Here at ACI, we have challenged our members to align their corporate climate strategy and targets with the 1.5°C ambition, which strives to reach net-zero global emissions by 2050. Across the cleaning products industry, companies are taking bold action to limit the global average temperature rise to less than 1.5°C.
Reckitt is combating climate change with ambitious plans to reduce its own carbon footprint and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. One way the company is working toward this goal is through sustainable product innovation.
ACI got in touch with David Croft, Global Director of Sustainability at Reckitt, to learn how the company is using its Sustainable Innovation Calculator to create more sustainable cleaning products and reduce its carbon footprint. He also shared with us some examples of product and manufacturing changes that have resulted from this approach to innovation.
David Croft, Global Director of Sustainability at Reckitt
ACI: When Reckitt is looking to create more sustainable cleaning products, how does it define a product as being more sustainable and calculate this improvement?
David Croft: Our product designers think about sustainability right at the start of the innovation process. We encourage an innovation culture where sustainability is always considered, and improvements, both big and small, are made at every opportunity. Our ambition is that every innovation we make is more sustainable than its predecessor. And everything counts – from major new product launches, to a small incremental change to an established brand. It isn’t enough for us to simply ask our scientists to incorporate sustainability into the innovation process. We need to measure the impact of each change, using our Sustainable Innovation Calculator. For us to report a product as ‘more sustainable’, it must make a 10% improvement on carbon, water, ingredients or packaging versus the benchmark.
ACI: How is the Sustainable Innovation Calculator used across the company’s teams?
David Croft: We have a target to achieve 50% of net revenue from more sustainable products by 2030. Our finance and sustainability teams work hand-in-hand to track our net revenue from more sustainable products. This helps to strengthen the business case for sustainability.
A network of sustainability champions in our R&D teams around the world work in each of our product categories to ensure sustainability is a priority when designing and developing products. Increased awareness of environmental issues, thanks to sharing sustainability initiatives on our intranet, is uniting the global Reckitt community to build sustainability into our core business.
ACI: How would you calculate the carbon footprint of a product?
David Croft: Our calculator enables us to determine the impact of a product versus existing benchmarks, so we can decide whether it can be considered more sustainable and count its revenues towards our net revenue targets. The calculator is a streamlined life cycle assessment (LCA) tool that examines the water and carbon impact of products, their ingredients, raw materials and packaging, and also, crucially, the impacts of how they are used by consumers. To be considered more sustainable, a sustainable product innovation must score better in at least one of the categories without scoring worse in any others. We continually update, improve and evolve this vital sustainability tool to empower our innovation teams with more data and insight. From 2021, the calculator’s new green chemistry metric allows us to factor in regenerative aspects of our ingredients such as the citric acid, sourced from corn, in Dettol’s new alcohol-free hand sanitiser.
ACI: How has Reckitt been able to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cleaning product manufacturing operations?
David Croft: We are determined to play our part to achieve global climate change targets. Our science-based targets mean we’re reducing emissions in our manufacturing sites by 65% help keep global warming to less than 1.5°C. We produce our cleaning products, like Lysol disinfectant, Finish dishwashing tablets and Harpic toilet cleaners at our hygiene factories across the world. To cut greenhouse gas emissions at these factories, we increase efficiency through modifications to current processes and assets, or we use new methods and equipment where we need to. An example of this is generating electricity from our own green sources, like installing solar panels. At the market level, we purchase energy from renewable sources. We seek electricity from green utility companies and purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs), which are sold in the market and are a compensation mechanism. 100% of the electricity we bought for our Hygiene factories is from renewable sources.
ACI: Turning now to carbon emissions that come from consumer use and transportation, how can making changes to a product reduce emissions from these categories? What are some examples?
David Croft: The connection that our brands have with people everywhere is a powerful opportunity to help combat climate change. While we reduce our own carbon footprint, we can enable and encourage people to do the same. Brands, like Vanish, Finish and Dettol, that increasingly use less carbon when used, can encourage people to make their own contributions; lowering the temperature of the laundry wash to get rid of stains, skipping the rinse in dishwashing, and even using cooler water when washing your hands. Everybody knows that these small differences add up. On their own, they may not be enough. But they do matter and alongside bigger changes that we and others are making, and changes to energy systems and supply, changes to policy, practice and behaviour, corporately and individually, they will make a difference.
In logistics, we’ve been taking advantage of new technology and changed from lead to lithium batteries for forklifts, resulting in a 16% cut in GHG emissions at our site in Barcelona. The team has also worked on ways to load trucks on the Madrid route more efficiently, which has cut the number of trucks we need to use. That’s meant another 30% cut in GHG emissions at the centre.
ACI: Reckitt’s commitment includes an ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. What are the company’s next steps to reach this goal?
David Croft: With our focus on the health, hygiene and nourishment of people all over the world, we understand and are responding to the strong connection between climate change, planetary health and public health. We are determined to play our part to achieve global climate change targets. Our science-based targets mean we’re reducing emissions in our manufacturing sites by 65% and in our products by 50%, by 2030, to help keep global warming to less than 1.5°C. This means more renewable energy, greater energy efficiency, lower carbon ingredients and packaging, more recycling, green logistics and lower carbon when people use our products all over the world. It’s also why we’re assessing the ecosystem impacts we have so we can develop nature-based solutions, to strengthen biodiversity and combat climate change. And it’s why we work with our partners, for example joining Amazon’s climate pledge and supporting ACI’s own pledge, and through our brands, help consumers also save energy.