Sustainability is more important than ever for the cleaning products industry, as new technology develops and consumers become increasingly conscious of their environmental impact. Sustainability is no longer an optional add-on but an essential feature of successful companies' business plans going forward. However, there is always more that can be done to enhance eco-friendly credentials, and particularly the way these are communicated to consumers. What is the relationship between consumers, sustainability and the cleaning products industry and how can it continue to improve?
Carolina Moeller is Head of Education at WWF International. Having spent six years in brand management at Procter and Gamble before joining WWF, she has a unique take on the industry's current position. According to Moeller, 'effective cross-industry collaboration is vital to enable wider market shifts, get laggards on-board and level the playing field.'
It can be argued that large organisations working together in this way provides a roadmap for all players to move towards more sustainable practices. Moeller refers specifically to the partnership between P&G and WWF: 'Since 2010, WWF has worked closely with P&G to address issues of sustainable production and consumption. The partnership focuses on forestry procurement practices, sustainable palm oil sourcing, use of renewable materials in products and packaging, renewable energy and means to reduce P&G's carbon footprint and water consumption levels.' Collaboration with P&G is particularly important, according to Moeller: 'P&G can and should play a leadership role in encouraging and modelling sound environmental sustainability practices.'
WWF has taken many positive steps to benefit the environment, including challenging European Parliament to minimise pollution of rivers and the sea, leading to restrictions on pollutants contained within cleaning products. What does Moeller see as the most important step change for the cleaning products market? 'My personal view is choice editing - removing less sustainable options from the shelf,' explains Moeller. 'Consumers are largely not aware what the more sustainable choice is and companies need to help them.' This can be achieved not merely through education, but also by companies simply providing the best performing products, both for cleaning and for the planet.
This revisits the subject of that essential relationship between the industry and the consumer, of balancing effective communication of best practice with engaging and innovative marketing. In terms of campaigns which have been successful in educating consumers of the most sustainable choices, there have been a number which have broken boundaries and have provided benchmarks for the rest of the industry. One example would be the Rainforest Alliance's "Follow the Frog" campaign which simply asks consumers to follow the organisation's stamp of approval, denoting products which are Rainforest Alliance Certified, whenever they see it. Moeller believes the success of this campaign was borne out of its simplicity; it proved successful because it showed 'you don't have to go to the ends of the Earth to save the rainforest. Just follow the frog.' This initiative limits the use of the Rainforest Alliance Certified Seal to only those farms that meet rigorous sustainability criteria, helping consumers to make the right choice while also making it fun.
Another example of a successful campaign is Nike's app 'Making', a predictive tool designed to inspire creatives to make more environmentally friendly products through their choice of materials. The associated advert, 'The Making of Making', opens with the provocative lines: 'Make no mistake. We hate sustainability...we're here to unveil a new age of design, one that is about making better things and making things better.' So why did this campaign work, despite of its protestations to sustainability? 'Sustainability is not cool, but reframed it can be made attractive to a much larger audience,' explains Moeller. 'This is a very important campaign in my view.'
Carolina Moeller will be discussing these themes and issues at the 2014 Cleaning Products Europe conference, held in Manchester, UK this March. Building on the success of previous events and maintaining the essential and active dialogue between stakeholders, this conference drives green innovations in the dynamic cleaning products market. This year's event will zero in specifically on driving forward innovative cleaning and will represent those throughout the value chain.
What is Moeller most looking forward to about Cleaning Products Europe 2014? 'We often get stuck in incremental thinking, and while this is important to get going and provide momentum for action, if we stay in this mindset, we are missing the bigger opportunity,' argues Moeller. 'I look forward to creating a dialogue about what the company of the future looks like, if we free ourselves of current conditions and limitations, and dare to dream. We are the co-creators of our world, and we all have the potential to make immense impact.'