How Brands Are Keeping Vital Products on the Shelves Now
P&G’s Global Disaster Relief team opens up about their efforts
Many of us are staying home during this uncertain time — and we’re depending on products that keep our living spaces, and ourselves, clean and healthy. This includes products that sanitize our floors, personal health care, laundry detergent, and yes, even toilet paper.
And so, to find out how these products are still being manufactured during this crisis, we turned to P&G’s Global Disaster Relief team. They told us how P&G is able to still bring us the goods, why we shouldn’t worry about toilet paper right now (they’re still making it, of course!), and how they’re supporting front-line health workers and communities.
Wake-Up Call: First things first, could you describe what exactly “Global Disaster Relief” entails for a corporation?
Claudine Zukowski, Global Disaster Relief Coordinator: What I’m responsible for is determining how P&G can most effectively respond to disasters when they occur, wherever in the world. We do this in multiple ways. We care about the communities where we live and work — we want to be able to support these communities during their times of need. So my role is really to evaluate how best we can support them. Sometimes it’s through income support; sometimes it’s through working with our partner organizations to provide critically needed supplies, such as food, water, medical supplies and things like that.
P&G is in a unique position as a company because it makes so many vital products that many of us are depending on right now. What is your mission at this time?
Tracey Long, Senior Communications Officer: We have three objectives. One is to carry on and balance the needs of the business to ensure that we’re meeting the needs of our consumers who depend on our products. But we’re also committed to health and the wellbeing of our employees and their safety. So we’re focusing a lot of our effort in ensuring that we’re continuing to operate in a safe manner. And third, as Claude has said, is making sure that we’re supporting the communities in which we all live and operate.
What precautions are you taking in manufacturing these products — both for your employees, and for consumers?
Long: We always have the highest quality standards in our production facilities, so our products continue to be of the highest quality as always. But in this situation, what we are concerned for is ensuring that our employees have appropriate physical distancing at this time. We have postponed or canceled large group gatherings. Every plant situation is different. So they’re looking at their production schedules to make sure that people are not working in close contact — but also that we can continue to provide the products that our consumers depend upon.
One thing that many of us are seeing in the news: There’s a huge demand for toilet paper, and many stores are running out. Is there actually a toilet paper shortage in the world? Is P&G continuing to produce toilet paper?
Long: Certainly we continue to produce toilet paper. Of course, the situation has been very fluid and changing, as you’ve probably noticed daily. While we’re producing and shipping at record high levels, there continues to be a lot of demand. What people need to know is that they should focus on purchasing what they need for the time being — but being realistic about what that is. We will continue to produce paper products to meet their needs. So no cause for alarm. What we’re seeing is that the demand is just temporarily very high, and we’re responding to that as best as we can.
Thank you for the update on that. And on the topic of production: What changes have you had to make in terms of manufacturing?
Long: As you can imagine, we have extensive supply chains across so many different product lines. So every situation is unique. But suffice to say, we have teams working with business continuity plans and ensuring that we can continue to source the raw materials that are needed for our products. It is an ever-changing situation with lots of challenges along the way, but we’ve got the best people working on those challenges and coming up with great solutions to ensure that we can continue producing the products people count on.
Many of us have never really considered what might happen to the supply chain if a crisis hits. Obviously this pandemic is on an unprecedented scale, but how has P&G handled a crisis before?
Zukowski: In terms of large-scale disasters, this one is unlike any we’ve ever seen. We always try to be very prepared — in the sense that we pre-position supplies in places where we know there’s going to be physical events, such as floods and hurricanes. So we’ve worked with our partners to make sure we have those supplies and those resources in place in advance of meeting them. We do that around the world, as well as here in the U.S.
But again, this is such a unique situation. It’s not something that’s affecting one country or one region at a time; it’s affecting the whole globe. We’re working very hard and tirelessly, with all of our partners and with all the resources that we have in place, to be able to get those supplies where they’re needed as efficiently as we can.
We also will evaluate what the primary needs are. Specific to this, we know that medical supplies and supporting our front-line health workers are where there are critical needs. So we’re supporting organizations that we know have the capability of being able to provide those provisions, like masks, gowns and PPE, to those front-line health workers. Also we know that there are vulnerable people that are going to be disproportionately affected by the effects of this pandemic. So we’re also working through our organizations to help them.
Julie Desylva, Senior Communications Officer: Just from a personal perspective: Claude and I have had the opportunity to be on the ground after a disaster strikes and P&G products are just in a unique position to make a difference in people’s lives. So when people lose their house after a hurricane, we are there with a toothbrush and deodorant and can help restore that sense of normalcy.
On that note, can you tell us a bit more about how P&G is working to help communities right now?
Desylva: We are in communities all around the world. We’ve exceeded $5 million in product and monetary donations so far, and there’s definitely more to come. But we just know that there is such a need and our products can come in. Locally in Ohio, we work with Matthew 25 Ministries, as an example. They put together bags with our items like Secret deodorant, Oral B, and Pampers. Those bags are being delivered to communities where those items are very much needed.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
This appeared in Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter. Subscribe here.