When consumers hear Colgate, they typically associate it with toothpaste. Now, why would a toothpaste company be focusing on combatting climate change? Well, Colgate is not just a toothpaste company. Colgate-Palmolive is a $15B consumer products company focused on home, pet, personal, and oral care with brands, such as: Ajax, Hill’s, and Speed Stick. Colgate operations spread across 80 countries with products inside 67% of households across the world. [1, 3] Each of those products requires significant water across the supply chain; Colgate’s water footprint includes 9% from raw materials, 1% from manufacturing the product and 90% from consumers’ use.  While Colgate’s consumers continue to leave the sink on, global warming is putting pressure on the availability of fresh water. Additionally, Colgate’s manufacturing facilities, packaging, and sourcing all contribute to increased emissions, in turn accelerating global warming.  Faced with these challenges, Colgate’s management has made sustainability a priority for the past decade and moving forward. 
In the near-term, Colgate has made significant investments in reducing water consumption downstream by consumers. In 2016, Colgate launched the #EveryDropCounts campaign to raise awareness for water overconsumption. More recently, the campaign has been led through a partnership with Michael Phelps . Between Phelps and the new labeling on Colgate packages, the campaign has reached over 2.7 billion people worldwide . Moreover, Colgate has partnered with MIT to develop a net zero water strategy to replenish water removed from highly stressed regions where Colgate operates . Colgate is also looking at their product formulations to see if there is potential to reduce the water required. For example, fabric softener technology within their Suavitel product line has prevented the need for a rinse cycle. 
In the long-term, Colgate has set a number of ambitious goals to hit by 2020 within their manufacturing facilities and with their suppliers. One of these, like the short-term goals, is focused on reducing water usage. Colgate has set a goal to reduce manufacturing water intensity by 50% of their levels compared to 2002.  Outside of their water initiative, Colgate has set targets to limit the impact they have on emissions. Internally, Colgate has been investing in renewable energy with the hopes of reducing their absolute greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing by 25% compared to 2002 . After pressure from a third-party advocate, Colgate has also agreed to set a goal of creating fully recyclable packaging for 3 out of their 4 categories by 2020 . Furthermore, Colgate wants to make more of the packaging from recycled materials with a goal of 50%+ of the packaging coming from recycled content by 2020. 
Upstream, Colgate has been using their strength in the supply chain to apply pressure on their suppliers to become more sustainable. Colgate has encouraged top suppliers to participate in a program to reach certain energy reduction targets and disclose greenhouse gas emission.  Additionally, for specific raw materials, Colgate has adjusted to more sustainable sourcing. For example, Colgate has increased their use of certified sustainable palm oil (77% of total palm oil used), which helps limit deforestation . Nonetheless, this effort should be viewed with uncertainty as there is no data on how much palm oil is truly organic (which limits deforestation, rather than replaces) and Amnesty International raised claims of forced child labor in the creation of the palm oil used by Colgate . While this does not impact their climate change initiative directly, it adds a small amount of skepticism to the extent of the corporate responsibility touted by Colgate. Additionally, while all of their sustainability initiatives are admirable, it is difficult to tell whether they are ‘stretch goals’ as there are no industry standards for most metrics Colgate tracks.
Overall, Colgate has received accolades for their efforts to combat climate change, while maintaining the #9 position in Gartner’s top 25 supply chains  and a 54-year record for consecutive annual dividend increases . Regardless, management still has other opportunities they could consider. First, Colgate appears to have a gap in monitoring the sustainable sourcing of their suppliers (e.g., Amnesty International’s palm oil claims and the responsible sourcing of seafood used in Hill’s pet food ). Additionally, as a leader in creating a sustainable supply chain, Colgate should leverage their strength to drive change in other consumer product companies. They could do this by developing industry-wide partnerships or using a lobbying group to support regulations (e.g., on water usage or greenhouse gas emissions). While this is likely very difficult to do, it could have a transformational change across the industry.
- How much responsibility should large consumer product companies bear for controlling the true “sustainability” of their suppliers?
- What is the best way for a ‘first mover’ to help ‘laggard’ companies leverage sustainability best practices, while maintaining a competitive advantage?
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 Colgate, 2016 Annual Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2016, https://www.colgatepalmolive.com/content/dam/cp-sites/corporate/corporate/en_us/corp/locale-assets/pdf/CPSustainability_2016_Full_Report%20061417.pdf, accessed November 2017.
 Colgate, 2015 Planet Report, http://www.colgate.com/Colgate/US/Corp_v2/LivingOurValues/Sustainability_v2/cpsus15_full_report_10_042616_Planet_v4.pdf, accessed November 2017.
 Alyssa Matos, Cohn & Wolf, “Michael Phelps, Family Man and World Champion Swimmer, Continues Global Ambassadorship with Colgate to Inspire the Next Generation to Save Water”, PR Newswire, October 23, 2017, via Factiva, accessed November 2017
 Gil Maria Campos Alabau, et al, “The Challenge of Positive Water Balances for Multinational Corporations,” MIT Sloan School of Management S-Lab Projects, May 14, 2015, http://mitsloan.mit.edu/actionlearning/media/documents/s-lab-projects/Colgate-Palmolive-Report-2015.pdf, accessed November 2017.
 Jennifer Elks, “Colgate Commits to 100% recyclable packaging for three of four product categories by 2020”, Sustainable Brands, April 17, 2014, http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/packaging/jennifer_elks/colgate_commits_100_recyclable_packaging_2020_three_four_prod, accessed November 2017.
 Tamar Wilner, “Colgate Sustainability Report: Goals Met for GHGs, Water Use, Energy, COD”, Environmental Leader, February 7, 2012, https://www.environmentalleader.com/2012/02/colgate-sustainability-report-goals-met-for-ghgs-water-use-energy-cod/, accessed November 2017.
 Amnesty International, “The Great Palm Oil Scandal: Labor Abuses Behind Big Brand Names” (PDF File), downloaded from Amnesty International website, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa21/5184/2016/en/, accessed November 2017.
 “Gartner Announces Rankings of the 2017 Supply Chain Top 25”, Gartner Press Release (Phoenix, AZ, May 25, 2017)
 Black Coral Research, “Colgate-Palmolive: Sustaining the Dividend, for Now”, Seeking Alpha, September 16, 2017, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4107460-colgate-palmolive-sustaining-dividend-now, accessed November 2017.