Sustainability is a hot topic right now. But most people don’t truly understand sustainability and what is involved. Sustainability has many different aspects to it, a social aspect, an economical aspect, an environmental aspect.

We have a responsibility to improve education and awareness around sustainability both internally and externally by communicating what we’re doing and, more importantly, why we’re doing it.

To do this, you have to pique people’s interest to increase their participation. Here’s an example: The Johnson & Johnson, Consumer & Personal Products Worldwide Design team-which includes Packaging, Design Project Management and the Design group-participated with the Ocean Conservancy this year in the “International Coastal Cleanup,” at various places around the world: in Latin America, Asia, Europe and both the east and west coast of North America.

On the same day worldwide, our 100-person team went to a beach or local waterway in their community and helped clean it up. It sounds like a small thing but the net effect was that, as other people within Johnson & Johnson, Consumer & Personal Products Worldwide heard about it, they asked if they could help next year. This year, it was 100 people; next year it may be 300, and the year after that 600. The idea is that we’re increasing awareness by participation.

Next, you have to work hard on the education piece, the “why.” When you do things right, it’s recognized not only through the process, but all the way down to the consumer. If you talk with your typical consumer today and ask them, “If two products are the same, but one was more sustainable, which would you buy?” I think the answer would be “Why wouldn’t I buy the sustainable product?” The end benefit is that you’re creating value for your customers and consumers and value drives growth.

How do you educate people? A lot of it is being able to answer questions and being available to point people in the right directions. One of the questions people ask is “What can I do?”

You have to walk before you run. Do something sustainable for a product and a package and make sure the process itself is sustainable-that you can repeat it.

This is only the beginning, though, not the end. You can’t just keep pace with this initiative. You have to stay ahead of it.

Continue pushing yourself through sustainability, create value through the possibilities. Once you’ve done something sustainable for a product, don’t just stop there. Improve on it. If you start with 10% post-consumer recycled resin in a bottle, work with your supply base to get 20% or 30% in there.

Don’t settle for where we are today or where our customers have asked us to be. Move forward or above. All companies have to decide “When is enough, enough?” With sustainability, I don’t think there is a point where enough is enough. If you want to continue creating value for your consumers, sustainability is a great path to take.

Johnson & Johnson, Consumer & Personal Products Worldwide has been living sustainability as part of our credo for more than 60 years. We’re doing the right things for the environment-not because this is about a marketing story but because it’s the right thing to do.

Mike directs a multi-faceted organization within the Global Strategic Design Office, including Global Packaging and Global Design Project Management. A Rochester Institute of Technology Packaging Science grad, Mike earned his Certified Packaging Professional (CPP) status, in 2002, from the Institute of Packaging Professionals and a Masters of Science degree in Environmental Science and Chemistry from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.