Showering, cooking, and washing dishes or clothes are water-intensive activities, resulting in using up an estimated 10% of Earth’s water supply and up to 500 liters of water per person each day in developed countries . Yet it is not only water use that causes concerns - heating and treating water requires energy, so every drop is more energy used, and more carbon emitted simultaneously.
Household and personal care products’ manufacturers are usually in the spotlight due to ethical sourcing practices of raw materials, plastic waste, or recalled products, while less attention is given to their carbon emission – for a reason. While traditional ESG data providers focus more on operational emissions that are only a small portion of overall greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, they miss out on consumer use-phase carbon emissions which can account for up to 90% of GHG footprint in this industry.
The vicious circle of water used
In fact, a vicious circle presents itself at point of use - while water is essential to enjoy these products, hot water use affects climate change and climate change affects the availability of water. Water scarcity in return might induce changes in consumer preferences for products or reduce sales in high water stress areas, as well as impact production capacity and/or increase operational costs (that might be passed on to consumers). Whilst consumer use-phase emissions are especially challenging to reduce, they form the largest opportunity for companies in this space to retain consumers and make an impact in the fight against climate change.
The two main ways manufacturers can address consumer use-phase GHG emissions come down to 1) how products are designed and 2) how consumers act when using them. Industry players have recently been developing or acquiring new brands that allow consumers to use less water, such as dry shampoos or quick-wash laundry detergents, as well as communicating better habits to consumers on product packaging, online, and via campaigns to encourage behavioral change.
Proven industry strategies to address consumer-phase GHG emission
RGS RIFT results show that both strategies bear fruit. For example, the biggest player in the industry, Procter & Gamble (P&G), has been optimizing detergent formulas of its brands Ariel and Tide for high efficiency in low-temperature washing, as well as promoting low-energy wash cycles in their marketing over the past 10 years . Their 2020 goal to have 70% of machine loads be low-energy cycle loads has been achieved, which is reflected by RGS’ impact figures as well: P&G’s Product Use GHG Impact shows an impressive 25 percentage point improvement between 2016 and 2020.
Another big player, Colgate-Palmolive, has been running the Save Water water conservation awareness initiative since 2016, emphasizing the power of small behavioral tweaks like turning off the tap when brushing teeth. With this campaign, the cumulative water reduction is estimated to be 206 billion gallons and the associated cumulative carbon emissions reduction is approximately 10.8 million metric tons of CO2e . As our analysis shows, the latter translates into a 31 percentage point improvement in RGS’ Product Use GHG Impact from 2016 to 2020.
Using our solution, RIFT, you will be equipped with the right toolset to see the results of further household and personal care companies and how their impact compares within the industry and beyond. If you’d like to find and learn from the best performing companies with the most positive impact, let’s talk.
 P&G Sustainability Full Report 2020
 Colgate-Palmolive Annual Sustainability & Social Impact Report 2021
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