National Campaigns Manager
Last Tuesday Cincinnati, Ohio, saw something it doesn’t typically see. It saw women taking to the streets, standing in our power and raising our voices to demand safe feminine care. Procter and Gamble heard YOU, and the mountain moved.
In short, we won a major victory. Procter and Gamble—the world’s largest consumer products corporation— is starting to disclose limited ingredient information for its Always pads and Tampax tampons. And the company will continue talking with us about how their products and policies can meet our demands as consumers.
Let me be clear: they are doing this because you demanded it. But let me tell you how we got here…
Escalating our demands
WVE decided to hold a rally and demonstration outside P&G’s shareholder meeting. For 2 years, we have been calling on P&G to Detox the Box by fully disclosing all ingredients in pads and tampons and eliminating harmful chemicals. Our demands fell on deaf ears, so we decided to take our concerns directly to P&G’s shareholders at their annual meeting.
Planning for such an event was no small endeavor. We relied on you to get P&G’s attention on social media and through online petitions. We called on our supporters and partners around the country to join us in beautiful Cincinnati. We reached out to the media to cover what we knew was the story of the year. We made posters, props, banners and T-shirts. We choreographed dance moves and arranged woman-powered music playlists.
And we reached out to P&G. After all, our objective was and is to dialogue with the company. To make clear to them our concerns and recommendations for making their products safer and ingredients more transparent. As shortly before we boarded a plane to Cincinnati, we confirmed a meeting with P&G to take place right after the rally.
Day of Action, Day of Power
And on Tuesday, October 13, we were victorious. As shareholders arrived in the morning, they were greeted by smiling, dancing women proudly holding signs reading “I Care. Period.” and “Women should Always know what’s in their pads & tampons.” They saw women celebrating with each other all that we can accomplish when we raise our voices. They saw women’s power.
They saw Kiran Gandhi— the musician who ran the London marathon without a tampon— insist that protecting women’s health and meeting the bottom line are mutual goals, not conflicting ones. They saw La’Tasha Mayes, a reproductive justice powerhouse, proclaim that black women and girls deserve better and will take their trillion-dollar spending elsewhere unless P&G steps up.
Oh, and they saw one more thing. As the meeting concluded and shareholders streamed out of the building, they saw us dancing to our signature song, “Detox the Box” (produced by West of Kin Productions and Sprout Films). Many of them stopped to talk with us and some shared our concerns about women’s health.
Our rally truly was a celebration. Because, you see, P&G had already heard our demands. The night before, the company posted limited ingredient information for its Always and Tampax products. This is more than any of its competitors are doing, and it is more transparency than P&G has ever offered.
Shortly after the rally wrapped, a core group of us headed inside P&G’s headquarters to meet with their VP of product safety and their communications director for feminine care. Our partners at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Turning Green and Conway Strategic joined us in the meeting. These groups comprise the Detox the Box Advisory Committee, and they bring critical voices to the table representing environmental justice, reproductive justice and youth leadership for a clean and healthy world.
At this meeting, we made clear that what women want and deserve is safe feminine care products with full ingredient information. This is about our health, our bodies and our choices. We offered initial feedback on P&G’s recently available ingredient websites for Always & Tampax, and we outlined key areas of improvement in ingredient disclosure, particularly with respect to disclosure of fragrance ingredients.
We also expressed that consumers do want to know what P&G’s chemical screening criteria are. P&G asked us which companies we feel are doing it well. Major retailers like Target and Walmart, as well as companies in the apparel and electronics industries are disclosing comprehensive chemical screening criteria. We hope this signals a desire on P&G’s part to be more transparent about its chemical safety policy, not just for feminine care products, but also for cleaning products and other product categories.
There’s more work ahead, and we need your voice if we’re going to keep succeeding. We’re going to continue discussing with P&G what they need to do to protect women’s health. We’re going to ensure that other feminine care product makers recognize our awesome power and take our demands seriously. And we’re going to change the laws so that toxic chemicals aren’t allowed in feminine care products.
But before we get to all that, let’s take a moment to acknowledge what just happened. As the Chinese proverb goes, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” Before the Detox the Box campaign launched, very few women even knew that feminine care products contain toxic chemicals. But we consulted the science, raised awareness and organized women across the world. All together, we woke up on Tuesday, October 13th and we moved a mountain: Procter & Gamble.
You may not have been there with us in person, but you were there with us in power. Stand in that power now, and celebrate what you just accomplished.