Case Study - Colgate-Palmolive

Colgate-Palmolive climate action reaches people worldwide

With the Colgate brand in more homes than any other, this company has a unique opportunity and responsibility to positively impact the world. Colgate’s team knows that this transition will require bigger, bolder targets as well as innovation.

Q&A with Vance Merolla, Worldwide Director, Global Sustainability, Colgate-Palmolive

What science-based targets has Colgate set?

Colgate’s first science-based target, aligned with 2°C, was approved by SBTi in 2017. In 2020, the second iteration of our targets aligned with a 1.5°C scenario and included scope 3 emissions. The company also opted to commit to additional scope 3 emissions reductions with regards to water use from customers when using Colgate products.

Colgate’s current SBTi-approved targets are as follows:

  • Reduce absolute scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions in global operations 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030 from a 2018 base year.

  • Source 100% renewable electricity for global operations by 2030.

  • Reduce absolute scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and services 30% by 2025 from a 2018 base year.

  • Reduce indirect use phase emissions associated with the consumer use of products 20% by 2025 from a 2016 base year.

What are the key components of Colgate’s transition strategy?

In 2020 we launched Colgate’s 2025 Sustainability & Social Impact Strategy, with three ambitions and 11 actions, including one to “Accelerate Action on Climate Change.” This is embedded in our overall business strategy and spans our entire value chain—across supply, operations and products to reduce, replace and remove emissions over time. Most importantly, we are working to build a mindset which includes decarbonization as a lens to view all business activities and decisions.

Colgate’s 2025 Sustainability and Social Impact Strategy

What is the biggest challenge Colgate is facing on its path to decarbonization?

There are many opportunities associated with decarbonization, many of which are linked to the interdependencies we have with suppliers, customers and consumers. In the near term, one of the biggest opportunities is to improve the readiness and climate data availability from many of our suppliers.

Please share three short-term actions that are accelerating Colgate’s progress to meet its science-based targets. How is the company engaging its supply chain on climate action, and supporting them to set science-based targets?

By focusing on climate action, we are seeing the emergence of new opportunities and interconnections. The development of climate action pathways for each aspect of our business and the resulting roadmaps will help us to better achieve each component of our science-based targets:

  1. Operations: For 11 consecutive years, the US Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR program has named Colgate energy efficiency ‘Partner of the Year’ for its efforts to reduce the amount of energy used to make its products - over 37% since 2002. The company’s net-zero operations roadmap prioritizes energy reduction, followed by renewable energy, then future potential compensation or neutralization actions as needed.

  2. Supply chain: Colgate is finding new ways to engage and support suppliers to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging them to set science-based targets and report on climate progress. Our engagement includes educational webinars, sharing best practices, data collection, one-on-one partnerships, as well as third party tools to help consolidate and track data and progress. These activities aim to drive down scope 3 emissions.

  3. Products and brands: Prioritizing sustainable product design – which helps consumers build healthy and more sustainable habits for life, is central to Colgate’s transition. Colgate is making new products, creating innovative packaging and raising the visibility of sustainability, including:

  • The Keep toothbrush, with an aluminum handle, has 80% less plastic than similarly sized Colgate toothbrushes.

  • The Save Water campaign, which encourages people to turn off the tap while brushing, has helped avoid more than 8.3 million metric tons of CO2 since 2016 - that’s equal to the emissions from more than 1.8 million passenger vehicles over one year.

  • Relaunching the Palmolive Ultra dish liquid in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.

  • Softsoap Foaming Hand Soap Tablets which use 71% less plastic than traditional hand soap refills.

  • A first-of-its-kind recyclable toothpaste tube, the design of which has been shared with suppliers, manufacturers and competitors to help reduce global emissions and boost the circular economy.

Join Colgate on the journey to decarbonization

By setting science-based targets, other businesses can join Colgate-Palmolive and commit to rapidly slash greenhouse emissions. The challenge ahead is significant, but the opportunities are limitless. Corporate leaders must get involved to be a part of the solution and enable the global economy to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero before 2050.

The SBTi is calling on all companies to urgently align with the most ambitious corporate climate action campaign by signing our Business Ambition for 1.5°C commitment letter today.

Join the companies taking action