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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Uniting to Drive Change:
The Cleaning Industry Bands Together for a Sustainable Future

We know, of course, that no matter how many bold ambitions a company has, it cannot change the world alone. But through collaborative effort, the impact companies can make is multiplied, often many times over.

To make meaningful change, companies that make up any supply chain must be committed to driving impactful industry action to foster and shape a sustainable future. Like many other sectors, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) and our members — who make, formulate and supply cleaning products and their chemistries and packaging — have been working hard to reduce emissions, use resources more efficiently and build greater transparency for consumers. We have reported on how many of our member companies are tackling the critical sustainability issues confronting our society.

We know, too, that bold action is needed — by everyone. We all have a role to play, from governments and consumers to business and trade associations like us. Ultimately, success in addressing problems such as climate change will come through collaboration — not just across our industry, but across sectors.

Going forward, ACI will be challenging its members to do more — to set ambitious goals and targets and noticeably bring about forward progress across our supply chain. By driving forward actions and partnerships that can make a real difference on the ground — increasing transparency for consumers, reducing emissions and waste, and valuing the planet’s natural resources.

As part of our forthcoming #OurFutureIsClean campaign, we want to confront the following issues head on:

Helping consumers make informed choices

ACI research suggests that only one-third of consumers of cleaning products feel knowledgeable about the information that is most important to them — such as a product’s ingredients, their potential impact on the environment, and how safe they are. Ultimately, we want consumers and customers to understand what is in the cleaning products that they use every day, so they can be empowered to select the products that work for them.

Our supply chain has taken great strides to provide more information than ever before about cleaning products and their chemistries and now complying with new mandates as outlined in California’s Cleaning Products Right to Know Act. A number of our members — including Colgate-Palmolive, Clorox, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, Seventh Generation and Unilever — are increasing transparency through the SmartLabel initiative. Using an app available on any smart device, the initiative aims to make it easier for consumers to gain instant access to detailed information on thousands of food, beverage, household, personal care and pet care products. Consumers access the data by a QR code, and the information helps them make informed choices about what they buy and use in their homes.

Reducing our carbon footprint

As well as looking at ingredients, we also need to find ways for our sector to have a more positive impact on the world around us. Among cleaning product formulators, operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have fallen by 37 percent over the past decade; while, according to data collected by ACI, renewable energy use has risen by 19 percent.

In 2018, more than half (54 percent) of our members published their previous year’s GHG emissions through some form of public document or reporting system, and 44 percent have set targets to reduce their GHG emissions, improve energy efficiency or increase the use of renewable energy. Eighteen companies have gone further still, by aligning their commitments to science-based targets or taking steps to power their entire operations using renewable sources. 

Building a circular economy

As an industry, we are committed to moving toward a more circular global economy by valuing nature, striving to use natural resources efficiently and seeking to minimize waste. Product packaging — essential for transporting and protecting our members’ products — can also lead to waste and pollution, so our members are collaborating to eliminate single-use packaging through redesign and initiatives such as Loop. 32 percent of ACI formulators have set goals to reach 100 percent recyclable packaging. 

One of the obstacles to reducing waste is a lack of knowledge and awareness — knowing what can and cannot be recycled can be extremely confusing for consumers. How2Recyle is a coalition of brands that aims to transform people’s awareness about what can be recycled through clear, standardized, on-package labels. More than one-third of our ACI formulator members support the initiative, including AlEn, Church & Dwight, The Clorox Company, Colgate-Palmolive, Georgia-Pacific, Henkel, Kao Corporation, P&G, RB, SC Johnson, Seventh Generation and Unilever; with support by supply chain companies The Dow Chemical Company, Eastman and Lonza.

Enabling advancement of the SDGs

It is also important for all of us to look beyond our industry at the wider picture. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a clear route to making a real global impact. ACI supports the Goals, and 43 of our members have already aligned their strategies with the SDGs or are reporting their impact. We are encouraging others to do the same, for example by sharing tools such as the chemical sector SDG Roadmap. This collaborative initiative provides a step-by-step guide for how companies can work together to support and advance the SDGs more powerfully than acting individually.

We know, of course, that no matter how many bold ambitions a company has, it cannot change the world alone. But through collaborative effort, the impact companies can make is multiplied, often many times over. By working together, meaningful change can actually be achieved.