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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Clorox Goes Sustainable?


When I think of the Clorox Co., I think of bleach, a product I love for its disinfectant properties. The company also makes some of the most well-known household products, including Pine-Sol cleaners, Liquid Plumr clog removers and Glad bags.

But it turns out there's more to the multinational company that has 7,700 employees worldwide and sales of $5.7 billion this fiscal year. 

Clorox is also a company that is serious about sustainability, as its 2015 Integrated Annual report shows. The report covers the company’s “good growth,” what it terms “profitable and responsible growth” during the fiscal year that ended June 30. The progress toward its 2020 Strategy is covered in the report.

One of the goals within the strategy is to reduce the company’s operational footprint 20 percent by 2020. That includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste to landfill, energy and water. In one area, solid waste to landfill, Clorox has not only met its goal but exceeded it by achieving a 30 percent reduction.

The company also achieved reductions in the other areas, the have resulted in $116 million in cost savings in fiscal year 2015:

  • Cumulative reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (11 percent)

  • Energy consumption (6 percent)

  • Water consumption (11 percent)

The goal for corporate responsibility is to “reduce the environmental impact of our operations and improve the sustainability of our upstream supply chain.” That means focusing on ways to reduce waste. The company emphasizes building “an even stronger agile enterprise that streamlines our work to focus on those activities consumers are willing to pay for.” In fiscal year 2015, Clorox has driven “significant productivity gains” in a number of its functions, including $116 million in cost savings, according to the report.

Clorox focuses on achieving 10 zero waste-to-landfill facilities

One way that Clorox is reducing waste is through its goal of 10 facilities achieving zero waste-to-landfill by 2020, a company spokesperson told TriplePundit in an email.

Its plant in Fairfield, California, is now a zero waste-to-landfill site. Five other facilities are close to achieving the goal. Four others are “aggressively working hard to reduce their waste in order to be designated as low (90 percent plus solid waste diversion away from landfill) waste-to-landfill facilities."

There are several things that a facility must do to achieve zero waste-to-landfill designation, the company stated in its email:

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle or compost at least 90 percent of the waste streams at the site.

  • Send the remaining 10 percent or less of waste to a waste-to-energy facility.

  • Ensure no commonly recycled items such as paper, plastic, corrugate or aluminum are in the remaining waste.
Focusing on reducing waste and achieving zero waste-to-landfill is a smart strategy. Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Methane is a GHG with a warming potential 23 times greater than carbon dioxide.

Focusing on redesigning and reducing product and packaging materials

Clorox estimates that only about 12 percent of its environmental impact comes from operating its 37 plants worldwide. Most of the environmental impact of the 1 billion products it sells annually occurs either before raw materials arrive at its sites for processing or after consumers buy products. So, the company is focusing on redesigning and reducing product and packaging materials.

Part of the focus is increasing the amount of recycled content used in its packaging and enabling the packaging to be recycled. Between 2005 and 2011, Clorox made sustainability improvements to 50 percent of its portfolio. For 2020, it has set specific goals for packaging and product ingredients, including:

  • Having only recycled or certified virgin fiber in packaging

  • Having over 90 percent of all its products in recyclable primary packaging

  • Including clear recycling instructions on all packaging

  • Eliminating PVC in all packaging
Remember the Glad bags mentioned at the beginning of this article? Clorox has introduced what it described as a “series of technology innovations” that deliver stronger bags using less plastic. Given that plastic is petroleum-based, that is good for the environment. Clorox cited several examples of using less plastic in its Glad bags, including the Tall Kitchen bags. Through product innovations, about 6.5 million pounds of plastic have been reduced in the Tall Kitchen bags, which is the equivalent of keeping 140 million extra trash bags out of landfills every year.

Not bad for a company with such a global reach. Not bad at all.

Image credit: Mike Mozart

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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