Reckitt and sustainability
This week we speak to Charlotte Hey, Sustainable Brands Director at Reckitt.
Charlotte has an impressive 20 years of experience at Reckitt, working throughout the business in a variety of areas. Charlotte now spearheads Reckitt’s sustainability initiatives as Sustainable Brands Director.
Reckitt is one of the world’s leading companies in consumer goods. Their purpose is to protect, health and nurture – in a relentless pursuit of a cleaner, healthier world. From Dettol to Nurofen, each of their products is designed to do exactly this. Their well-loved brands have been making a difference to people’s daily lives around the world for more than 200 years.
Charlotte talks to us about Reckitt’s net zero commitments, their focus on regenerative solutions and why partnership is crucial when it comes to sustainability.
Reckitt have committed to net zero emissions by 2040, a decade ahead of the world’s goal of 2050. How do these targets help deliver the Paris Climate Change Agreement and how would you respond to those who challenge companies to go further?
I fully support the challenge to companies to go further because climate change demands urgent & collective action from business. As well as the goal to be carbon neutral by 2040, at Reckitt our work on climate change is also framed by science-based targets & the ultimate goal to limit our contribution to global warming to less than 1.5°C. In addition, we’re committed to reducing GHG emissions by 65% & source 100% renewable electricity in our operations by 2030, and reducing our product carbon footprint by 50%. It will require a wide range of measures – scrutinising our operations along the full value chain, and focusing on product design with low carbon impact when our consumers use them. These are ambitious targets because we recognise the significant impact we can have by accelerating our ambition & taking positive action now.
We at KD are excited by the prospect of a circular economy, and the opportunity this unlocks to deliver economic growth in a way that is better for business, people and planet. How are Reckitt applying the principles of the Circular Economy and what are some key successes?
We share your passion for a circular economy as it’s a clear win for environment, win for our consumer and win for business. We are embracing circular principles in many ways. Packaging of course is at the forefront with key principles now embedded within our design process focusing on absolute reduction, better recyclability & recycled content – and with less materials come cost reduction. Our Durex lube bottles are now made from 100% recycled content, which by its nature also delivers carbon reduction. But beyond packaging circular economy extends to our chemistry & how our products are used. Last year we launched Lysol Smart Trigger in the US – our first concentrated, refill at home system that engages consumers in a simple behaviour change that can have a big impact – 75% plastic reduction across it’s multiple uses, and less energy through the entire product lifecycle. And Vanish is on a mission to give clothes many lives – working in partnership with British Fashion Council to drive circular fashion behaviours, encouraging more sustainable practices in terms of how consumers buy, care for and pass on old clothes, instead of throwing them away.
Regenerating nature is a big part of your Healthier Planet commitment. Why is it important for the topic of sustainability to move towards ‘regenerative’ rather than just less-bad solutions? We’re particular excited about your partnership with WWF, could you tell us a bit more about that and what the partnership aims to achieve?
Sustainable practices by definition seek to maintain the same, and that is simply not enough. We are facing a global crisis – the planet’s resources are being used up faster than nature can restore itself, and we must do more. We need regenerative practices to restore nature & improve biodiversity. This needs a collective effort and our partnership with WWF is a great example of this – together we are using our scale and shared ambition for a cleaner healthier world, to tackle causes where we can make real impact. Through our partnership we will restore & protect 2100km of freshwater in the Amazon & Ganges, through our brand Botanica by Airwick who’s purpose is to connect people with nature, we will restore millions of square feet of wildflower habitats globally. Over the course of the partnership we aim to leverage our brands and reach to inspire millions of consumers to take action for our planet and #fightfornature.
How does a partner like KD support Reckitt on that journey and what skills will we find most beneficial over the next decade of action?
No one business can do this alone – partnership is crucial. Together we need to design sustainable solutions that lower our footprint, whilst being attractive to consumers, inspiring & enabling behaviour change towards more sustainable solutions such as refill and reuse. But the question is how do we take circular to the next level – how do we embed & leverage technology to open consumers to much wider information to help inspire & inform them on more sustainable choices, how can the concept of regenerative be applied to packaging? Additionally we have an ambition to be inclusive and equitable in our brands and this is an area we want to advance in our packaging experience, so that our 2D & 3D design, for example, better caters for those with visual & physical impairment. I look forward to working together to tackle some of these challenges.
And finally, what do you hope to be the legacy of your role as a sustainability leader? And what would you say to others embarking on leadership roles in this space?
That sustainability is a catalyst for innovation – that driving positive social & environmental impact, drives growth for the business. Ultimately success is when sustainability is so embedded into the day-to-day business my role is redundant – that the lens of sustainability is applied in equal weight and importance as traditional business drivers of consumer insight & financials.
We each have a responsibility in this space – every one of us has opportunity to impact in the decisions we make both in our work, and personal life. Start with the basics – understand the external context and why we must act, understand the footprint & impact of your business in order to identify where you can make the biggest and most relevant impact, then be brave to challenge, question & fight for what is right. Getting it right will be a win for all – for planet, for consumer, for business.
KD: Delivering sustainable futures; Designing A Better World.