How Godrej Consumer Group reduced its plastic usage

By 16 Sep 2022

Sudhir Sitapati from Godrej Consumer Group Limited (GCPL) spoke about the importance of constant innovation, and how it is key for business growth. He was delivering a keynote address at the 9th edition of the Speciality Films and Flexible Packaging Global summit on 5 September at the Sahara Star in Mumbai.

Sudhir Sitapati: An insight is a contradiction that is obvious in hindsight

More than 1550 delegates were  made aware of the success of Godrej Consumer Group Limited (GCPL) with plastic research and the launch of an environment-friendly ready-to-mix bodywash-Godrej Magic.

Managing director and CEO, Sudhir Sitapati highlighted his experience at GCPL and how one can make a real impact on the world through GCPL products, which touches the lives of 1.2 billion people across the world which includes 700 million in India and 500 million across Africa and Southeast Asia. Sitapati said, "If we could improve the sustainability of our products, we believe we are onto something far greater than just our back-end operations."

He mentioned how GCPL has embarked on a study which has evaluated 70% of its product in terms of environmental effect. He said, "The lifecycle study of each product with external experts, goes through extensive research. One of the major takeaways from the lifecycle evaluation is that the consumer products have a significant influence on packaging which leads to less greenhouse gases and reduced carbon emissions as a result. It is recognisable that plastics, in particular, are recyclable. As a result, GCPL has increased its sustainability efforts as a company."

A few years ago, GCPL started to monitor the units of plastics that it used. Sitapati said, "We looked into how much of it is recyclable, what is reusable, the number of PCRs and so on. We created a robust system for ourselves. The next step was to collaborate with our R&D and innovation teams to see how we might lessen the plastic effect of our goods."

And so, GCPL started focusing on 3 Rs of the environment (reducing, reusing, recycling). To reduce the plastic usage, the group worked with suppliers down south in Pondicherry to develop a jute-based product, which is biodegradable. Sitapati said, "This was significantly cheaper. We sell about 20 crore units of this. And so, we saved Rs 60 crore a year and at the same time we significantly reduced our plastic impact."

He added, "A few years ago, we questioned why so many goods in the home and personal care contain so much plastic." So, in order to reduce plastic, GCPL developed a magic hand wash.

Hand wash is a powder that the consumer puts into a recyclable sachet, and goes home, mixes it in a bottle, and one gets a hand wash. Sitapati said, "We used 1/10, the plastic of a bottle. This product was a blockbuster product for three years. After the continuous success in the Indian market and duplication all over the world we decided to take this forward, and recently launched a product in body wash."

He added, "Now soaps are a much bigger market than hand washes. GCPL came up with this product called Magic Body wash about two-three months ago, which is the same principle where you take a small ultra-concentrated body wash sachet and take it home, put it in a bottle and mix it and low and behold, you get a bottle of body wash." The environment-friendly ready-to-mix bodywash-Godrej Magic was launched a few months ago.

Sitapati mentioned how experts were sceptical. He said, " A lot of people have commented on this saying that GCPL is reducing the bottle but still has a sachet. To which GCPL would like to respond, it's better to have a flexibility of one-tenth weight than the rigidity of 10x."

He said, "We have to continuously move towards making this flexible, recyclable, which we've done. And this is the journey that GCPL has undertaken for reducing the plastics and making them more recyclable.

Sudhir Sitapati pointed out that a lot of people will tell you that consumers are willing to pay for green packaging but they're not. He countered this myth by saying, "As an industry insider, I do this day in and day out, and I keep hearing that people are not willing to pay for green packaging. However, in India consumers, especially in rural India, are getting irritated with the plastic dumps outside their villages. This could be because of the burning of the fugitive plastic, and they are realising that the fumes are harmful. Here, it is the responsibility of manufacturers like of us to make them aware of it so that they can recycle it. I think it is our job to make this link between the plastic that they see and the plastic that they use and to make the process of recycling easy. Consumers are willing to pay a green discount, they're not willing to pay a green premium."

Sudhir Sitapati told the gathering that "Significant resources must be spent on sustainability, plastics reduction, use, and education. We need everyone's assistance in finding material. A consumer from urban areas is aware of the need of finding recyclable materials. As an industry we are getting closer to monolayers, lowering it, and seeing if it could be biodegradable." 

He concluded his keynote address by saying, "Above all, we must educate consumers about recycling through collaboration between the plastic flexible sector and the FMCG business. We have a team in Murud Janjira (near Alibaug) where a few friends and I have been trying to teach the local people about recycling and plastic segregation. That is proving difficult for us. We are facing difficulty in finding methods to recycle, One reason is, the economics does not make sense to take it to Mumbai or Pune for recycling. My point is, both sides of the business must work together to provide the infrastructure for the recycling sector in India, as well as to educate consumers about recycling. This is a serious problem of our times." 

Sudhir Sitapati's final message, "We need to act quickly because if we do not, governments will step in and impose rules on us, making life difficult for us and customers."

vinsak

 

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