April 18, 2014

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Toward Greener Products: The Complex Journey of Product Innovation

Examining the innovation behind -- and compelled by -- Earthwards.

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This series is about Earthwards, a Johnson & Johnson program designed to promote greener product development throughout the enterprise. In part three, Al Iannuzzi, Senior Director of Worldwide Environment Health and Safety, explores the criteria for Earthwards® and how the process was successfully adopted across all three sectors of Johnson & Johnson’s business.

Companies often refer to sustainability as a journey and innovation as a key driver in the sustainable product development process. This is true for Johnson & Johnson as well. We actually created a formal process to spur greener product innovation, calling it Earthwards and basing it on lifecycle thinking.

The Earthwards process has been and will continue to be applied to an array of products from our Consumer Products, Pharmaceuticals, and Medical Devices and Diagnostics sectors. Products that successfully emerge from the Earthwards process are recognized as such only if they have achieved a greater than 10 percent improvement in at least three of 12 goals across seven impact areas -- materials used; packaging; energy reduction; waste reduction; water reduction; positive social impact or benefit; and product innovation.

To date, 36 products have received Earthwards recognition.

While we have further to go to achieve the company’s Healthy Future goal of 60 Earthwards products by 2015, the journey is teaching us how to better focus our efforts and infuse innovative thinking into our product development process.  

A Bump in the Road 

We had one case in which a product went through the Earthwards process, but needed further revamping later. SIMPONI®, a product offered by our pharmaceutical company Janssen, initially used packaging to ship product samples that had room for improvement, and we heard about it from some of our healthcare customers.

The original packaging we used to ship Simponi samples to rheumatologists included large single-use foam containers with cooling packs to maintain proper temperature. We got some unfiltered feedback which we heard loud and clear, including:

"Your insulated box was not big enough! Please send a Volkswagen size box next time."

Our team took this feedback to heart and revamped the packaging by using a greener shipping box simponithat was a fraction of the size of the foam shipper and 50 percent lighter than the original packaging. The container can be reused up to 100 times, uses USA-certified bio-based cooling materials, and can be 100 percent recycled at the end of its life. The new shipper also helps prevent the disposal of more than 99,000 cubic feet of foam annually. Now, our customers receive a smaller, more convenient package that saves them space and the cost of disposing of the shipping packaging.

From Environmental to Social Benefits - in the U.S. and Abroad

Through Earthwards, we also support social initiatives and help communities around the globe. A great example of this is our o.b.® tampons line in Europe. Not only do we use 15 percent more sustainable packaging materials than the previous version of the product, it uses 100 percent renewable energy in the product manufacturing process. Additionally, the product sales support community health education programs in Germany.

Another example is our BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages.  We achieved a more than 10 percent reduction in secondary packaging and 20 percent weight reduction of tertiary packaging. The manufacturing process now requires 30 percent less energy compared to the previous process and we work with socially responsible local Brazilian cooperatives to produce recycled paper for the product.

Earthwards: Laddering up to a Healthy Future

At Johnson & Johnson, all of our work on Earthwards supports our five-year strategic roadmap, Healthy Future 2015, aimed at advancing corporate citizenship and sustainability commitments across all business sectors. The program focuses on seven strategic priorities designed for our businesses to achieve the greatest impact including:

  1. Advancing global health
  2. Safeguarding the planet
  3. Supplier sustainability
  4. Engaged, health-conscious employees
  5. Advancing community wellness
  6. Philanthropy measurement
  7. Transparency and collaborations

We believe in greener products. And we continue to strive for the greatest impact we can have within our strategic sustainability priorities. The issues we need to address today may change dramatically in the coming years. Notwithstanding, whether it’s unfiltered customer comment that inspires greener packaging or supporting community development; innovation is driving our Earthwards process.

Previously:

Earthwards: A Front Row Seat to Sustainability in Action at Johnson & Johnson

Earthwards: Johnson & Johnson’s Drive Toward a Healthy Future

About the Author:

Al is a Senior Director in the Worldwide Environment, Health & Safety department at Johnson & Johnson where he leads the global Product Stewardship and Green Marketing programs. He has over 30 years experience in the EHS field and leads Johnson & Johnson’s EARTHWARDS greener
product design process, Healthy Future 2015 product stewardship sustainability goals, green marketing, and emerging issues. Prior to J&J, Al worked as an environmental consultant and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

Al received his Ph.D. degree in Environmental Policy from the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati where he researched EHS self-regulation programs. He is the author of the books, Greener Products: the Making & Marketing of Sustainable Brands (CRC Press 2011) and Industry Self-Regulation and Voluntary Environmental Compliance (CRC Press, 2002), and has written numerous articles on product stewardship and environmental issues.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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