SUSTAINABLE CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR: Why should we be concerned about consumer wash behaviour?

Why should P&G be concerned about what consumers do with its products? Should ensuring consumer environmental responsibility be P&G's concern?

P&G doesn't deny it. It takes its environmental responsibility to build safety and sustainability into its brands very seriously. And P&G has made great efforts - and large investments - to make sure its operations are as environmentally efficient as possible. P&G also works with its business partners, suppliers, retailers and industry bodies to try to ensure that its efforts to protect the environment are amplified through the effects of collaboration.

However, the nature of laundry and cleaning products is such that a disproportionate amount of their environmental impact takes place at the point of use. And that is something that the consumer controls, not P&G.

Accordingly, P&G believes that it would be failing in its responsibility to the environment if it did not, first, create products that allow the same results with less environmental impact and, second, tell consumers how to reduce their environmental impact.

Read on to find out how consumer behaviour can have an impact on the environment, what P&G is doing to try to minimize it and what changes you can make to become more sustainable.

  • How consumer behaviour has an impact on the environment

    Like other manufacturers, P&G has always made significant efforts to try to minimize the impact of its products on the environment. P&G provides products which come in weight-optimized, recyclable packaging, giving great results at low temperatures and working with lower doses - all things which can help minimize their impact on the environment.

    Unfortunately, though, all this effort is for nothing if, the consumer decides to wash at high temperatures, ignore dosage instructions and throw the packaging into the bin rather than recycling it. The pieces of advice on this site may, individually, not appear to make much of a difference. But add them together, multiply them by thousands or millions of households, and you have a real possibility of helping to deal with some big challenges facing the environment.

    Challenges facing the environment

    Small changes in consumer behaviour, when multiplied, can make a big difference.One of the things that makes environmental challenges such as climate change so difficult to comprehend is that each of us, individually, contributes so little to this global phenomenon. Can driving the kids to school really be that bad? Will ecosystems really be endangered if I use too much water in the wash?

    The answer of course, is that each small action can have a major effect when multiplied millions of times over in households around the world.

    But this also means that environmental threats do not necessarily need us to do something major; they just need all of us to do small things, in the right direction. Here is a list of big environment concerns and areas where changes in consumer behaviour can help:

    • You can do your bit to combat climate change by using public transport more often and cars less; cutting down on the number of trips you take by air; insulating your house; using energy-efficient light bulbs; and washing your clothes at 30 degrees.
    • Fresh water can be preserved by using hosepipes less; taking more showers and fewer baths; reusing dirty water on the garden; tracking down and repairing leaks; using water-saving toilet flushes; and dropping the pre-wash cycle when you do your laundry.
    • Solid waste can be reduced by reusing items wherever possible; recycling packaging, bottles, food and other items of rubbish; choosing products that come in containers made from recycled materials; buying items that have less packaging.
    • Air quality can be improved by using mass transport systems, reducing the amount of electricity used in the home and at work, purchasing items that can be transported more efficiently such as compact detergents.
    There are many other measures each one of us can take but the important thing is that each individual step does not have to be a big one; it is as important (and easier) to do a number of small things, often, and for as many people as possible to do them.

    Many small steps can lead to big changes.

  • How P&G is helping consumers make a difference

    P&G is committed to the environment and recognises that it has a big responsibility to do its best so that its operations and products are sustainable. After all, every day P&G products are used billions of times a day.

    In order to achieve this commitment, in addition to the work that P&G carries out to improve the sustainability profile of its products and operations, P&G is keen to help consumers reduce their environmental impact.

    This involves a 2-pronged approach: first, P&G is creating products that can be used with as little environmental impact as possible; using less energy, water, packaging, chemicals and so on. P&G does this while ensuring that the cleaning performance and convenience from the use of its products are not compromised.

    Secondly, P&G needs to explain to consumers the value of its products and help them change their behaviour in order to do their share for a better environment. This compels P&G to create campaigns to encourage simple changes in the use of its products: adding a couple of extra items to each laundry wash to cut down the overall number of washes and save water, for example, or washing at a lower temperature to save energy.

    Read on to find out more about P&G's environmental responsibility, its policy on consumer information, what P&G has done in this area so far, the kind of impact this work has had and what it intends to do in the future.

    • P&G's approach on driving sustainable consumer behaviour

      P&G wants consumers to use its products in a sustainable way. To do so, P&G is keen to help you adopt lower-impact laundry and cleaning practices. Changing consumer behaviour to more sustainable washing practices is essential but not always easy.
      P&G's model for achieving it successfully involves:

      • Ensuring there is no compromise in cleaning performance or convenience, with…
      • Quantifiable sustainability benefits as gauged through industry-standard measures such as life cycle analysis, all…
      • Correctly communicated in a way that will interest consumers and…
      • Supported by independent organizations and stakeholders.
      P&G aims to inform and educate consumers at two stages during the life cycle of its products: when they are bought and when they are used.

      At the point of purchase, P&G believes it is important for consumers to buy the right products for the environment. That means products which can be used with the most energy and water-efficient appliances and are in themselves the most efficient product format, such as compact detergents and refills.

      When it comes to use, P&G's aim is to get consumers to use products correctly and in a sustainable way. This means:

      • Making proper use of appliances, for example by using energy and water-saving cycles where available.
      • Making proper use of detergents, for example by using the right doses, reading instructions, adapting dosage to water hardness and so on.
      • Adopting efficient practices such as filling machines before switching them on, limiting pre-wash cycles to when they are absolutely necessary and so on.
      • Disposing of packages correctly after use; recycling bottles and cardboard.
      • For more general information on what drives us at P&G, why not take a look at P&G's original Environmental Quality Policy and P&G’s recently announced sustainability vision and 2020 goals (

    • How P&G has helped foster sustainable cleaning practices

      P&G recognises that the biggest potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in laundry and cleaning products is to make them more efficient in their use. That is why we have endeavoured to develop products such as Ariel and Dash that can deliver great results even when used at lower washing temperatures, saving energy, and saving consumers money on their electricity bills.

      Many of P&G's detergents now come in compact formats, as well as tablet and liquitab forms, which are more efficient and reduce waste. P&G has developed household products such as the concentrated Lenor with a reduced dosage to make sure their impact on the environment is minimal.

      P&G's packaging has also been designed to improve its function while increasing environmental efficiency and reducing waste. The Fairy bottle, for example, is now made with 10 per cent less plastic material.

      All P&G products carry clear instructions on dosage, taking soil level, water hardness and wash load into account, including consumer-friendly information such as A.I.S.E. Washright symbols on the back of packs in order the help consumers.

      In addition, P&G has invested in major consumer information campaigns to try to get people to change their habits when washing laundry or cleaning. In Spain, for example, our past Every Drop Counts campaign helped save around five million litres of water a year just by offering consumers washing tips such as adding two extra items to the average wash. And elsewhere, P&G has carried out campaigns to get consumers to reduce the temperature of their wash, thereby cutting energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

      All these product innovations have been introduced without any compromise on performance, so consumers are now more empowered and informed than ever before when it comes to making choices which are both beneficial to the environment and to their washing needs.

    • Have P&G initiatives helped reduce consumers' environmental impact?

      Perhaps its most ambitious attempt so far to get consumers to make the kind of small change that can have a big impact on the environment is when P&G asked people in France, Italy and the UK to 'turn down to 30'.

      Using Ariel or Dash at lower temperatures can make a significant difference to the amount of energy used up in laundry, without any compromise in cleaning results or convenience.

      In fact, if the whole of the UK population reduced their washing temperature by one click on the machine dial, the annual energy saved would be more than 2 Terawatt hours of electricity. In getting consumers to turn to 30, P&G tried to demonstrate the savings in terms people could relate to - powering 1,000 villages in the UK or lighting some of Italy's most impressive piazzas, for example.

      P&G has gathered market information to measure the success of these initiatives. In the UK, several ‘habits and practices’ surveys were run (2002, 2007). These showed that consumers are gradually ‘turning to 30’. In 2007, after campaigns to encourage washing at lower temperatures, 17 per cent of UK consumers were washing at 30°C or lower, up from 3 per cent in 2002. Ariel users actually washed 28% of their loads at 30°C or lower, showing their confidence in the good washing results (to put this into perspective, non-Ariel users washed only 13% of their washloads at 30°C or lower).

      In the mid 2000s, P&G also ran home tests in France and Italy via independent institutes which placed energy monitors on hundreds of consumers' machines, then gave the consumers Ariel or Dash and asked them to wash at lower temperatures, without forcing them to. In these two tests, the average wash temperatures went down and energy was saved by a measurable amount.

      In the period 2006-2008, P&G has also had success in saving fresh water, through a campaign called 'Every Drop Counts' in Spain, a country particularly affected by water shortages. The campaign had a simple premise: add two extra items to your average wash and thus cut down the overall number of washes - and amount of water - used a year. Approximately 55,000 consumers signed up to it, helping to save around five million litres a year in the country, as well as making Spaniards much more aware of the need for water conservation.

    • What will P&G be doing in future to promote more sustainable consumer behaviour?

      P&G will continue to try to reduce the environmental impact of its company in as many ways as possible, and this goes for its efforts to influence consumer behaviour.

      On energy use, P&G is selling products such as Ariel Turn to 30 in the UK and Tide Cold Water in North America, which allow consumers to get a superior wash at low temperatures, saving money and helping the planet. And it is a significant amount of help: washing clothes at reduced washing temperatures, such as by switching from 40 to 30 degrees, could save around three per cent of a household's electricity use in Europe.

      Consequently, P&G will continue to work with a range of organizations to promote cold-water washing. In the UK, for example, P&G has teamed up with the Energy Savings Trust.

      Plus P&G will look at other ways to promote energy conservation in the wash, for example by using shorter wash cycles.

      P&G will also continue to look for ways in which it can help consumers save water. As with energy consumption, the main potential for water savings is when P&G products are being used, not when they are being manufactured, distributed or sold. For example, Ariel detergent can produce excellent results without a pre-wash. Pre-washes are still commonly used in a lot of households. For example, between 15 and 20 per cent of people use a pre-wash in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and several other countries. In other countries, such as the UK, the figure is between 5 and 10 per cent. Persuading people to switch to Ariel and leave out the pre-wash could lead to significant water savings.

      This is just one of many potential water-saving ideas that could have a significant impact on water use in Europe. Besides investing in campaigns related to its products, P&G will remain committed to helping consumers with tips on how to save water in other areas of their lives.

      Finally, P&G will continue to encourage consumers to recycle as much of its packaging as possible - and make it easier for them to do so.

  • How can consumers reduce their environmental impact?

    Every second of every day, more than 1,000 loads of laundry are started somewhere in the world using one of P&G's detergents. Around 5 million loads of laundry are on the go at any one time.

    With so much washing, it is clear that even a small change by everyone could have a big effect in helping the environment. And the most important change is to make a commitment to be more sustainable in the first place.

    With P&G products, the arguments for not adopting a more responsible attitude towards the environment do not really stack up. P&G has created products which can deliver outstanding results whether you choose to use them in the usual way or opt to save water and energy by using lower temperatures, skipping pre-washes and so on.

    And as well as helping the environment with energy and water-saving measures, taking a more environmentally responsible stance will almost always save you money, with no loss of performance or convenience. The choice is yours.

    Now read on to find out what you can do to help the environment in the wash, just how much your little steps can help make a big impact, what else you can do to reduce your environmental impact and where you can find more information.

    • How to help the environment with your wash

      The simplest thing you can do to improve the environmental performance of your wash is to turn down the temperature. If everyone in the UK did this, it would save enough energy a year to power 1,000 villages. In Italy, it would provide lighting for most of the country's squares.

      There are, however, a host of other things you can do as well. For instance:

      • Buy compact detergents over big-box types.
      • Buy unidose formats such as tablets or liquitabs.
      • Use refills wherever you can.
      • Stick to high-quality brands that have invested significantly in minimising the environmental impact of the production processes as well as the brands that you can buy.
      • Make sure you use the correct amount of detergent for your wash (hence the benefit of unidose formats) - it will make your product last longer and reduce the amount of waste going into the environment.
      • Fill your washing machine or dishwasher completely and follow the manufacturer's instructions before you switch it on, so you can be sure you are washing as infrequently as possible and thereby saving energy and water.
      • Select energy and water saving cycles if you have them.
      • Cut out pre-washes unless you really need them.
      • Follow the instructions on your detergent, your appliance and the items you are washing. It will help make sure you get optimal results every time and do not have to wash things twice.
      • If you are in the market for new appliances, buy ones that are as energy and water efficient as possible. They will also save you money in the long run.
      • Dispose of packaging responsibly, recycling wherever possible.
      Remember, most of these measures will benefit your pocket as well as helping the environment.

    • How much of a difference can you make with your wash?

      Don't underestimate the power of your actions. Virtually everything you do has an effect on the environment, for better or for worse. Each positive action, no matter how small, adds up.

      Multiply that by the number of people like you who are taking positive action, and you have a major force for change. In Belgium, for example, consumer action has reduced the amount of packaging that goes to landfills to less than six per cent.

      Similarly, just switching to a more compact brand of detergent or longer-lasting washing-up liquid, or washing your clothes at 10 degrees less than you usually do, can contribute to major savings nationwide if replicated across enough households.

      If you are trying to save water, just adding more laundry to each wash and washing more infrequently will help. By moving from six to five washes a week, you could save 30 litres of water on 18 kilos of laundry.

      And being a little bit more careful about dosages in your washing and cleaning can add up to a significant reduction in waste. These are all small actions. They won't take up any more of your time. They won't cost you any more money (quite the opposite, in most cases).

      But they will have an impact. And there are many more things that you can do.

    • Do your bit for the environment with these simple tips

      • Fit loft insulation and save 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
      • Have a shower instead of a bath and use two thirds less water and energy.
      • Swap your standard light bulbs for energy-saving ones. One energy-saving bulb will save 40 kilos of carbon dioxide in a year.
      • Draught-proof windows and doors and you will save approximately 140 kilos of carbon dioxide a year.
      • Insulate cavity walls to save about a tonne of carbon dioxide a year.
      • Fill in gaps in floors and skirting boards and save around 120 kilos of carbon dioxide annually.
      • Turn down the thermostat by one degree to cut your energy bill and save 300 kilos of carbon dioxide a year.
      • Don't drive alone to work. Car-pool, cycle or use public transport instead.
      • Don't fill the kettle for a single cup of tea or coffee; only boil as much water as you need.
      • Pack your lunch in a reusable container, rather than using new bags or Clingfilm each time. Reusable packaging saves on materials and on energy consumption.
      • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth and you could save six litres of water a minute.
      • Mend dripping taps and you will prevent at least 5,500 litres of water per tap from going down the drain every year.
      • When you use a dishwasher, only turn it on when it is full. Modern dishwashers use 15 litres of water per cycle, so try not to use extra cycles.
      • When you do the dishes by hand, try not to rinse under running water. Hand dish washing consumes an average of 63 litres per wash.
      • Fill your bath up to a third instead of up to the brim.
      • Take a shower instead of a bath, but keep it short if yours is a power shower.
      • Use a low-flow setting on your showerhead, if there is one.
      • Cool water in the fridge rather than keeping the tap on until cold water runs through.
      • Wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water rather than under a running tap.
      • Don't flush the toilet to get rid of items of rubbish such as used make-up tissues.
      To download a comprehensive list of tips about what you can do to make a difference, click here.

  • Other sources of information to help reduce environmental impact

    Procter & Gamble is very serious about improving the sustainability profile of its products and manufacturing operations. But it also wants to help consumers reduce their footprint during the use and disposal of P&G products. Besides the information in this website, you can read more about environmentally friendly consumption behaviour and products.

    Julia Hailes - 'The New Green Consumer Guide (You can make a difference)'.
    Very easy to read and many very useful tips.

    Chris Goodall - how to live a low-carbon life
    (The individual's guide to stopping climate change).
    Earthscan. ISBN 978-1-84407-426-6

    Find out how your individual actions can help to lower your carbon footprint from 12 to as low as 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year.

    Via the UK government ‘Act on CO2' website, you can calculate your carbon footprint. Try a few energy-saving measures to see what an effect it has.

    WWF (The World Wide Fund for Nature) has developed an ecological footprint calculator and is collaborating with other organizations to allow citizens and consumers to calculate their personal footprint.
    For examples, see: (English) (French) (Dutch)

    The Dutch University of Twente has developed a website where you find a water footprint calculator. Based on your country of residence and your own consumption pattern, you will be able to determine your unique water footprint.

    'Future Friendly' is a partnership between NGO organizations (such as Energy Savings Trust (UK), WaterWise (UK), Waste Watch (UK), Global Cool (USA)) and P&G brands such as Ariel, Fairy, Flash and Lenor.
    The information on this website allows you to make a difference today in the areas of water and energy savings, packaging and waste.

    Take the Energy Saving Trust's home energy check if you want to find out how energy-efficient your home is or to get some tips on how to improve efficiency and save money.

    The Confederation of Family Organizations in the European Community (COFACE) published a guide ''Consommation Durable des Produits Lessiviels'. It recommends good sorting of the laundry, no underfilling of the machine, compliance with the dosage recommendations, washing at the lowest possible wash temperature, etcetera. The guide can be obtained from:
    COFACE, Rue de Londres 17, 1050 Brussels, Belgium

    To find a range of ideas about how you can help the environment, visit the Ariel Do a Good Turn website at

    You can also find out much more about electricity use, and how to reduce it, from the Association of Electricity Producers at

    The International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products in Europe (A.I.S.E.) have launched several voluntary sustainability industry initiatives, such as:

    • the 'Washright' campaign which promotes sustainable consumer washing habits Saving energy and saving water can be as easy as a turn of the dial.( It is best known via the T-Shirt. 
    • the Laundry Sustainability project to coordinate several rounds of compaction in West, Central and East Europe.
    • the Sustainable Cleaning Charter.
      This voluntary A.I.S.E. initiative aims to improve the sustainability profile of on detergent Saving energy and saving water can be as easy as a turn of the dial. and cleaning products across all lifecycle phases, starting from the sourcing of raw materials, but also including product manufacturing, consumer use as well as post-consumer management of the packages.
      For more information:


    Some of these programmes were done in partnership with the EU European Sustainable Energy Campaign to raise awareness and change the landscape of energy.

    The website from the USA Soap and Detergent Association has extensive information, facts and tips for safe and sustainable use of laundry, dishwashing and household cleaning products.

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