WORLD DETERGENT CONFERENCE
“You can’t have a thriving business in a failing society,”
Paranjpe noted.“Business must never forget that its purpose is to
serve society. Profit is just a portion of the outcome.”
Sustainability means not just doing good; it may mean sav-
ing the species. According to Peter White of the World Business
Council for Sustainable Development, by 2050, 70% of the world’s
9.2 billion people will be living in cities and putting enormous
stress on resources. The goal of his group’s plan, called Action
2020, is to limit temperature change to +2°C and keep carbon
emissions below one trillion tons. To do that, industry must re-
think the practice of deforestation to grow palm.
“We need to improve the business case for sustainable devel-
opment,” said White.“We have to change the game from financial
capital to natural and societal capital. We are here to make more
sustainable companies more successful.”
Walmart doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to
sustainability, asserted Alberto Luis Dominguez, senior VP-
divisional merchandise manager, household paper goods and
chemicals, Walmart. The company’s Sustainability 360 program
incorporates input from associates, suppliers and customers to
uncover ways to improve sustainability. The company went one
step further earlier this year, by initiating its Policy on Sustainable
Chemistry in Consumables, which provides a description of what
it calls“priority chemicals”— substances with certain hazardous
properties that can affect human health, and/or the environment.
The policy defines these as chemicals that meets the criteria for
classification as a carcinogen, mutagen, reproductive toxicant,
or is persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic; or any chemical for
which there is “scientific evidence of probable serious effects to
human health or the environment.” The policy covers consumer
products such as health and beauty aids, pet supplies, cosmet-
ics and skin care, baby care products and household laundry and
“We launched Sustainable Chemistry, in part, to reinforce
consumer trust,” explained Dominguez. “Customers expect us to
know great products.”
Now Walmart is going further. In October, at its Global
Sustainability Milestone Meeting, the retailer announced its
commitment to create a more sustainable food system. The com-
pany will reach this goal through four key pillars: improving the
affordability of food for both customers and the environment,
increasing access to food, making healthier eating easier, and im-
proving the safety and transparency of the food chain.
“We ask you to always put the customer first and to innovate
to achieve the policy,” concluded Dominguez. “Let’s commit to
voluntary leadership (on sustainability).”
Peder Holk Nielsen, president and CEO of Novozymes, not-
ed that fewer people live in poverty around the world since he
attended his first World Conference on Fabric and Home Care
16 years ago.
“But we have lots of challenges; we must accelerate what na-
ture does to make real progress in 10 years.”
One way to do that is through the use of enzymes, which not
only replace chemicals, but also save water and energy, according
to the speaker.
“Biotechnology holds the key to solving many problems,”
Nielsen said and insisted that less than 20% of the world’s plant
waste can deliver 50% of the world’s fuel needs by 2050.
“But the fossil fuel business is huge, and doesn’t want the
world carbon neutral by 2050,” according to Nielsen. “We need a
BASF chairman Kurt Bock, the Day 2 keynote, promoted the concept of sustainability as a driver of growth, but he warned that
much work still needs to be done. For example, in order to grow
enough feedstocks for plant-based surfactants in Europe would
require farmland a third the size of Switzerland.
“There is a lack of land to fuel Ludwigshafen (BASF’s primary
manufacturing site),” observed Bock. “You can’t replace fossil fuels
with renewable plants.”
He added that sugar as a feedstock is not cost competitive—
even in Brazil.
And he doesn’t expect the situation to change any time soon.
Today, 94% of the industry’s feedstocks are tied to fossil fuels; 20 years
from now, they will still account for 80% of feedstocks, Bock predicted.
At the same time, while consumers insist they want green
products, they are unwilling to pay for them. So, what’s a multinational supplier to do? For one, drop the term“green;” BASF doesn’t
use it. For another, rethink the issue completely.
“Renewable isn’t necessarily sustainable,” observed Bock. “BASF
creates chemistry for a sustainable future. Our goal is increasing the
sustainability contribution of our solutions.”
To that end, BASF has purchased two enzyme businesses and
spending more on R&D in this segment. At the same time, the
company’s Trilon M is an effective replacement for phosphates in
automatic dishwash detergent formulas. The company has also
created a bio-based acrylic acid for its superabsorbent polymer
and is a player in sustainable palm oil production.
“We have a well-positioned portfolio,”Bock concluded.
A New, Old Century
While many speakers noted that industry is moving toward China,
Ian Bell, head of home care research, Euromonitor International,
suggested that we are not facing an Asian Century, but rather an
“Real population growth is slowing,” observed Bell. “The
higher your income, the fewer children you have.”
As a result, while it may not seem apparent just yet, by 2030,
purchasers and users of fast moving consumer goods like laundry
detergent and hard surface cleaners will be older and have special
needs that marketers must address, such as product handling.
“Universal Design is key,” he asserted.“Products must be affordable, recognizable, and easy to handle.”