With its recent decision to eliminate two common chemical ingredients from its products, Procter & Gamble may be the best indicator that even large consumer packaged goods companies are listening to the pleas of consumers wanting safer ingredients in everyday consumer products.
By 2014, the manufacturer of brands including Cover Girl, Herbal Essences, Tide and Ivory announced that it will no longer use triclosan, an antimicrobial ingredient found in products like detergents and soap, and phthalates, commonly appearing in synthetic fragrances.
On the sustainability section of its website, which highlights everything from progress on sustainability goals to ingredient information, P&G discusses why it has chosen to remove these chemicals from its products. Of both ingredients the company writes that, although it is “known to be safe,” concerns over efficacy or safety prompted the company to take action.
This is one of several efforts by the CPG powerhouse over recent years to clean up its products. In 2010, it announced that it would reduce levels of 1,4-dioxane in its Herbal Essences line. Then, earlier this year, it announced that it would do the same for its Tide and Tide Free & Gentle laundry detergents.
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics gives props
The announcement is an important step in protecting the health of consumers, according to a press release from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which has been leading the charge in encouraging manufacturers to eliminate chemicals of concern in their products over the past decade. It’s also a move that should encourage brands including Revlon, L’Oreal and Unilever to follow suit.
“P&G is taking an important step in the right direction,” said Janet Nudelman, program director at the Breast Cancer Fund and co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in a press release. “Major multinational cosmetic companies have no business using toxic chemicals linked to health concerns including cancer and reproductive harm to manufacture personal care products.”
A game changer
Though nontoxic alternatives for personal care and cleaning products have been entering the market for years, developing safe alternatives for triclosan and fragrances (where phthalates are commonly found) remains one of the biggest challenges facing the personal care and cleaning industries, according to Joel Tickner, green chemistry expert and program director for the Department of Community Health and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
What could unlock further innovations in this area: Investments in safer alternatives from large companies (such as the P&Gs of the world). “If a company comes up with a good alternatives to triclosan that will be big,” Tickner said.
P&G’s announcement could indicate that some of these big green changes are in the works—and certainly proves that demand and awareness is starting to shape the mass-marketing cleaning and personal care industries.