Procter & Gamble announced on Jan. 27 that it’s removing phosphates from all of its laundry detergents worldwide over the next two years. This announcement will apply to all of its brands, including Tide, Ariel, Ace and Bonux. Phosphates are added to laundry detergents to soften water and keep dirt in the laundry water. However, when phosphates get into water sources, such as lakes or rivers, it “leads to algae growth and poor water quality,” according to the U.K. government agency, Environment Agency. Phosphates are a “major source of pollution in lakes and streams,” a Colorado State University webpage states.
An article in the Guardian points out a few things concerning this announcement, including the fact that P&G already removed phosphates from laundry detergents sold in the U.S. due to a nationwide ban instated in 1993. A few years ago the company removed phosphates from detergents sold in Europe. However, many developing countries lack phosphate regulation and this is where the biggest impacts will occur.
Although smaller companies like Belgian Ecover or American Seventh Generation have already removed phosphates, P&G is much bigger. P&G has more than 25 percent of the global market share and is sold in approximately 70 countries, serving about 4.8 billion people with its many brands. P&G is the largest consumer packaged goods company in the world today. As the Guardian quotes Giovanni Ciserani, P&G’s group president of global fabric and home care, “It’s a win-win when you offer consumers a better product which is also environmentally friendlier. Whenever you force them into a trade-off, you get a limited result.”
Ciserani stated in a press release that P&G has been “gradually reducing the consumption of phosphates since 2005.” He added that, “By the time the above laundry reformulations are fully implemented, P&G will have eliminated close to half a million metric tons per year compared to its peak consumption during calendar year 2005.” The reasons for P&G’s decision to remove phosphates from all of its laundry detergents around the world is because of its “strong commitment to innovation, research and development,” Ciserani said.
“Our size and scale provide us with a unique opportunity to make a difference when it comes to changing consumer behavior,” said Len Sauers, P&G vice president for global sustainability. “With this very concrete action of our fabric care business as well as those to follow, we intend to improve the quality of people’s lives today and for generations to come.”
P&G wants to be a leader in sustainability
P&G has what it terms “long-term visions,” and they are lofty. They include powering its plants with 100 percent renewable energy and using 100 percent renewable or recycled materials for all of its products and packaging. They also include zero consumer waste going to landfills and zero manufacturing waste going to landfills.
The company’s goals for 2020 help it meet its long-term visions. They include replacing 25 percent of petroleum-based materials with sustainably sourced materials, and moving 70 percent of laundry loads globally to using cold water. Other goals for 2020 include reducing packaging-per-consumer use by 20 percent and having 30 percent of its plants’ energy needs come from renewable energy sources.
Image credit: Ryan Ebert