A Tantrum About Pampers – And a Serious Question about Social Responsibility

I’ve written before about my issues with Proctor & Gamble’s “Future Friendly” campaign. And it just keeps getting worse.

Recently they created a quiz designed to earn Recycle Bank points. I don’t blame Recycle Bank for allowing their quiz, as the program’s ultimate initiative is to get more people recycling and I understand that they need to appease the corporations who contribute big bucks to the initiative (the whole “sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette”)

However, as a cloth diaper convert, this really pisses me off!

P&G’s newest “Learn and Earn” program states, “Discover Some Surprising Facts about Diapers and the Environment to Earn 25 Recycle Points.” OK, I’ll bite…

Q.” True or False: All disposable diaper manufacturers use chlorine-free wood pulp.” To move forward on the quiz, you must click “True.” The answer states that chlorine-free wood pulp has been the industry standard since 2001. Maybe so, but unlike some of the better disposables on the market, Pampers are not free of  fragrances, latex and petroleum-based lotions. They also contain some shady chemical crystals in the overnight brand that have been linked to infection. And I’m also not entirely sure that Pampers don’t use chlorine in some point of their processing. Just because the pulp is chlorine free, doesn’t mean the production is.

Q. “True or False: Cloth diapers are better for the environment than disposable diapers.” You are forced to click false, where it explains that there is no clear winner on environmental impact according to the 2008 UK study which I do refer to in my book. In fact, I used same study to defend my own use of chlorine-free disposables.  However, it is also known that this study did not take into consideration factors like the production of disposables, and the petroleum, chlorine, and additional chemicals used to manufacture them. It also does not consider modern hybrids, like gDiapers, or cases in which eco-friendly detergent and line drying are the sources of cleaning and maintenance.

I agree that in some cases, the environmental impact could be comparable, which is part of why I put off the switch to cloth for so long. But in the majority of cases, cloth and hybrids are superior when it comes to the landfills. And, more importantly, Pampers are produced far differently than Seventh Generation, Earth’s Best, and other more eco-friendly options.

Q. “The source of the largest impact for diapers is around a. Raw Material Production b. Landfills and Disposal and c. Transportation of the Product. The quiz answer says A. “The biggest impact that a diaper has comes from the sourcing and production of its raw materials. Pampers is focusing on using less and sourcing sustainably.” What exactly does “focusing on” mean? I may be focusing on improving my posture but I still walk like I’m carrying twins. Compared to the wide array of better options on the market with a long time commitment to sustainability, Pampers has a long way to go.

One of the frustrating things is that P&G and many large companies like them do participate in some important community and charity initiatives. According to their Web site, P&G does have significant long term environmental goals. They’ve instated programs for safe children’s drinking water, disaster relief, and fighting hunger. All of this is AWESOME.

But the question, as posed by the blog PhD in Parenting, is “Does Good Cancel Out Evil?”

The blog poses these questions:

Does Toys R Us’ payment to Childrens Hospital and the investment in renewable energy make up for the negative impacts on the health of children and our environment from the continued sale of toxic toys? I don’t think it possibly can, but it does make for good sound bites. Does Johnson & Johnsons’ investment in improving the lives of mothers and babies stricken with HIV AIDS in Africa give them a free pass on lapse safety standards in the preparation of medication and continued sale of personal products full of toxic chemicals?”

This is where it gets massively confusing for consumers. Even the most educated shoppers among us wrestle with these issues. What are your thoughts?

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