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Behavior Change
The Role of Brands in Supporting Consumers to Make More Sustainable Choices

Lowering the washing temperature of a laundry load or dish cycle can greatly reduce carbon emissions. But for people to turn down the temperature or select eco-cycles, they must trust that products will still clean with brilliant results — this is where brands can play a crucial role in decarbonization.

The effects of the climate crisis on both people and planet are already being felt. There is no time to waste, and we must act quickly to curb its progression. Climate change may feel like a difficult reality to face, but small changes can be made in our very own homes to reduce our carbon footprint.

Household chores, including laundry and dishwashing, have an impact on emissions; and P&G is on a mission to support consumers in reducing these. Targeting upstream Scope 3 emissions needs to be a priority, and companies must understand how elements including ingredients, manufacturing and packaging contribute to CO2 output. When using laundry products in our homes, we are contributing to the largest portion of those products’ carbon footprint. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies reveal that on average in North America and Europe, almost 70 percent of laundry’s carbon footprint happens when it’s being done at home. This is mainly due to the heating of the water; it rises to 90 percent for dishwashing[^1].

This means that small changes to our cleaning routines — such as lowering the washing temperature of a laundry load or dish cycle — can make a big difference to reducing carbon emissions. But for people to turn down the temperature dial or select eco-cycles, they must trust that products will still clean their dishes and clothes with brilliant results. This is where the industry can play a crucial role in decarbonization, as well as addressing the impact of its direct emissions.

The role of a brand, therefore, is threefold:

1. Innovating for carbon-efficient formulas that clean in cold washes

Leading laundry and home care brands (such as P&G’s Tide, Ariel, Cascade or Fairy) have a responsibility and ability to reduce Scope 3 upstream and downstream emissions by selecting or innovating low-carbon — or even carbon-negative — ingredients that don’t compromise on cleaning in colder temperatures.

It is crucial that a laundry detergent cleans well at 30°C or less; and bioscience has helped unearth new ingredients — using enzymes — to create formulas that work well at cold washes. Enzymes work as catalysts — for example, to clean coral in the ocean. Researchers at Ariel developed these powerful natural cleaners into an innovative biodegradable technology called Purezyme — which is highly effective at removing sticky soils from fabrics, even in lower wash temperatures. These formulas help reduce ‘compensating behaviors’ — such as rewashing, over-dosing or using higher temperatures — that consumers resort to when detergents do not perform well. Raising awareness for consumer action is critical to reducing household emissions, but that must be reinforced with confidence in the performance of the products they use.

2. Raising awareness of everyday sustainable actions

For brands, it’s not just about enabling consumers to embrace sustainable behaviors when doing laundry or cleaning but helping them to understand the benefits and giving them the confidence to do so. Some consumers might not be aware of the impacts of using hot water in various cleaning activities; and it is up to companies providing laundry and home care products to raise their awareness. The same goes for the amount of water used: When dishwashing, consumers may be surprised to know that an energy-efficient dishwasher uses four gallons of water per cycle — compared to handwashing dishes, which consumes four gallons every two minutes.

To play this educational role, businesses can become more relatable to consumers, clearly articulating the benefits of small day-to-day actions. Take laundry, for example: Switching one load from hot to cold saves enough electricity to power the average US home for over an hour. Lower temperatures have benefits for clothes, too — washing on a 20°C quick cycle, as supposed to a standard 40°C cotton setting, helps clothes last up to four times longer.

Brands can make this even more compelling for consumers by connecting the sustainability benefits to financial savings, as well — washing in cold saves up to 60 percent of the laundry portion on an annual energy bill. In North America, this translates into saving $150 annually.

3. Valuing the role of partnerships in decarbonizing laundry and home care

Partnerships are crucial — the climate crisis cannot be solved alone, and companies need to work together to develop new technologies and solutions. In North America, Tide has partnered with World Wildlife Fund and Hanes to help raise awareness of the emissions-reducing benefits of washing in cold with Tide. Partnerships can also be used to improve product formulas themselves, further helping to decarbonize laundry and home care. For example, a current collaboration between Tide and Twelve (fka Opus 12)— a Silicon Valley-based startup at the forefront of carbon transformation — is seeking to explore the use of carbon capture and utilization technology in the Tide product formula.

This can also be said for reducing the use of plastics within the supply chain. P&G is working with partners such as PABOCO (“The Paper Bottle Company”) to reduce its use of plastics, finding solutions to hold liquid with fiber-based packaging. The aim is to mitigate the use of petroleum-based plastics by 50 percent by 2030, while increasing the use of post-consumer recycled plastics across all packaging. Incorporating natural ingredients helps in discovery of alternative materials, and circular packaging innovations are being produced from biobased material — such as Ariel PODs in a new cardboard ECOCLIC® box that P&G has just launched in the UK. An LCA of this new cardboard packaging shows a reduction in carbon emissions vs. previous plastic packaging; it is made with 70 percent+ recycled fibers, is FSC-certified and fully recyclable, so it can easily be added to the weekly household paper collection.

P&G Fabric Care brands such as Tide and Ariel will help accelerate P&G’s progress towards its ambitious targets — such as reducing the CO2 impact in the home by 30 million metric tons by 2030. While the majority of the laundry carbon footprint is from the in-use phase; brands must tackle the remaining 40 percent of the impact as well. This includes a company’s sourcing of ingredients, operations, transport and packaging methods. For example, moving long-haul transportation to trains and boats cuts transport emissions, as they have a 75 percent smaller footprint than trucks. Fabric & Home Care brands will be a key contributor towards P&G’s ambitious goal to achieve net-zero emissions from cradle to shelf by 2040 with an interim goal of 40 percent reduction by 2030.

Mitigating the impacts of climate change might be a long journey, but great progress is being made. We cannot stop now; and brands must continue to make safe, well-performing and more sustainable products that people can trust to deliver results.

[^1]: Simplified LCA breakdown, based on European average