Page 3: A holistic view of sustainable development
Taking a holistic view of sustainable development opens up many business possibilities to improve lives, particularly in developing countries. P&G staff use their research and product development skills to think more widely about the sort of products they should be bringing into the market place with a view to meeting people’s needs and improving their quality of life. This has resulted in a great deal of innovation. This is because when a problem is approached from a different angle, it is seen in a different light and the solutions that people suggest will also necessarily be different. At P&G, it is no longer sufficient for staff to identify a business opportunity. They must also devise an approach to meeting that business opportunity that takes into account and satisfies environmental, social and economic requirements.
Such an approach is consistent with P&G’s statement of purpose: ‘to provide products of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world’s consumers’. One of the biggest single barriers to achieving sustainable development is poverty. People who are very poor cannot reasonably be expected to make consumption decisions that take into account ‘social responsibility’ and ‘environmental protection’ – their main concern is survival. With this in mind, P&G has sought to identify areas through which market expansion can help not only to widen consumers’ choice of products, but also increase the incomes of local people and raise their quality of life. Two key determinants of quality of life are:
- access to clean water
- standards of health and hygiene.
More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water; two to three billion consumers live in households where water supplies are severely constrained and three billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. Every year, more than three million children die from water-related disease.
Improving the position
P&G is able to contribute positively towards improving the position. For example, Fairy Liquid Extra Hygiene, an antibacterial dishwashing liquid, is playing an important role in helping to control bacteria when used in conjunction with good household hygiene practice. Together with this, in 1999, P&G in Spain and Portugal worked with UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) to buy one dose of BCG vaccine for every bottle of Fairy sold to Iberian consumers. The outcome was more than 3 million vaccines for children in Senegal, which is one of the poorest countries of the world and with a high incidence of tuberculosis. The Fairy programme was so successful that it was reapplied in the UK, which managed to raise an additional 4 million vaccines for UNICEF. Spain and Portugal repeated the programme in 2000 and raised a further 4 million vaccines, a total of over 11 million children protected from tuberculosis.
Similarly, P&G recently joined forces with the WHO (World Health Organisation) to offer a number of P&G’s graduate trainees the opportunity to join the Go, Give & Grow project. These graduates have been placed on key initiatives such as the Stop Tuberculosis programme in Africa, Roll Back Malaria in Egypt, and Polio Eradication in Ethiopia. Their experience of such issues will provide valuable expertise and understanding of these key issues within their chosen areas, whether this be research, marketing or management.
Again, P&G recently tested a new drink product that has been developed jointly with UNICEF to combat micronutrient deficiency. This dietary deficiency results in blindness for 2.8 million children and affects infant IQ and mortality. Nutri Delight has the potential to combat this form of micronutrient deficiency.