If you are a consumer looking to buy deodorant with low environmental impact, Old Spice’s Swagger Deodorant is not a product I would recommend. Though the deodorant itself is generally free of environmental hazards, the plastic packaging of this limited use product is destined for the landfill where it will remain forever. Furthermore, Proctor & Gamble do not divulge their production practices, and while the company has made steps towards sustainability, they are comparatively inconsequential and misleading. P&G would have to transition from plastic packaging, be transparent with their production processes, and make meaningful and honest sustainability commitments before the Swagger Deodorant is awarded a higher rating.
I have to say that I was quite surprised by just how transparent Old Spice is with the ingredients of this deodorant. The product page includes a link to Smartlabel, a website operated by Proctor & Gamble, Old Spice’s parent company. This page shows the deodorant’s 9 ingredients: dipropylene glycol, water, propylene glycol, sodium stearate, fragrance, poloxamine 1307, PPG-3 myristyl ether, tetrasodium EDTA, and Blue 1. If like me, you find this list to be completely meaningless, P&G details the exact role that each ingredient plays in the product (including the 50+ sub-ingredients that compose “fragrance”). The transparency is here, but transparency does not necessarily equate to sustainability. In general, the chemical components of this deodorant pose low risk for environmental toxicity or bioaccumulation as they biodegrade fairly easily. However, the deodorant itself is only half of this product; the real issue arises with the packaging. This deodorant is packaged in plastic casings that are designed to be disposed after use. This plastic is derived from petrochemicals, fueling the oil industry, and is not biodegradable, so unless a wishful recycling attempt is successful, this packaging is destined for the landfill or worse. Old Spice deserves recognition for their transparency and environmental consciousness in the chemical components of this product, but this hardly outweighs the negative impact of the plastic packaging.
Who knows? That’s actually not a rhetorical question because it is very clear who knows how this product is made: Proctor & Gamble. Unfortunately, virtually no information about the production process for Swagger Deodorant (or any other P&G product for that matter) is readily accessible to the public. Though it is unfair to make assumptions when lacking information, when considering chemical refinement and production, and plastic packaging, sustainability isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Ultimately, the lack of transparency in production process is concerning, and I would be more inclined to give a better score in this category if detail in ingredient descriptions was replicated in this arena.
When dealing with corporate giant like P&G, the line between greenwashing and true sustainability is very thin. Let’s start with the good. In 2010, P&G set 16 goals designed to reduce their environmental impact in terms of climate, water, and waste. The company achieved 14 of the 16 goals, only falling short in their attempts to reduce energy at facilities by 20% per unit of production and to reduce packaging by 20% per consumer use. All told, P&G reduced their Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 52% by 2020, far exceeding their 30% goal. Now let's get to the bad. Though this reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions is impressive, it loses some of its luster when Scope 3 emissions are taken into account. In its 2019 Citizenship Report, P&G divulged that Scope 3 emissions account for 98% of the company’s total GHG emissions. P&G needs to focus their sustainability efforts where they are really needed: throughout the entire life cycles of their products. Boasting emission reductions that are proportionally minuscule is misleading and ultimately is a quintessential example of greenwashing. P&G has set ambitious climate and environment goals for 2030, so consumers should pay close attention to the company’s progress on these goals and should hold them accountable for the impact they have and the misleading statistics they publish.
Proctor & Gamble: