How is Johnson & Johnson Going Green?

In 1943 when Johnson & Johnson was about to go public Robert Wood Johnson established a credo to guide his ever growing company through the years ahead. His credo is still in use today.

In one section it states:

We must maintain in good order the property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources.

What a pure and simple sentiment. However, that simple statement seems like an almost impossible task to fulfill in today’s consumer economy.

Enter Chris Hacker, the former design leader at Aveda and a man with deep convictions to green the J&J team. At the AIGA event last Friday, Hacker, Chief Design Officer of J&J’s newly formed internal design team discussed the attempts, successes, and failures he and his team have made to uphold this credo since he took the helm.

Hacker and his team cited examples of redesigning a brand with all the marketing bells and whistles only to realize that they had over packaged, used mixed materials, and foil stamped their way in the wrong direction.

So slowly but surely they have begun to regroup on what makes a sustainable package. There will be no more foil stamping, instead they are now considering a metallic inks with highly reflective properties for technology driven brands like ROC.

Hacker and his team consider the way packages nestle together for more efficient shipping. They also look to reduce packaging components overall, eliminating the need for excessive exterior packaging and inserts. Recently they saved J&J over $700,00 a year simply by reducing the overlap on the perforated flap at the top of the Splenda box by approximately 2″.

They’ve even gone so far as to try removing the secondary paper packaging altogether as evidenced by the new Tylenol bottles designed specifically for Costco.

On brands like Band-aid they are considering returning to their roots, by offering refillable packaging and reusable containers. I’m especially keen on this idea as I still use my grandmother’s old container seen above.

They are also reducing the thickness of packaging walls and integrating post-consumer content into their packaging materials whenever possible. A new line of shampoo and conditioner from Aveeno will debut in 100% post-consumer packaging this spring.

The trouble is post-consumer content for paper and plastic products is getting harder to find. It seems that we as consumers aren’t doing enough to recycle properly and get those materials back into the supply chain.

To help combat this, Johnson & Johnson is actively working with the Catadores, a group of human scavengers in Brazil who make a living pick up metal scraps, paper, plastic bags, etc., for recycling. For the Catadores this is as much a cultural lifestyle as it is a source of income and J&J’s team is working to help them do it in a more organized and sanitary manner.

Think about that next time you throw the end of your toilet paper roll or shampoo bottle into the garbage verses the recycling. Every little bit helps and we all have to do our part! It seems like J&J is off to a great start, but there is really so much more that can be done.