Al Iannuzzi, Sr. Director, Environment, Health, Safety & Sustainability Johnson & Johnson, (New Jersey, USA)
Johnson & Johnson launched Earthwards® in 2009. Describe its mission, and how it came to be.
Our products span three sectors: consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Over time, we realized that our approach to sustainability wasn’t appropriate for some of our business units. The tools we were offering and the questions we were asking were more appropriate for some than others. So, we decided to simplify the process by which our people can make our products greener. ‘Earthwards’ has two objectives: to develop more sustainable products and to effectively communicate the green aspects of our products to our customers.
To date, 58 products have earned the Earthwards designation. Tell us about some of them.
One product of note is the Harmonic scalpel, which came out of our Ethicon division. We managed to create a better-functioning device that uses less materials and packaging. So not only is it better for our customers and the environment, it’s also better from a cost perspective. Another is our popular Aveeno® skin care line, which now uses less total ingredients and a greater number of natural ingredients. This includes a surfactant we developed that is the first ever to be bio-based; it’s made from potato starch. To my knowledge, all other surfactants on the market are synthetic.
How do you go about measuring a product’s environmental impact?
Earthwards is a four-step process. The first step involves doing a review to make sure that the product meets external regulatory requirements and our own internal requirements. Our internal requirements are quite strict: in some cases, we restrict the use of a certain material—even if it is still acceptable by regulatory standards—because we know that our stakeholders would prefer not to have it in their products.
The second step is what we call a ‘lifecycle review’. We use lifecycle screening to determine where the environmental ‘hot spots’ are for each product, and from there, we focus on improvements within each hot spot. We have identified seven categories in which we can reduce our impact: materials, packaging, waste, water, energy, innovation and social issues.
In the third step, the team looks at how it could make a total of three sustainability improvements based on the hot-spot issues identified in step two. For instance, if the materials required to produce something lie within one of the identified hot spots, they can use less of one of those materials, and replace it with a more environmentally-friendly material. The same thing goes for packaging. Our customers want less packaging, and they want more of it to be sustainable, so we might start to use FSCcertified paperboard, for example. These are just a few examples of the kind of metrics we use to make a product greener.