When it comes to Johnson & Johnson and the environment, the company is focusing its efforts on four main areas: water conservation, sustainable packaging, renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions.

Those efforts have paid off in several ways. The company’s investment in hybrid vehicles has helped create a more fuel-efficient fleet. They have eliminated PVC (polyvinyl chloride) from most consumer product packaging. And, the return on investment for its solar installations has reached 20 percent.

“It’s been kind of a win-win-win for us,” said Johnson & Johnson’s Brian Boyd, worldwide vice president in charge of environment, health and safety. “These things save us money and allow us to compete in business more efficiently.”

The company still has its challenges, of course. They continue to search for ways to eliminate PVC packaging from their non-consumer products and they still want to do more to reduce carbon and water waste.

Also, Johnson & Johnson continues to monitor the effects of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals being found in water supplies in the United States and Europe. According to the company's most recent sustainability report, substantial research indicates that the amounts found are unlikely to have an effect on human health but there is some indication that aquatic organisms may be affected by long-term exposure.

Back in 1990, the New Brunswick, N.J.-based company began setting five-year goals to measure not only its environmental efforts but other areas related to corporate social responsibility as well. Setting goals and then working toward them has helped Johnson & Johnson assess and move ahead in its quest to reduce its carbon footprint, Boyd noted.

The company expects to release its newest five-year plan later this year, Boyd said.

Reducing CO2 

One area where the company has worked hard is in the reduction of carbon emissions. In 1990, Johnson & Johnson set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 7 percent over the next 20 years. In reality, the company achieved a 12.7 percent decrease from 1990 to 2007.

Another area where the company has made sizeable investments is in solar energy. Johnson & Johnson has 17 solar power installations at the moment, Boyd noted. He said the company will have 20 by the end of the year.

At one facility in Vacaville, Calif., Johnson & Johnson has more than 5,700 solar panels covering six and a half acres. The company says on its website that the solar panels helped cut carbon emissions at the manufacturing facility by 5 percent and provided up to 30 percent of the electric power needed to run it.

Funding innovation 

Boyd said that in 2003 Johnson & Johnson established a funding mechanism that doles out $40 million a year to various projects throughout the company. All operating units are asked to look for opportunities to save energy and water and then apply for funding through the central funding mechanism.

In the meantime, the company has become one of the largest purchasers of alternative energy in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month reported the top 50 purchasers of green energy as part of their Green Power Partnership program. According to the latest announcement, Johnson & Johnson uses green energy sources — biomass, solar and wind power — to supply 39 percent of its total electricity needs.

Water usage 

Johnson & Johnson set a goal of reducing water use by 10 percent from 2005 to 2010. As of the end of 2009, Boyd said, the company had reduced water usage by 14 percent.

According to the company’s 2008 sustainability report, the most recent one available, each facility is required to prepare a water conservation plan and conduct an audit to find ways to save water.

The resulting drop in water use has come about through a variety of measures, including the recirculation of water used in cooling systems and installing water-efficient fixtures in bathrooms and dining facilities.

Sustainable packaging 

In 2007, Johnson & Johnson’s BAND-AID brand switched from using a non-certified paperboard for its packaging to a sustainable material that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Ultimately, the company's goal is to have 90 percent of Johnson & Johnson’s paper-based packaging containing more than 30 percent post-consumer recycled material or have it come from materials grown in sustainable forests, Boyd said.

In addition, Johnson & Johnson succeeded in eliminating PVC in almost all of its consumer-sector products. It’s proven more difficult to remove PVC packaging from pharmaceutical products, however, because of the material’s unique ability to protect product quality. Nevertheless, Boyd said the company continues to search for alternatives in that area.

For more on Johnson & Johnson and the environment, please visit the environmental section of the company’s website.