Companies Ask Their Customers to Help Them Cut Emissions

Take shorter showers, do laundry at cooler temperatures and turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.

Those are messages the world’s biggest makers of shampoo, detergent and toothpaste have been pushing as they try to reduce carbon emissions linked to the use of their products.

While consumer-goods companies have touted their success in cutting emissions in offices and factories, they are struggling to reduce what they say is the biggest source of emissions associated with their products: consumer use.

The slow progress threatens companies’ ability to meet their voluntary targets to cut overall emissions and risks undermining broader environmental pledges that are increasingly a part of how they sell themselves to shoppers, investors and potential employees.

Companies such as Unilever PLC, L’Oréal SA and Colgate-Palmolive Co. have set overall targets to reduce consumer-use emissions, while others including Procter & Gamble Co. and Right Guard deodorant owner Henkel AG & Co. have focused only on particular categories.

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