global cross-value chain, 'Alliance to End Plastic Waste' which our CEO David S Taylor chairs. Its main goal is to eliminate plastic waste in the environment, particularly in the ocean, with a focus on South-east Asia where the challenge is the greatest.

The world is facing its moment of reckoning now but, together, we have a fighting chance to be a bigger and better part of the solutions. With my peers and colleagues in large corporations all around the world, we stand in support of this and assume leadership to drive sustainability at scale in any and every way possible.

  • The writer is president, Asia-Pacific, India subcontinent, Middle East & Africa, at Procter & Gamble

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