Article by: Perry Romanowski

This article about Procter & Gamble’s sustainability efforts suggests that they are on pace for achieving their 5 and 10 year sustainability goals.

They’ve reduced their energy usage by 16% since 2007, reduced CO2 emissions by 12%, reduced water usage by 22% and reduced waste by 57%.

All seems very impressive, although since they set their own targets and report their own numbers, I’m certain they present the data in the most positive light. And I wonder if they count the energy that their suppliers put into making raw materials. For example, you could easily reduce your water usage if you required your supplier to dilute their raw materials with water before selling it to you. hmmm

It is great that they are following a program like this but it makes me wonder, is the notion of sustainability and the goals of a corporation compatible?

Conflicting goals

Consider this. The primary goal of a corporation like P&G is to grow. Grow profits, grow sales, grow customer base.

In order to grow, they have to get more consumers to use more products. They could also do it by increasing the prices of their current products but that is a limited strategy. Making more products is ultimately going to lead to more resources usage which is ultimately not sustainable.

Reduce usage

If a company was really committed to sustainability, they would have to focus on reducing the number of products they make. Or course, this directly conflicts with the corporation’s primary goal. And I have to wonder, can a sustainable driven company really be in the consumable business at all?

Perhaps I’m missing something here but the notion of sustainability and corporate growth seems ultimately at odds.

2 comments

  1. Eliza

    Perry, you always make me smile 🙂
    You make great valid points! The cosmetic industry is full of buzz words, lately sustainability and innovation must be the new kids on the block.
    Basically by merely living we destroy the environment. The most sustainable solution would be global suicide LOL
    Seriously the point of sustainability is doing what you can. Doing nothing is probably the worst choice. There is a global change going on when it comes to capitalism and business growth (the 99 percent). Maybe we’ll all go back to local small artisan crafting: making enough soap and salves to supply our neighbors in return for bread and eggs LOL

    1. Perry

      Thanks Eliza – It will be interesting to see how markets change in the future. I just don’t see how corporations can keep growing bigger and bigger. Eventually, a market is saturated.

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