The Search for
The global detergent industry continues to make inroads on creating a more
sustainable future. Its past efforts, present problems and future concerns
were front and center during the AOCS World Detergent Conference.
SUSTAINABILITY is everyone’s and every company’s business. That much was evident at the recent World Detergent Conferencein Montreux,Switzerland. Theevent,developed
by the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS), attracted nearly
700 executives from around the world who heard presentations
from leading voices from a variety of fields, including detergents,
petro- and oleochemicals, technology and humanitarian aid.
“We made a promise to deliver a more exciting program and
we have delivered,” said conference chairman Manfred Trautman,
in his opening remarks. The conference theme, he explained,
“Creating Value in the New Reality,” can be segmented into three
subgroups with three missions:
• Sustainability—face it;
• Growth—find it; and
• Interaction—fuel it.
Sustainability has been at the forefront of industry’s collective mind for years; so it was no surprise to hear Kaspar Rorsted,
CEO, Henkel, tackle the subject in his opening keynote address.
“We have made progress (on sustainability) in the past four
years,” noted Rorsted, who addressed the same conference in
2010 in Montreux.“We have taken tremendous steps in the right
direction. Sustainability is front and center.
“Economic growth and resource consumption must be
decoupled,” he continued.“This is where innovation will be key.”
But sustainability is not the only issue facing the global household cleaning industry, Rorsted noted, calling the consolidation
of suppliers and buyers, the shift to emerging markets, and the
rapid transfer of information, as other megatrends impacting the
“Global volatility is increasing, but the economic powerbase is
moving to emerging markets,” he explained, noting that, emerging markets now account for a larger percentage of the global
economy than established markets.
Meanwhile, companies and their legal staffs must grapple
with transparency issues like never before, said Rorsted. Social
media such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, provide unfiltered
news feeds in real time that can damage a company’s reputation in hours, days and weeks. Similarly, there are an increasing
number of regulations and de-facto standards to get a handle on.
“We need to do a better job,” Rorsted insisted. “Governments
are upset with how large companies behave and they are
At the same time, NGOs and pseudoscientists are calling for
more regulations of ingredients and formulas. And even when
industry does the right thing, there is scant praise, and sometimes, damnation, noted Rorsted.
“The best citizen is the one who reduces the size of their
product packages,” he explained.“But if you are the first mover in
the market, you often get punished for it.”
For example, nearly every consumer product company ex-
ecutive laments the fact that while consumers are aware of sus-
tainability issues, they refuse to pay more for more sustainable
products and they refuse to compromise on performance.
“They want sustainable products, but at the same performance and price,” said Rorsted.
And, too often, great leaps forward are often viewed as providing less value to consumers. To help get the word out about
Tom Branna • Editorial Director
Three Wise Men: World Detergent Conference Executive Committee
members Mike Parkington, Unileve,r and Keith Grime, JKG Consulting,
flank Nitin Paranjpe of Unilever.