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OM in the News: Going Green (and Light) for Amazon

December 31, 2018

“Amazon’s rise is forcing laundry detergents to shrink, writes The New York Times (Dec. 28, 2018). Tide and Seventh Generation have introduced redesigned laundry detergents that are several pounds lighter by cutting down on plastic in their packaging and using less water in their formulas. They’re making the changes to please Amazon: Lighter packaging means it costs less to ship the detergent to shopper’s doorsteps, making each sale more profitable.

Tide has cut down the plastic in packaging

For consumers, the new packaging has been designed to better survive shipping without leaking. The challenge, however, is getting online shoppers to buy detergent that looks nothing like the heavy bottles they are used to. Tide is putting its detergent into a cardboard box, making it 4 pounds lighter than its 150-ounce plastic bottles, but still able to wash the same 96 loads. Seventh Generation went with a compact plastic bottle that’s less than 9 inches tall, rectangular in shape and has no measuring cup.

Amazon may drop products from their website that cost too much to ship. Tide, owned by P&G, says its Eco-Box has 60% less plastic and uses 30% less water in its soap than its 150 ounce bottles. The boxed detergent doesn’t need to be packed in another box: online retailers can just slap an address on it. Seventh Generation, owned by Unilever, spent 3 years developing its smaller bottle. At 1.6 pounds, it is 5 pounds lighter than its standard 100 ounce bottle. It still washes the same 66 loads as the heavier one. The measuring cup was replaced with a cap that automatically squirts out the right amount of detergent needed for a single load of laundry. To make sure the new bottle could withstand delivery, it was sent to a laboratory that mimics the vibrations of Amazon’s warehouse conveyor belts, the bumps of a delivery truck and any accidental drops by warehouse workers.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. Why is this an OM issue for Amazon?
  2. Why is product design an important part of sustainability?
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