Colgate-Palmolive’s TRUE certification for zero waste

By Helen Adams
Stephanie Barger, Director at TRUE Zero Waste, discusses Colgate-Palmolive’s TRUE certification and how transparency is the new sustainability

Colgate-Palmolive is reimagining a healthier future for all people, their pets and our planet. The company behind the personal care empire was founded in 1806, New York City and had an annual revenue of $16.5bn in 2020. 

The company has now fixed its attention on sustainability progress. 


Reducing emissions and increasing recycling at Colgate-Palmolive

Recent sustainability progress at Colgate-Palmolive includes:

  • Reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 37.5% from 2002 to 2020
  • Reducing water use per tonne of product by 52% between 2002 and 2020
  • Achieving 22 TRUE certifications worldwide, more than any other company
  • Introducing the first-of-its-kind recyclable toothpaste tube
  • Encouraging people to turn off the tap while brushing their teeth through Colgate’s “Save Water” programme

These results would not have been possible without the company’s longstanding commitment to sustainability and its purpose. Colgate has been working on sustainability since the late 1990s. Its journey began by gathering environmental data and the company set its first energy and water goals in 2002. In 2012 Colgate’s first-ever Sustainability Report was published. In November 2020 Colgate announced its new 2025 Sustainability & Social Impact Strategy, which defines key actions and measurable targets for 2025 and beyond.


2025 Sustainability & Social Impact Strategy: Three ambitions, 11 actions

The Colgate brand believes it is their responsibility to make sustainability an easy part of people’s lives. The 2025 Sustainability & Social Impact Strategy is centered around three ambitions:

  • Driving Social Impact
  • Helping Millions of Homes
  • Preserving our Environment

Key targets within these three ambitions include:

  • Eliminate one third of new plastics as part of the transition to 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable plastic packaging by 2025
  • Earn 100% TRUE certification for global operations and build 100% of new manufacturing sites LEED certified by 2025
  • Source 100% renewable electricity for global operations by 2030
  • Achieve Net Zero Carbon emissions in operations by 2040
  • Promote water conservation awareness to 100% of our global consumers by 2025
  • Improve oral health for two billion children by 2025, to help create a zero-cavity future
  • Help 15mn pets find homes through Hill’s Food, Shelter, Love program by 2025


Lead with zero waste facilities

In addition, by 2025 Colgate aims to operate high-efficient, low-impact, zero waste facilities and achieve 100% zero waste operations. The company began collaborating with GBCI on the TRUE certification programme in 2017 as a way to deliver its zero waste targets. 

The most recent TRUE certification was awarded to a manufacturing facility in Turkey. This facility joins 21 other manufacturing sites that have achieved certification. Today, Colgate has more TRUE certified facilities than any other company. These 22 certifications span across 5 continents and 12 different countries. 

“Transparency is the new sustainability and Colgate embraced this quality of TRUE by being transparent to their employees, vendors and customers”, said Stephanie Barger, TRUE’s Director of Market Transformation and Development. “By engaging employees across their global portfolio, a consistent and well understood zero waste programme has helped Colgate not only reach but exceed their sustainability goals. Their focus on reduction and reuse saves hundreds of thousands of dollars but more importantly drives inefficiencies out. Colgate doesn’t stop at meeting minimum requirements but digs deep to understand the effect they are having on their local communities, coordinating with government programmes and partnering with efforts locally to close the loop.” 


Benefits in the journey to zero waste

There have been many benefits along Colgate-Palmolive’s zero waste journey, including:

  • Waste Reduction: Colgate’s total waste to landfill per tonne of product produced has decreased by 82% compared to 2010
  • Employee Pride: A facility’s zero waste journey begins with a dedicated site Green Team. These Green Teams include employees from EHS, Operations, Procurement, Factory, Performance & Reliability, Planning, Maintenance, among others. A zero waste programme is a great way to increase employee involvement, especially among employees outside of the traditional “EHS Team”. Employees are involved in developing policies, finding alternative waste disposal methods, engaging with suppliers to reduce non-recyclable packaging and performing on-site “dumpster dives.”
  • Consumer Engagement: The team sees value in marketing products manufactured in TRUE certified factories
  • Learning Mindset: Colgate-Palmolive has learned that its zero waste journey is more than diverting waste from landfills. TRUE certification takes a management systems approach that also looks upstream at suppliers and downstream to customers


The next 12 months at Colgate-Palmolive

The sustainability and social impact journey continues as Colgate engages all its facilities on TRUE certification. For the past four years, Colgate-Palmolive focused on its manufacturing facilities, but the company will begin to engage with its larger offices and owned warehouses, to work towards its 2025 target to reach 100% TRUE certification in global operations.


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