According to event organizers, The Cleaner Products Cleaner Future Summit is an “environmental stewardship conference” designed as an educational initiative.
“P&G Home Care is presenting the Cleaner Products Cleaner Future Summit to facilitate an open dialogue among relevant stakeholders on how brands can build even a greater trust through transparency and enable and inspire responsible consumption,” Martin Hettich, vice president, P&G North America Home Care, Cincinnati, told Happi in an interview. “We believe brands can have a positive impact and our goal is to use every opportunity we have—no matter how big or small—to set change in motion.
“While there isn’t a singular definition, the ‘clean’ movement embraces both natural and synthetic ingredients, putting the focus on safety over source and we couldn’t agree more. At P&G, we think a clean product is about the standards that go into making a product,” Hettich said.
After all, the cleaning products industry has a direct impact on the US economy totaling $59.1 billion, supporting 64,000 jobs and including $8.3 billion of labor compensation, according to a recent report released by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI).
“How the cleaning product supply chain communicates about their products and ingredients is a high priority, cross-cutting topic for ACI and its membership,” said Melissa Hockstad, ACI president and CEO, who moderated a discussion at the event on safer chemicals and ingredient transparency. “I appreciated the dynamic dialogue with this panel on transparency and how to effectively communicate meaningful information to consumers and stakeholders alike.”
The “Helping Consumers Make Better Choices” session was also a draw to summit guests. Moderated by Jim Jones, EVP, Household & Commercial Products Association, topics spanned from ingredient labels to the perception of preservatives.
“The customer is always right,” said Jones, “but one of the bigger challenges to the cleaning industry is the difficult phenomenon of consumer views of safety versus regulations.”
For example, household care companies need simplicity as consumers are bombarded with messages, noted Susan McPherson, founder and CEO of communications consultancy firm McPherson Strategies, who served on the panel.
“Then you add the complexities of chemistry. We have to break product information down to its most elemental form,” she insisted.
Meghan Stasz, vice president of packaging and sustainability of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents companies such as P&G, added that consumers are not a monolith.
“We need to reach out to all segments,” said Stasz. “The Smart Label initiative where information is offered digitally is a good start.”
Going grassroots is also another way to impact the industry. Just ask Danny Meyer, founder of popular restaurant chain Shake Shack, who took time to sit with Hettich to chat about his company’s success.
“If you do the right thing, you get copycats,” said Meyer, who was at the forefront of the national initiative to swap out plastic straws for alternative beverage vehicles. “Also, the tribe where you work is very important. Everyone in a business together should share the same values.”
A highlight in the afternoon portion of the event was Lucy Shea, CEO of Futerra, a global sustainability change agency based in London. Her presentation drew from Futerra’s Honest Product Guide, developed in partnership with the Consumer Goods Forum.
“Consumers aren’t interested in transparency. They want honesty and they want it at the product level. The new high growth ‘honest brands’ are proving the commercial upside of honest messaging,” Shea said. “Honest products can help build a more human connection between the products that people buy and the people who make them.”