Consumer Products Sustainability Report

The apparel toys/games, and general merchandise industries have a wide range of variability in their sustainability efforts. Overall, the literature review showed a high level of effort on the part of many of the companies. The key issues concerning these industries are labor rights; sourcing from low cost countries; and transparency. These issues appear to be more prevalent in the apparel industry. Literature research was more challenging with these companies due to their lack of transparency. Much of the data found suggested that the companies had some sustainability efforts in place, but held back a lot of information regarding labor conditions and the sustainability of their raw materials. Despite these challenges, there are encouraging trends towards better labor conditions, increased transparency, and larger investments in green technology.

The methodologies behind the ratings were to first review the existing ratings from previous years. This provided a strong baseline for determining the ratings for the current year. Companies building upon their efforts of previous years presented a strong case for increasing their ratings.

Company Ratings and Literature Review

Company highlights include:

  • The Clorox Company is a pioneer in mainstreaming natural cleaning products through its Green Works product line. It provides full disclosure of ingredients in its cleaning products and has committed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and water use each by 10% by 2013.
  • Estée Lauder has received numerous awards for its innovative packaging which focuses on protection, performance, and environmental impact.
  • LEGO has a zero waste goal that has increased their recycled waste and decreased total waste.
  • Levi Strauss’ strict supplier standards that puts their suppliers on probation when they violate Levi’s standards. This probation can lead to contract termination if not addressed.
  • Limited Brands has received numerous awards for their environmental efforts, including recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council, U.S. E.P.A., and Carbon Disclosure Project.
  • Newell Rubbermaid rolled out a new ERP system from SAP to simply their procurement process.
  • Proctor & Gamble’s implementation of an environmental sustainability scorecard for their suppliers to improve their overall process.
  • S.C. & Johnson, a producer of chemical products, is winner of numerous environmental and community awards.
  • Sears Holdings’ focus on sustainable appliances and their Energy Star rating.
  • Stanley Black & Decker’s openness to share its supply chain practices with suppliers to improve overall sustainability.

Across these three industries, there was a noticeable effort to move towards sustainability. However, the apparel industry has the biggest challenges to overcome with transparency. Third-party resources reveal labor and sourcing issues were not uncommon. Several companies have sustainability focuses, but those changes do not appear to have a significant impact on second-tier suppliers.

Lastly, it is encouraging to see that all companies have philanthropic programs. However, it is not always intuitive as to why the companies are focusing their efforts in particular areas. It would be advisable for the companies to communicate their focus and use these efforts in an industry-related charity.