When it comes to laundry, it's not easy to be both clean and green. In fact, when Procter & Gamble studied how to make usage of its products more sustainable, the company found that it could have the biggest impact by helping customers reduce the amount of energy used to heat hot water for their laundry.
Lately, the company has been trying to help customers wash in cold water. Leading the effort is Len Sauers, P&G's Vice President of Global Sustainability.
The key is to make a product that works just as well as what's already on the market, says Sauers. While there is a niche group of people that will pay a premium for green products, Sauers said that the company has found that "70% to 80% percent of them really want to do the right thing, but they are not willing to accept trade-offs."
So P&G invested in research and development to create a high-performance coldwater detergent for its Tide brands in the United States and its Ariel brands in Europe. P&G has partnered with certain NGOs in Europe to educate consumers about the benefits of cold water washing. Partly because of that effort, Sauers says that roughly half of the population in the Netherlands now washes in cold water.
The company has lofty goals for the future, and ultimately wants to make 100% of its products and from recyclable materials, and power its plants with 100% renewable energy. "That's not something that we can achieve in the next 20, 30 or 40 years," says Sauers, "but we are putting the company on a path to achieve it."
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