“With a brand found in more homes than any other, we have the responsibility and opportunity to reimagine a healthier future for all people, their pets, and our planet. We seek to do this across our organization in an effort to preserve our environment and empower people and communities to develop healthier habits.” Ann Tracy
Interview with Ann Tracy, Chief Sustainability Officer at Colgate-Palmolive
What does branding mean for Colgate-Palmolive and why is it important?
Colgate-Palmolive is a caring, innovative growth company reimagining a healthier future for all people, their pets and our planet. This purpose drives everything we do. And with the Colgate brand in more homes than any other, we have a tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact. By delivering health and hygiene products that consumers trust, while seeking to consider sustainability and social impact at every step along the way, we can fulfill our company’s purpose.
Colgate-Palmolive recently published its 2021 Sustainability & Social Impact Report. Why does Colgate bring sustainability AND social impact together?
Our company’s purpose is to reimagine a healthier future for all people, their pets and our planet. In order to fulfill that purpose, we need to commit to both environmental stewardship and social impact.
We recognize that sustainability and social impact are interdependent. For instance, the world’s more industrialized nations are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the carbon emissions that cause climate change. At the same time, the effects of climate change often have a greater impact on developing countries with large populations. These consequences present risks to communities and put people’s livelihoods at risk. For example, severe weather events, such as droughts and hurricanes, can impact people’s ability to farm or fish.
Given that environmental issues affect communities around the globe in different ways, we take a people-first approach, and consider inclusiveness, equity and diversity as we develop our strategies, in order to most effectively protect the planet and its inhabitants. By bringing together sustainability AND social impact, we can not only preserve our planet, but also empower communities across the globe to have a future worth smiling about.
How is Colgate taking action to empower people’s healthier futures?
As the worldwide leader in oral care, we believe it is our responsibility to help improve the oral health of children, particularly in underserved communities around the world. Cavities is the number one disease among children globally. In 2021, we celebrated 30 years of Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® (BSBF), our flagship corporate social responsibility initiative. This program educates young people on the importance of oral health for their overall well-being and helps provide access to dental care, as well as the products and tools to build healthy habits.
We also strive to design more sustainable products to help people live more sustainable, healthier lives at home. We have developed the first toothpaste tube to be recognized by external recycling authorities as recyclable – using a mono-material (HDPE like milk bottles). Beyond developing the breakthrough technology, we’re increasing our impact by sharing it with other tube suppliers and encouraging them to move to a recyclable tube too. Now we are working with the recycling industry and consumers alike to communicate that they can recycle our tubes, and we are working to transition all of our toothpaste tubes by 2025. During this transition phase, some communities may not yet accept tubes for recycling and consumers should check locally and learn more on our website.
We have also introduced a manual toothbrush that has 80% less plastic than our similarly sized manual toothbrush. It has a metal handle that you keep and replace the head. This is a new way for consumers to use a manual toothbrush so it requires communication and education, which are important steps in the journey to reimagine a healthier, more sustainable future.
With such an ambitious strategy, can you pinpoint Colgate’s priority actions for making progress?
At Colgate, as part of our 2025 Sustainability and Social Impact Strategy, our key ambitions are to, among other things:
Drive social impact by: 1) inspiring Colgate employees to make a difference; 2) creating a more inclusive world; and 3) helping children, their families, and communities thrive.
Reduce plastic waste by, among other things, reducing the use of new (virgin) plastic by a third against a 2019 baseline by 2025 and making all of our packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
Accelerate action on climate change, with a goal to be net zero carbon emissions across our value chain by 2040.
What are some of the lessons you (or your team) have learned throughout the years while working with Colgate-Palmolive’s innovation team toward the corporation’s sustainability goals?
I’ve experienced firsthand what we call at Colgate “The Power of We.” It takes alignment and participation from ALL functions within the company to work to achieve ambitious targets. That’s why we seek to incorporate our sustainability and social impact strategy into our business strategy. We believe we all have a responsibility and an important role to play, and when sustainability and social impact are included in our overall company strategy, it empowers everyone to contribute and work toward our goals.
I’ve also seen the impact of building a comprehensive strategy that takes both sustainability AND social impact into account; by doing so, we set ourselves up for success to be able to make full, meaningful progress toward building a healthier, more sustainable future.