Brainstorm Green

P&G's Bob McDonald is going green for the long haul

April 30, 2013: 7:20 AM ET

The Procter & Gamble CEO has been facing pressure from certain shareholders. But McDonald says that the right kind of investor gets long-term green goals.

Bob McDonald

Bob McDonald

FORTUNE -- There are no designated green jobs at Procter & Gamble, CEO Bob McDonald told attendees at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference on Monday. Rather, he said, "every one of our jobs is a green job."

The company is investing in several green initiatives. One is to get all of its factories to a point where they no longer contribute to landfill waste. Already, 48 of its 140 manufacturing properties steer clear of landfills entirely, says the CEO. This has pushed interesting reuse and recycling innovation at the company, McDonald says, such as using (unused) diaper scraps to make parking barriers or building roof tiles out of paper refuse.

The company also aims to drive sustainability through laundry habits. P&G (PG) wants to encourage customers to use less energy by washing their clothes in cold water through products such as Tide Coldwater laundry detergent, and to use space and fuel-efficient products, such as its little condensed detergent packs called Tide Pods. The pods launched under a year ago and now compose 7% of the laundry category, according to McDonald.

All this is well and good, but do major P&G influencers such as equity investors actually care? The right ones do, said McDonald.

"The good news is [more] and more of the kinds of investors we like, the long-term investors who are looking to buy and grow a company, [are] getting concerned about sustainability and its role in the stock," McDonald said.

See the full transcript of Bob McDonald at Brainstorm Green

But, on the other hand: "The bad news is, I think you've got more people today trading stock in a short-term speculative way, and as you know, sustainability is a long-term issue," McDonald said. P&G provides information on its sustainability initiatives in an annual report, but "for some shareholders, that's just not of interest ... at least in the time frame that they look of owning your stock."

McDonald never pointed fingers, but his concern about long-term vs. short-term investors strikes a chord given the CEO's recent and quite public battle with activist shareholder Bill Ackman, who bought $2 billion worth of the company's stock this past summer. Though Ackman's ownership only equates to about 1% of P&G's shares, the man is a force to be reckonened with, having called for and achieved leadership changes at several companies inluding, most recently, J.C. Penney (JCP). Ackman has publicly agitated for a regime change at Procter & Gamble, undercutting McDonald's leadership skills at a meeting this past September. For the record, Ackman is not known for his long-term green-minded investments as for his ability to turn around value for shareholders in a pinch. (See Fortune's story Can Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald hang on?)

It is a crunch that every CEO faces -- every job at P&G may be a green job, but not every investor is a green investor.

Yet, while McDonald has had his fair share of turbulence, the company's stock is up almost 18% since 2008 (McDonald took charge in 2009) to nearly $78 per share. And that kind of green, at least, should be compelling to any investor, activist or otherwise.

Read more from Fortune Brainstorm Green

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Shelley DuBois
Shelley DuBois
Writer - Reporter, Fortune

Shelley DuBois writes on management issues for Fortune.com. Before joining Fortune, she was a producer for National Public Radio's Science Friday and worked for Wired. Shelley has a graduate degree in science, health and environmental reporting from New York University. She lives in Brooklyn.

Email Shelley
Join in #FortuneGreen
Sponsored by:
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.