P&G has always given strong support to the initiatives and programmes of the industry associations, helping trade associations such as A.I.S.E. in Europe and A.C.I. in the USA to take an active, transparent and engaging approach to ensuring safe and sustainable products and operations across the entire detergent and cleaning products industry.

The following sections list some of the most important industry achievements, voluntary initiatives and stakeholder engagements.

  • Early Days: Assessing the environmental impact

    Since the 1960s, A.I.S.E., the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (Association Internationale de la Savonnerie, de la Détergence et des Produits d’Entretien), has set up platforms for the assessment of the environmental impact of detergents, initially focusing on the biodegradability of surfactants. In those early days, industry, governmental and academic scientific experts collaborated intensely during several decades to develop an array of fate (biodegradation), toxicity and physical-chemical test methods, such as the OECD series.

  • Stakeholder dialogue

    Several of the initial stakeholder debates on detergent ingredients were conflicts between industry, environmental groups and authorities at a time when stakeholder dialogue was in its early days. The detergent industry was one of the first industries in terms of engaging constructively with stakeholders with their consultations over the human and environmental safety and acceptability of detergents and their ingredients.

    This resulted in several multi-stakeholder reviews, such as the series of three AISE Workshops between 1989 and 1995. The first one was held in 1989 on “Principles for Environmental Risk Assessment of Detergent Chemicals”; a second one in 1992 focused on “Environmental Hazard Assessment of Detergent Chemicals in Europe”, and the third workshop concluded in 1995 with the “Environmental Risk Assessment of Detergent Chemicals”. This approach was highly successful and formed the basis of the detergent industry’s current model of transparent, early and data-based multi-stakeholder dialogue.

  • Risk Assessments

    The risks of detergents and their ingredients have been assessed frequently in the past 3-4 decades by a variety of industrial groups, governmental regulatory organizations and multi-stakeholder organizations. These include the IPCS, WHO, national regulatory authorities, consultants and international industry associations (USA American Cleaning Institute; AISE). For example, a recent publication reviewed the most important environmental risk assessment reviews of detergent surfactants since 1977. These reviews show that comprehensive data were available to quantify the environmental fate and effects of high volume detergent surfactants. In these reviews, the environmental risks associated with the use of modern surfactants have typically been considered as acceptable. Where there were uncertainties or gaps in knowledge related to certain surfactants or environmental compartments, they have been subsequently addressed by researchers in academia, governmental organizations and the detergent industry. In several cases, the need was identified to develop data with more sophisticated ecotoxicological test methodologies or assessment techniques, and the detergent industry has been pivotal in addressing this jointly with leading academic and governmental organizations.
    In 1991, AISE and CESIO co-created ERASM, a joint platform for assessment and management of the risk of detergent-based surfactants in environmental compartments, as a response to the ongoing risk assessment activities in Europe. This platform continues to coordinate joint industry association activities for improving the knowledge about the risk assessment of detergent-based surfactants in environmental compartments.

    AISE has been at the forefront of the move towards safety and sustainability far earlier than most other industry associations. Well in advance of the REACH legislation on the safe use of chemicals, AISE and CEFIC launched HERA in 1999, the Human and Environmental Risk Assessment programme to provide stakeholders and the public with relevant data and peer reviewed risk assessments for the chemicals used in detergents and cleaning products. The HERA programme is a voluntary initiative to assess the human and environmental safety of major chemical classes used in laundry detergents and household cleaning products applying the methodologies prescribed by the EU Technical Guidance Document (TGD). The objectives of the programme are to provide a common risk assessment framework for detergents and household cleaning products and to develop risk assessments of the key ingredients used in these products in an effective and transparent way.

    HERA was a transparent risk assessment programme

    At present, HERA assessments have been completed for a large number of detergent and cleaning products ingredients, such as alcohol ethoxylates and ethoxysulphates, amine oxides, linear alkylbenzene sulphonates, alkyl sulphates, softener ester quats, fluorescent brighteners, hydrogen peroxide, percarbonate, phosphate, perfume ingredients (HHCB, AHTN) and zeolites.

  • Sustainable washing initiatives

    In 1997, AISE launched its A.I.S.E. Code of Good Environmental Practice. This was a voluntary initiative to promote more sustainable laundry activities and product design. Its progress was measured quantitatively during the period 1996-2001 in 18 European countries and reported in 2002.

    Between 1996 and 2001, the energy used in the wash cycle was reduced by more than 6 per cent, the amount of consumer detergent and packaging was reduced by around 15 per cent on a “per wash” relative basis (the corresponding absolute reduction was 7.9 per cent for detergent consumption and 6.7 per cent for packaging reduction), and the absolute amount of so-called poorly biodegradable organic ingredients (PBO) was reduced by 30 per cent on a “per wash” basis (23.7 per cent in absolute terms). These numbers correspond with reductions of around 250,000 tonnes of detergents and 13,000 tonnes of packaging. This early example of an industry association-led voluntary initiative resulted in significant improvements in the overall environmental impact of detergents.

    The Charter for Sustainable Cleaning is a voluntary AISE initiative to promote sustainable washing

    AISE followed it up in 1999 with the Washright programme – a coordinated communication campaign to ensure an environmentally optimal consumer use of detergents. Laundry packs across Europe carried harmonized consumer information panels with tips for good washing practices, such as avoiding machine under-filling, dosing according to dirt and water hardness, use of the lowest recommended temperature and reducing packaging waste.

  • The Charter for Sustainable Cleaning

    In 2004, AISE launched the A.I.S.E. Charter for Sustainable Cleaning – an industry-wide commitment to sustainable business practices and a benchmark that all signatories must implement. It provides an industry-wide platform for sustainable business practices covering all products from laundry to maintenance, and across household, institutional and industrial applications. Annual reports have been published since 2006, containing a description of the programme and objectives, the structure of management processes that member companies must implement, as well as the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) linked to these management processes. The annual reporting includes parameters such as production tonnages, chemical safety evaluations (HERA), occupational health and safety, consumer safety and consumer information, manufacturing emissions, the use of poorly biodegradable organic chemicals and packaging tonnages.

    In 2010, A.I.S.E. developed an updated version of the A.I.S.E. Charter for Sustainable Cleaning. While this maintained all elements of the original Charter, a new scheme was introduced to encourage the development and use of products with an improved sustainability profile. Products with a so-called Advanced Sustainability Profiles (ASP) can carry an on-pack logo. They have a reduced environmental impact when checked against a number of criteria, such as product dosage, packaging weight, use of recycled cardboard. Each ingredient has been assessed in an Environmental Safety Check. Furthermore, they meet the requirements for consumer communication such as on-pack presence of sustainable consumption advice.

    For more information:

  • Additional sustainability initiatives

    A.I.S.E. has also launched additional sustainability projects.

    • The A.I.S.E. Laundry Sustainability Project (commonly referred to as LSP-1) promoted product compaction in Central and Eastern Europe. The sustainability benefits were achieved by educating consumers with automatic washing machines to dose correctly when using compact detergents.
    • In 2009, a second A.I.S.E. laundry sustainability project (LSP2) was initiated on laundry powder detergents, initially in West Europe and subsequently in other European countries. The Companies who joined the program committed to compact their laundry powder detergents with a maximum recommended dosage of 85 grams per wash.
      This enabled reductions in the area of product use, packaging and transport.
    • Between 2009 and 2011, another A.I.S.E. laundry sustainability project was conducted for liquid laundry detergents (LSP-L). Similar to the other LSP projects, this enabled savings in the area of product use, packaging and transport.

    The Save Energy and Water programme encouraged sustainable washing

    The Save Energy and Water programme (2006 – 2012) encouraged the use of water and energy saving dishwashing cycles. This programme aimed to modify consumer behaviour by encouraging consumers to choose the lowest appropriate temperature more often, which will save energy and water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption. Since 2012, this programme has been integrated into the A.I.S.E. Charter for Sustainable Cleaning.

  • Transparent information, advice and stakeholder engagement

    At the end of 2008, CEFIC and AISE launched a multilingual, user friendly website, which aims to answer a broad range of questions on household detergents and maintenance products for consumer and stakeholders. There is an increasing demand for more openness, advice and information on detergent and cleaning products. The website reaches out to its multiple audiences through a two-fold approach:

    • Information for consumers is provided with a focus on best and safe use advice, energy saving tips, ways to reduce utility bills and how to get the best results from cleaning products.
    • The sections for stakeholders cover information on topics such as voluntary industry association initiatives, chemical safety assessment and an A-to-Z glossary of ingredients.

    These examples demonstrate how the detergent industry is engaged in proactive, genuine and transparent multi-stakeholder dialogue to address societal concerns on the benefits, safety and sustainability of detergents and cleaning products, enabling broad scale environmental improvements throughout the various categories and companies of the industry sector, covering manufacturing operations as well as product design, use and disposal.

The Head Line


Illustrations from P&G's Science-in-the-Box website can be used freely for educational, non-commercial purposes provided that the source will be published as follows: "Obtained from (P&G website)"


Top of page
Top of page