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Consumer Health Product Transparency Key Pillar Of J&J’s $800m Sustainability Strategy

Executive Summary

J&J Consumer Health is rolling out an initiative that involves publishing details online about a product’s ingredients, including their sustainability and animal welfare credentials, to eight of its “leadership brands” by the end of this year, according to the company's sustainability chief, Katie Decker. This initiative is a response to consumer demand for transparency and a key plank of the firm's $800m 2030 sustainability strategy, she explains in this exclusive interview.

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health is planning to roll out a new digital transparency initiative to eight of its biggest brands by the end of 2022 as part of a $800m sustainability drive, according to global president, essential health and sustainability, Katie Decker.

Currently, J&J CH is piloting the initiative, which involves publishing details about a product’s ingredients, including their sustainability and animal welfare credentials, with the 10 most popular Johnson’s baby-care products on the US market.

Speaking exclusively to HBW Insight, Decker revealed that this initiative will then be extended to seven other “leadership brands” by the end of this year, including the Aveeno and Neutrogena skin-care ranges, the Listerine oral care line, the smoking cessation brand Nicorette and its women’s health portfolio, which includes brands like Stayfree and Carefree.

Long-term, the idea is to give consumers as much information as possible about the provenance of J&J Consumer Health's products, the journey they have been on to get into consumers’ hands and the ways in which their environmental impact can be minimized once they are there. 

“Right now, we’re focusing on ingredients because our consumers tell us that’s most important to them,” Decker explained. “Over time, we want to incorporate product-specific packaging and manufacturing information and share this with consumers all around the world.”

“We're really thinking about it through the lens of health transparency,” she continued. “We want to help people make more informed choices about what they're putting in and on their body and the impact they're having on the planet.”

On A Mission

Product transparency is one of three core pillars of J&J CH’s sustainability strategy, Decker pointed out, which the firm is putting $800m behind over the next eight years. (Also see "J&J Consumer Health More Than A Revenue Stream: Driving Development Across Segments" - HBW Insight, 23 Jun, 2021.)

Launched in 2020 and showcased in a recently published “Mission Anthem Video,” J&J CH’s Healthy Lives Mission promises to power all of the division’s operations with renewable energy, to strive for five of its global brands to use recycled plastic by 2030 and to use 100% certified/PCR paper and pulp-based packaging in all relevant products by 2025.

Commenting on the background to the strategy, Decker said the whole thing goes back to J&J’s original corporate purpose to “improve the health of people around the world every day.”

“It's the daily habits that contribute to a lifetime of health, right?” she asked, rhetorically. “It's not about waiting for you to have a condition. It's the small things that you do every day to drive your own personal health and wellness. And that's the lens on which we look through everything.”

“It's also the sum total of all those small actions that an individual takes that has an impact the planet,” she added. “So, this all comes together in our new mission to ‘improve total health for all - for individuals at every age and stage of life, for communities, and for our planet.’”

So Far, So Good

Reflecting on the success of J&J CH’s sustainability mission so far, Decker said that its brands are making “meaningful progress.”

For example, last year the company launched new partly recycled plastic bottles for oral care brand Listerine in the UK (50% recycled plastic) and Brazil (30% recycled plastic), Decker reported.

“Listerine has also introduced CleanFlake technology, which ensures our labels separate cleanly from bottles during the recycling process, leaving no adhesive residue on the recycled plastic flakes so they can be used again to make new bottles,” she continued.

Going forward, J&J CH is eliminating black plastic from European Listerine packaging and introducing clear caps as a signal of full package recyclability, an initiative Decker said would soon be rolled out to the rest of the world.

Last year, J&J CH also launched its first compostable cleansing wipes for its cosmetic brand Neutrogena’s Skin Balancing line.

"This is the first cleansing cloth to be made of 100% plant-based, home-compostable fibers,” Decker explained. “The cloth disintegrates and biodegrades aerobically in approximately 35 days in a home compost. The technology is expected to be expanded across all Neutrogena wipes this year.”

Old Hands

Elsewhere in J&J CH’s portfolio, French body-care brand, Le Petit Marseillais, has a “long history of creating products with the earth and communities in mind,” Decker said.

“Nearly 30 years ago, Le Petit Marseillais launched eco-refill packaging to limit its environmental impact,” Decker explained. “To go even further, the brand implemented a 3R packaging strategy: reduce, reuse, recycle.”

For the last two years, the brand has been selected by French consumers as the “preferred and most sustainable hygiene and beauty brand,” Decker added. 

Meanwhile, baby-care band Johnson’s, well as leading on J&J CH’s product transparency initiative, has also been at the forefront of the firm’s mission to reduce plastic use. 

“We have removed pumps from many washes and lotions in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, replacing them with a flip-top cap,” Decker said. “This change eliminates more than 30 million impossible-to-recycle pumps from landfills around the world each year.”

In Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the company is also introducing a paper-based refill format for Johnson’s products that will reduce plastic by 85% versus traditional packaging, she revealed, and is expanding refill formats currently offered in Asia and Latin America to the rest of the world.

“All these innovations set us on our path to using 100% recycled plastic by 2030, eliminating the company’s purchase of virgin plastic and saving significant amounts of plastic waste from going into landfills around the world,” she insisted.

Team Earth

However, “no single company, government, or retailer has all the answers,” Decker noted. Which is why J&J CH is engaging with a number of consortia and initiatives to further sustainability in collaboration with other consumer health companies and stakeholders.

For example, the company is a full member of the Eco-Beauty Score Consortium, which Decker described as an “industry-led collaboration to help consumers understand the environmental impact of cosmetic and personal care products.”

“The consortium plans to develop and pilot a global environmental impact scoring system by the end of 2022,” she explained. “The pilot expects to involve selected products in the European Union and include both a common environmental footprint assessment system and standardized consumer friendly communications to inform consumer purchasing decisions.”

J&J CH is also a signatory of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Decker pointed out, via which the firm committed that “by 2025, we will reduce our total annual use of virgin plastics in packaging weight by 25% compared to 2020.”

This goal will be achieved through a combination of increased use of post-consumer recycled plastic, plastic packaging reduction and reuse models, she said.

Collaborative Ethos

Asked if there is any tension between this collaborative ethos and the fact that J&J CH is still competing with other firms within the consumer health market, Decker said she didn’t think so.

“Yes, of course, we're all competing with each other on some level,” she said. “But it feels like there are so many things that need to be solved and overcome and it's going to take years and years and lots of research and investment to do that.”

“So, this means it’s actually in everybody's best interest to partner together to figure out ways to overcome some of these big hurdles,” she continued. “And I'm seeing this time and time again, not just on the cosmetics front, but also in the OTC industry, for example through the Global Self-Care Federation’s recently launched Sustainability Charter.”  (Also see "GSCF Launches Global Self-Care Industry Sustainability Charter" - HBW Insight, 25 Nov, 2021.)

“We're all on Team Earth,” Decker said. “So we should all be working together to solve these challenges. I feel like this is the ethos of this whole space right now, which I love.”

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