Why We Need to Prioritize Both Pillars to Make Real Progress
By Ann Tracy, Chief Sustainability Officer
April 25, 2022
This Earth Month we’ve heard a lot about reducing plastic, eliminating waste, and accelerating action on climate change. And there’s no doubt that these actions are essential. But the current conversation is too narrow. What about diversity, equity and inclusion, public health, and community service?
You may wonder how these initiatives fit within a strategy to help the planet. The fact is, Earth Month isn’t just about being “green”: it’s about our healthier future. Only by considering sustainability challenges and social issues together can we make a full impact.
At Colgate-Palmolive, our purpose is to reimagine a healthier future for all people, their pets and our planet. We recognize that sustainability and social impact are interdependent. This relationship takes shape in many ways. Consider for example how the world’s more industrialized nations are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the carbon emissions that cause climate change – with devastating consequences for developing countries with large populations. And the consequences are not just environmental; rather, the threat of rising temperatures and more frequent natural disasters poses risks to communities’ health, people’s livelihoods – their brighter futures.
This example reveals how climate change and other environmental issues affect communities around the globe in different ways and oftentimes worsen existing problems. As part of our solutions then, we need to have a people-first approach, taking into account ideas like inclusiveness, equity and diversity as we develop our strategies, in order to most effectively protect the planet and its inhabitants.
That’s why Colgate’s innovative and ambitious 2025 Sustainability & Social Impact Strategy intentionally brings the two pillars together. For instance, we are driving social impact by increasing people’s awareness about the importance of oral health for their overall health and well-being. At the same time, we are empowering consumers to make more sustainable choices when it comes to oral care, like with our Colgate® KEEP metal handle toothbrush with a replaceable head, which cuts down plastic waste by 80% compared to similarly sized Colgate® toothbrushes. We’re striving to to address both areas of opportunity through a strategy that’s comprehensive and meaningful, so that we can make significant and sustained progress.
This Earth Month and beyond, companies need to recognize that the two missions – driving social impact and advancing sustainability – are intrinsically linked, and work to realign their strategies to serve both goals.
We recently published Colgate’s 2021 Sustainability & Social Impact Report, which reveals our company’s progress across 11 actions and more than 50 targets. By prioritizing our three key ambitions – Driving Social Impact, Helping Millions of Homes, and Preserving Our Environment – we can empower communities across the globe to have brighter, healthier futures.
Here are some of the ways we are taking action across sustainability and social impact, areas we’ve made progress in 2021, and initiatives we are focusing on in the future.
Colgate is doubling down on its efforts to accelerate action on climate change, rolling out our climate transition approach and targets to reduce Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions by 20% by 2025 and by 42% by 2030 (versus a 2020 baseline1). We are committed to reaching Net Zero carbon emissions across the value chain by 20402. Colgate also recently published its first report aligned with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, highlighting our strategy to address the risks and opportunities related to climate change.
Colgate-Palmolive’s 2021 Sustainability & Social Impact Report outlines progress toward its 2025 environmental goals, and introduces an enhanced ambition for Driving Social Impact.
Colgate’s innovative first-of-its-kind recyclable toothpaste tube – breakthrough technology that we are freely sharing with the industry – is a testament to Colgate’s efforts to eliminate plastic waste. We proudly support transparency and are working to educate consumers about our recyclable toothpaste tubes by inviting them to learn more at colgate.com/goodness3. What’s more, approximately 84% of Colgate’s packaging across categories and materials by weight was technically recyclable as of December 31, 20214, and we are committed to eliminating one-third of new plastics by 2025 (versus a 2019 baseline).
I’m especially proud that Colgate has more TRUE® Zero Waste certifications, which assess business performance in reducing waste, than any other company – with 29 Colgate sites across five continents currently certified as TRUE® Zero Waste compliant. As of December 31, 2021, 71% of all of Colgate’s products were being produced at TRUE® Zero Waste facilities.
While companies need to be taking responsibility for their own outputs, they also need to help consumers build healthy habits and make more sustainable choices. Colgate is innovating to make its products more sustainable across its product portfolio from toothpaste tablets in glass jars and mouthwash in recyclable aluminum cans to just-add-water Softsoap Foaming Hand Soap Tablets and toothbrushes with handles made from bamboo or designed with replaceable brush heads that use 80% less plastic compared to similarly-sized Colgate toothbrushes.
Driving Social Impact
To underscore our commitment to Driving Social Impact, Colgate recently unveiled an enhanced framework focusing on three actions to: 1) inspire Colgate employees to make a difference; 2) create a more inclusive world; and 3) help children, their families, and communities thrive.
Colgate-Palmolive’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Report outlines key accomplishments and areas of opportunity.
Taken together, these three actions, plus our work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, guide our approach to building a brighter future. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is an essential pillar in our 2025 Sustainability & Social Impact Strategy and we are working to bake it into everything we do at Colgate – check out our 2022 DE&I Report to read up on our progress and areas of opportunity.
At Colgate, Driving Social Impact takes many forms – from supporting myriad scholarships for minority communities to hosting Colgate Women’s Games, the longest-running Track & Field series for girls and young women. To advance the health and well-being of communities across the globe, Colgate spearheads innovative public health initiatives, such as its signature program Bright Smiles, Bright Futures (BSBF), which has reached more than 1.4 billion children and their families since 1991 and is continually finding new ways to expand its impact. In addition to these programs, Colgate is actively tapping professional networks and building partnerships to increase access to oral care, since a healthy mouth is the gateway to healthier bodies, minds, and communities.
Reimagining a Healthier Future for All
This Earth Month, let’s broaden our understanding of how we can take action. Whether it’s turning off the tap or inviting a colleague to join a water cooler conversation at the office, we can take small steps together to make measurable progress and help fulfill Colgate’s purpose: to reimagine a healthier future for ALL people, their pets, and our planet.
We can only make this vision a reality if we commit to both environmental stewardship and social impact. By doing so, not only can we preserve our planet, but we can also empower communities across the globe to have a future worth smiling about.
Colgate’s new Smiling Planet campaign brings this to life: when we care for the planet – and each other – the planet will smile back.
1. All statements in this article that are not historical, including this and other targets and the expected achievement and effect of our sustainability strategies and initiatives, and the amounts and timing of their expected impact are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and the rules, regulations and releases of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Except as required by law, Colgate-Palmolive undertakes no obligation to update these statements as a result of new information and Colgate-Palmolive makes no representation, express or implied, that the information is still accurate or complete. Such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and actual events or results may differ materially from these statements. Information about factors that could impact our business and cause actual results to vary, possibly materially, from these forward-looking statements, can be found in Colgate-Palmolive’s filings with the SEC.
2. Scope 1 and 2 defined as GHG emissions in operations; Scope 3 defined as emissions from Purchased Goods & Services (excludes Scope 3 Categories 2, 9, 11 & 12 per Science Based Target initiative's Net Zero Standard).
3. During this transition phase, acceptance of tubes at certain recycling facilities may be limited and consumers should check locally.
4. This progress does not include information from our EltaMD, Filorga, hello or PCA SKIN businesses or co-packers.