Tylenol as a smaller company is not very transparent and there is no evidence of any attempt at sustainability, but its parent company, Johnson & Johnson has done a great job being transparent with their ethical practices. However, this is not to say that these practices are necessarily sustainable.
Acetaminophen is the generic name for Tylenol, so technically this is a brand that produces the product of acetaminophen. It is an analgesic which is a pain reliever, and there are several forms that this comes in. Tylenol has caplets, gelcaps, and tablets in various levels: children’s, regular strength, and extra strength. The ingredients aside from the 160 mg or 325 mg or 550 mg of acetaminophen include:
cellulose, cornstarch, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, polyethylene glycol, and sodium starch glycolate.
butylparaben, carboxymethylcellulose sodium, cellulose, corn starch, FD&C Yellow No. 10, edetate calcium disodium, FD&C Blue No. 1, FD&C Red No. 40, gelatin, hypromellose, iron oxide black, iron oxide red, iron oxide yellow, magnesium stearate, methylparaben, polyethylene glycol, polysorbate 80, propylparaben, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium propionate, sodium starch glycolate, and titanium dioxide.
carnauba wax, cellulose, cornstarch, FD&C Red No. 40, FD&C Yellow No. 6, hypromellose, iron oxide black, polyethylene glycol, polysorbate 80, povidone, sodium starch glycolate, stearic acid, sucralose, and titanium dioxide.
In terms of their seal, after the infamous Chicago Tylenol Murders in 1982 where Tylenol was poisoned, they have a tamper-proof seal.
It is difficult to find information on sustainability of a lot of the medical ingredients, bu the gelcaps do include gelatin, and as it is not very transparent, I am unsure how to rate this section of the product.
Acetaminophen is currently made out of coal tar which is made through thermal destruction of coal and uses fossil fuels. This is clearly not sustainable, but recently there have been developments to synthesize acetaminophen from a natural plant carbon through the lignin in bioenergy crops with several chemical reactions. This is an inexpensive method and hopefully will catch on in pharmaceuticals, as this could help this “how it is made” section for several acetaminophen products. If Tylenol were to start using this plant-based process, it would likely gather all 3 planets, but as of now it still uses fossil fuels.
Johnson & Johnson owns the brand of Tylenol, though transparency is evidently a big issue among the makers of Tylenol itself. Johnson & Johnson however, have a long history of sustainable efforts and of providing corporate sustainability reports since 1993. They have a UN Sustainable Development Goal Commitment page on their website where they state “Our commitment to dedicate our expertise, ideas and ingenuity to catalyze efforts toward achieving SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being) SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals) reflects the Company’s unique constellation of strengths.” These seems to detail good effort in directly addressing the SDGs, as well as ESG investing as they detail a lot of their very specific sustainability goals in relation to equity, health, and labor rights. Because of these very specific goals and data presented, Johnson & Johnson seem to be making big strides in sustainability, though more transparency with Tylenol itself would earn them a higher rating. Though Johnson & Johnshon have numerous pages on sustainability, it seems as though this might be greenwashing as they have a track record of faulty ingredients and have been accused of promoting negative assumptions and causes related to the opioid epidemic.