Close-up of a male hand writing on an blank notebook with a pencil

The North American edition of the Sustainable Cleaning Products Summit took place in New York in July. Senior executives discussed pressing sustainability issues facing the detergents and home care industry. Some of the key take-aways from the event include:

Need for positive vision. In his opening keynote, Professor Steve Cohen from Columbia University called for a positive vision for sustainability. According to Cohen, “sustainability is not about a denial...trying to make people feel guilty for their consumption is a losing strategy.” The way forward is a sustainable lifestyle whereby we (consumers) pay more attention to the environmental impact of our products and services.

Sustainable product design. Many of the sustainability issues facing the planet are caused by product design; this was the key message from Howie Fendley from McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry. The Cradle-To-Cradle (C2C) design approach enables eco-friendly products to be designed and materials / nutrients to have infinite cycles. Method cleaning products and CandA jeans are examples of products made according to the C2C design approach.

Indoor pollution and allergens. According to Dr. John Ryan from Allergy Standards, the rising incidence in asthma and allergens is partly because of indoor pollution. Chemicals in cleaning products are a major contributor to this pollution, with many ‘allergy aware’ consumers looking for healthier products for their homes. He requested home care companies to phase out possible allergens from their products.

Removing packaging waste. Terracycle is working with cleaning product companies to remove plastics from waste streams. It has partnered with Procter and Gamble to create ocean plastic bottles for Fairy washing up liquid. Its new Loop shopping platform is making cleaning products available in multiple use packaging.

Measure chemical footprints. Gojo Industries has adopted the chemical footprint project to evaluate the chemicals in its home care and personal care products. It is on track to meet its target of reducing its chemical footprint by 50% by 2020. Dylan Beach called on other companies to follow Gojo Industries and ‘clean up’ their formulations.

Green fragrance options. Formulators now have access to a wide range of green fragrances for their home care products. Jack Corley from Custom Essence gave details of the natural essential oils, chemicals, and carrier oils that are being used to fragrance such products. Adulteration, price fluctuations, and supply issues were cited as challenges when using such green ingredients.

Nature-inspired biosurfactants. Detergent producers can learn from nature to create microbial biosurfactants from fungi and bacteria. Professor Richard Gross from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute gave a workshop on how sophorolipids and their derivatives are being used as biosurfactants.

Ethical labelling trend. The number of ethical labelling schemes for cleaning and home care products is increasing. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) gave details of its new EWG Verified standard for home care products, whilst an update was given on Green Seal and other standards. The development is leading to multiple certification: over 70 home care products are certified according to the USDA Certified BioBased and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safer Choice standards.

Emerging green brand. Clotilde Balassone from Unilever gave details on how the Love, Home and Planet brand was created. Launched earlier this year, the brand has a range of laundry and surface cleaning products that have plant-based ingredients and sustainable packaging. The brand is designed for millennials and aims to ‘build a movement for a cleaner, greener planet’.

Marketing best-practices. Brands need to use social media to get green messages across to consumers, especially the Millennials and Gen Z. This was the message from Sourabh Sharma from FIG Or Out. He also called for experiential marketing and clear communications by home care brands if they are to market products effectively to these consumers.