Is This Consumer Giant Ahead of the Green Curve?

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As more consumers grow eco-conscious, Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) has become the latest consumer giant to pursue aggressive goals for environmental sustainability.

P&G, known for ubiquitous household brands such as Tide, Bounty, Crest, Duracell, and Gillette, released its "long-term environmental sustainability vision" earlier this week.

In the long run, Procter & Gamble aims to power manufacturing plants with 100% renewable energy, use recycled and renewable materials for packaging, and permit no consumer or manufacturing waste to end up in landfills.

By "long term," however, Procter & Gamble's talking decades. Its press release included a chart of goals for 2020, including:

  • Conducting studies on exactly how to eliminate landfilled and otherwise dumped consumer waste
  •  Supplying 30% of energy from renewable sources
  • Reducing packaging by 20%, per consumer use

The company pledged to give annual updates on its progress toward these goals.

Procter & Gamble joins a growing list of major companies and brands that are tackling environmental sustainability in identifiable and quantifiable ways, including Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) , Target, and Timberland. Even McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) has refitted its corporate headquarters to save energy and money, among other green efforts.

Green initiatives aren't just good for the planet. Finding ways to cut waste and shave energy expenses could boost companies' profits, and help them more nimbly compete with rivals.

The environmental boom among large companies can also benefit smaller ones. Seventh Generation, a private company (and a Benefit, or B Corporation) that makes green cleaning products, recently inked a deal to distribute its wares through Wal-Mart, expanding from previous distribution through venues like Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI  ) and Target. Wal-Mart's ability to reach of millions of consumers will give Seventh Generation a huge boost -- and force Procter & Gamble to compete even more fiercely for household spending.  

With more and more small eco-friendly rivals quickly moving into the big leagues, green innovation is a must-have priority for huge-blue chip companies. If they don't evolve, they risk losing their customers to greener pastures.

Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Nike and Whole Foods are Motley Fool Stock Advisor choices. Procter & Gamble is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. The Fool owns shares of and has written covered calls on Procter & Gamble. The Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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