Global waste is expected to increase by 70 per cent over the next 30 years unless we take action now. Colgate-Palmolive has a plan
Every year, the world dumps approximately 2.12 billion tons of waste – an amount so massive that if it were to be put in trucks they would encircle the world 24 times.
In order to tackle this critical issue, corporations must make sustainability a priority by setting measurable goals, innovating, collaborating and preparing for anything.
Setting measurable goals
As the stewards of Colgate, a brand found in more homes than any other, Colgate-Palmolive has an awesome responsibility to make sustainability a household habit. As such, the company has set goals for creating a healthier and more sustainable future for people, their pets and our planet, including measurable targets to design sustainable products, accelerate action on climate change, drive social impact and eliminate plastic waste. Indeed, Colgate has committed to eliminating a third of new plastics in its products and packaging and to achieve 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025.
Innovate for success
In a circular economy, plastic never becomes waste or pollution. Yet in the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industry alone, more than one billion toothpaste tubes (which until recently were not recyclable) are thrown out annually in the US. With that in mind, Colgate has created a new type of plastic tube with the same kind of recyclable plastic used to manufacture plastic bottles. The result of five years of research and development, it is a first-of-its-kind toothpaste tube that can be recycled without any adjustments or additional investments to the current recycling infrastructure required.
Collaborate across sectors
But it’s not enough if only one company is using a recyclable toothpaste tube; we must join forces if we are to make a true impact and contribute to the circular economy. Given that the CPG industry must embrace recyclable tubes across all categories, not just toothpaste, Colgate is sharing its recyclable tube technology with third parties, including competitors, to make it easier for companies to make the switch.
Ultimately, a more sustainable future cannot be realised unless we all work together. Without the support of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) in North America and RecyClass in Europe, Colgate’s recyclable tube would not have received the necessary recognition to be recycled through conventional channels. This type of close collaboration and partnership between companies, organisations and third parties is essential for creating a healthier, greener planet.
Another valuable collaboration has been our longstanding partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation initiative for a New Plastics Economy, which sets high standards for signatories that band together to make a meaningful difference. In addition, through our relationship with Green Business Certification, Inc, Colgate has developed and implemented innovative procedures to repurpose waste at its manufacturing facilities: indeed, we have the most GBCI TRUE Zero Waste-certified buildings of any company worldwide. Colgate is also exploring new ways to deliver products with support from our partners, from toothpaste and soap in tablet-form to encouraging reusable containers by participating in the Algramo pilot programme.
Expect the unexpected
The impact of climate change on our world – and our awareness of it – has intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve witnessed how changes in our daily routines, such as driving to work or grocery shopping, have significant effects on health and human safety. We also learned that both companies and consumers are part of the solution. Companies need to provide affordable, meaningful products that have smaller environmental footprints and consumers need to incorporate changes to their habits and buying choices.
Fortunately, we are seeing a demand for sustainable products. Nearly 60 per cent of consumers surveyed by IBM and the National Retail Federation this year said they were willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact. The same survey also found that the importance of brand purpose now surpasses cost and convenience for shoppers. Consumers are continuing to prioritise products and companies that are more sustainable, transparent and aligned with their personal values. Now, companies must respond to the call.
Committing to sustainable practices and contributing to the circular economy must be more than a priority for companies – it needs to be a central part of every company’s core business strategy. Colgate is driven by our sustainability mission to create a healthier, more sustainable future for all – and we are dedicated to implementing sustainable practices that resonate with stakeholders. If all companies commit to finding innovative ways to make their businesses – and therefore the world – more sustainable, together we can ensure our future is one worth smiling about.
For more information about these initiatives, explore Colgate’s 2025 Sustainability & Social Impact Strategy here.
by Ann Tracy, Chief Sustainability Officer, Colgate-Palmolive Company