Is Colgate Palmolive ethical?
Our research highlights several ethical issues with Colgate Palmolive. The company has therefore been marked down in our rating system in a number of categories, including palm oil, pollutions and toxics, human rights, workers' rights, supply chain management, animal rights, animal testing, factory farming, anti-social finance, controversial technologies and political activities.
Below we outline of some of these issues. To see the full detailed stories, and Colgate Palmolive's overall ethical rating, please sign in or subscribe.
Colgate-Palmolive received a worst rating for its Supply Chain Management from Ethical Consumer in 2019.
Colgate's Third Party Code of Conduct did not define the age below which a person is considered a child for purposes of employment. It didn't make reference to paying a living wage to suppliers' employees and did not limit a working week to 48 hours and 12 hours overtime.
The company also had operations in a number of oppressive regimes including China, Colombia, Phillipines, Venezuela and Vietnam.
In March 2019 we took a look at Colgate’s 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report and decided that the company held a reasonable understanding of its impacts on the environment.
Colgate uses palm oil, palm kernel oil and derivatives in soap products, toothpaste, antiperspirants, deodorants and house cleaners. Colgate did say that it had been a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2007, so we looked at their communications with the RSPO from 2017. These claimed that 68% of its palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm oil derivatives were RSPO certified.
As a result of this, we gave Colgate a middle rating for both their environmental and palm oil policies.
However, we think that it is worth reminding our readers of the difference between policy and practice. In March 2018 Greenpeace International released its report called “Moment of truth: time for brands to come clean about their links to forest destruction for palm oil”. At the start of 2018, Greenpeace International challenged 16 companies to demonstrate their progress towards a clean palm oil supply chain. Whilst Colgate Palmolive was one of the eight companies which had responded to Greenpeace’s challenge, they concluded,
“Although most traders had published ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ policies, there were serious problems with their implementation’ They cited ‘inconsistent standards, questionable enforcement and non-existent deadlines’ as such problems. Not only was the palm oil industry not working to the 2020 deadline set by brands, but it also did not even have a common timeline for delivering a palm oil supply free from deforestation and other social and environmental harms.”
We therefore deducted half a mark from Colgate-Palmolive under our palm oil and habitats and resources category.
According to Colgate's Global Sustainability Report 2017 seen by Ethical Consumer in March 2019: "Tallow is a key ingredient in bar soap production and is a cattle by-product. Colgate sources tallow from suppliers in North America, Latin America and Europe. In Brazil, there are concerns that rising demand for beef as a food source is prompting farmers to clear part of the Amazon rainforest for cattle ranching".
As tallow is a slaughterhouse by-product the company lost half a mark in the Animal Rights category.
According to the Open Secrets website (opensecrets.org), viewed by Ethical Consumer in March 2019, Colgate-Palmolive made political donations of $39,695 during the 2018 election cycle, via individuals.
According to Colgate's Political Contribution Policy viewed by Ethical Consumer in March 2019, Colgate has: "a long-standing policy against making contributions to political parties or candidates."
This lost the company half a mark under the Political Activities category.