In March 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed the Colgate-Palmolive ‘Sustainability’ webpages on the company’s website for information on the company’s environmental policy and reporting.

The webpages contained at least two future quantified targets, including the following:
• Net zero deforestation by 2020
• 25% reduction in absolute GHG emissions (scope 1 & 2) by 2020, baseline of 2002

The company’s carbon target was set in collaboration with Science-Based Targets an independent research group helping company’s set targets in line with international agreements such as the Paris Agreement.

Impacts covered on the website included: paper and pulp, palm oil, tallow, soy, carbon emissions, energy use, refrigerants, water use, ecosystems, waste, sustainable buildings, transport, packaging, recycling. It was considered to demonstrate a reasonable understanding of its main impacts.

Key environmental reporting data on the Colgate-Palmolive ‘Sustainability’ webpages was independently verified by the Bureau Vistas North America, Inc.

The report was dated within the last two years.

Overall, Colgate-Palmolive received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for Environmental Reporting.

Reference:

https://www.colgatepalmolive.com/en-us/core-values/sustainability (9 March 2020)

In March 2020, Ethical Consumer searched Colgate-Palmolive’s website for the company's policy on the use of microplastics and non-biodegradable liquid polymers. This stated that: “as of year-end 2014 we stopped using microbeads. More recently, consumer questions have extended beyond microbeads to some polymer-based materials, many of which dissolve in water and biodegrade. Colgate-Palmolive continues to monitor the science and evaluate our use of polymer-based ingredients to ensure continued improvements in the environmental profile of our products.”

According to Beat the Microbead, there are more than 500 known microplastics ingredients that can be found in our personal care products such as toothpastes, face washes, scrubs and shower gels. They are tiny plastic particles that are added for their exfoliating properties, but sometimes purely for aesthetic purposes only.

A recent report by Code Check found that non-biodegradable liquid polymers were also prevalent across a wide range of cosmetic products. Like microplastics, these materials degrade with a similar difficulty in the environment and may cause similar harm.

In 2018, the UK government banned the use of microbeads in toothpastes, shower gels and facial scrubs. However, some products classified as “leave on” were not subject to the ban, this would include lotions, sun cream and makeup, as well as abrasive cleaning products. This ban did not extend to non-biodegradable liquid polymers.

Given that the company’s policy did not cover all microplastics, nor did it address the issue of non-biodegradable liquid polymers, the company lost half a mark under Pollution & Toxics.

Reference:

https://www.colgatepalmolive.com/en-us/core-values/sustainability (9 March 2020)

Colgate-Palmolive, the American owner of brands such as Sanex, Palmolive and Colgate, was one of the world’s 30 biggest cosmetics and personal care companies investigated by Greenpeace East Asia (GEA) in a report dated July 2016, which ranked the companies on their commitment to tackling the issue of microbeads in their products.

Microbeads are a type of microplastic that can be found in our personal care products such as toothpastes, face washes, scrubs and shower gels. They are tiny plastic particles that are added for their exfoliating properties, but sometimes purely for aesthetic purposes only.

The four main criteria used by GEA were:
1. Commitment & information transparency: Did the company have commitment on microbeads? Was it publicly available and easy to access?
2. Definition: How did the company define microbeads for their commitment?
3. Deadline: When would the company meet their commitment?
4. Application scope: Did the commitment cover all products in all markets?

Each company was scored by GEA based on their responses to a Greenpeace survey, as well as any publicly available information. Each criterion was weighted equally and scored out of 100, to give a final maximum score out of 400.

Colgate-Palmolive was said to have had a commitement to remove microbeads from its products since 2014. It defined a microbead as "intentiaonally added, 5mm or less, water insoluble, solid plastic particle typically used to exfoliate or cleanse in rinse-off personal care products." It said it would use "natural materials like jojoba beads" as an alternative.

In scoring 340/400, despite coming joint first in the report, Colgate-Palmolive’s commitment was considered by GEA to have fallen short of a strong standard because:
- Although the company had committed to using natural alternatives from the end of 2014, this commitment narrowly applied to microbeads used for a certain function - exfoliating and cleansing - rather than all functions;
- It applied only to certain rinse-off personal care products, rather than all products;
- It was unclear whether all plastic types were included within the definition.

The company lost half a mark under Pollution and Toxics.

Reference:

Global Cosmetics & Personal Care Companies' Microbead Commitment Ranking (July 2016)

In March 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Toms of Maine website for the company's policy on the use of the hazardous chemicals parabens, triclosan and phthalates.

Some forms or uses of these chemicals are banned or restricted in the EU or the USA. Triclosan is an antibacterial and is a suspected endocrine disruptor. Parabens are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to breast cancer and are used as preservatives. Phthalates, usually DEP or DBP, are used in fragrances and are endocrine disruptors. A strong policy on toxics would be no use of these chemicals or clear, dated targets for ending their use.

The webpage titled 'What's not in our products' included parabens and phthalates as classes of ingredients not used by the company. Elsewhere on the website the company stated that the use of triclosan was against its Stewwardship Model. The Stewardship Model contained standards including: "Ingredients sourced and derived from nature; Formulas free of artificial flavors, fragrances, colors, sweeteners and preservatives; Ingredient processing that supports our philosophy of human and environmental health".

Overall, Tom's of Maine received Ethical Consumer's best rating for toxic chemicals.

Reference:

https://www.tomsofmaine.com/products (9 March 2020)

In October 2019, the Business and Human Rights website published an article which named a number of companies. This article stated that, "And last year the NGO [Greenpeace] accused palm-oil giant Wilmar, as well as consumer brands including Colgate-Palmolive, Hershey, Nestle and Unilever, of continuing to buy from groups that were destroying the rainforest."

All the companies listed lost half a mark under Habitats & Resources in light of this story.

Reference:

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/indonesia-palm-oil-paper-companies-under-renewed-scrutiny-fo

Forest 500, ‘the world’s first rainforest rating agency’, is a project of the Global Canopy Programme. In 2019, it published its fifth annual ranking. It ranks 350 of the biggest companies in forest-risk supply chains and the 150 biggest investors in these companies.

Tropical rainforests cover 7% of the earth, but contain 50% of global biodiversity. Their ecosystems regulate global water systems and the climate, and they directly support the livelihoods of over a billion people. The social and economic benefits of these services are estimated to be in the trillions.

Over two thirds of tropical deforestation is driven by the production of a handful of commodities including; palm oil, soya, timber, paper and pulp, beef, and leather. These commodities are in products we use every day and are present in more than 50% of the packaged products in our
supermarkets.

Companies and financial institutions had been assessed and ranked in respect to their policies addressing potential deforestation embedded in forest-risk commodity supply chains. The 2018 report stated that "the Forest 500 methodology was updated in 2018 to better distinguish between companies who have set commitments, and those that have taken the next step towards implementation. This new methodology has meant that many companies have received lower scores this year." A document on the 2019 methodology stated that had been updated again to better align with the guidance of the Accountability Framework, a set of norms and guidance on ethical supply chains developed by a coalition of civil society partners. Three new indicators were added and two indicators were updated.

The Forest 500 ranking and analysis will be repeated annually until 2020, to help inform, enable and track progress towards deforestation free supply chains.

Each company was rated from 0-5, across five categories:

Colgate Palmolive was one of the 350 companies rated in the 2019 report.

It received an overall score of 4. Its scores in each category were as follows:
Overall Approach 2 out of 5

Commodity Score (palm, paper & pulp) 4 out of 5

Commitment Strength 5 out of 5

Reporting and implementation 3 out of 5

Social Considerations 3 out of 5

The company had not signed up to the New York Declaration on Forests signatory, but was a Consumer Goods Forum member.

As it had scored 4 overall, this reference is for information only.

Reference:

Forest 500 - 2019 ranking (2019)

In March 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Colgate-Palmolive’s ‘Our Policy on Responsible and Sustainable Sourcing of Palm Oils’ and the company’s latest Annual Communication on Palm Oil (ACOP) on the RSPO website. According to this policy, Colgate used palm oil, palm kernel oil and derivatives in a number of its products. Colgate had been a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2007.

According to its ACOP for the year 2018, 69% of its palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm oil derivatives were RSPO certified. None of this was from segregated supply chains.

In its ACOP submission to the RSPO the company stated that its submission covered its global operations.

Colgate’s palm oils policy published a list of Colgate’s palm oil suppliers but stated that this was not yet complete. It vowed to update this list every 6 months. Colgate was adjudged to be engaged in some positive initiatives around the prevention of deforestation.

Overall, Colgate was awarded Ethical Consumer’s middle rating on its palm oil policy and lost half a mark in this category.

Reference:

https://www.colgatepalmolive.com/en-us/core-values/our-policies/palm-oils-policy (9 March 2020)

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”.

The report was based on the fact that in 2010 members of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) pledged to do their bit to protect forests and limit climate change, with a clear commitment to clean up global commodity supply chains by 2020.

However Greenpeace stated “with less than two years to go until 2020, deforestation to produce commodities such as palm oil shows no sign of slowing down. Corporate commitments and policies have proliferated, but companies have largely failed to implement them. As a result, consumer brands, including those with ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ (NDPE) policies, still use palm oil from producers that destroy rainforests, drain carbon-rich peatland and violate the human rights of workers and local communities – making their customers complicit in forest destruction, climate change and human rights abuses.”

At the start of 2018, Greenpeace International challenged 16 leading members of the CGF to demonstrate their progress towards a clean palm oil supply chain. It called on them to disclose publicly the mills that produced their palm oil, and the names of the producer groups that controlled those mills. Eight of the global brands responded to Greenpeace’s challenge and published data revealing where and from whom they ultimately buy palm oil. It said “Transparency and accountability – including the publication of explicit details about who produces the palm oil that companies use – create the conditions for sectoral reform.”

Colgate Palmolive was one of the eight companies which had responded to Greenpeace’s challenge and had provided data on its traders / suppliers and the names of the mills and producers.

Yet in 2017, Greenpeace assessed the actions palm oil traders were taking to ensure that they were not buying from producers that were destroying rainforests, draining peatlands or exploiting workers and local communities. It said “Although most traders had published NDPE policies, there were serious problems with their implementation: inconsistent standards, questionable enforcement and non-existent deadlines. Not only was the palm oil industry not working to the 2020 deadline set by brands, it did not even have a common timeline for delivering a palm oil supply free from deforestation and other social and environmental harms.”

Colgate-Palmolive lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's palm oil and habitats and resources category due to the fact Greenpeace concluded “none of the major traders can yet be relied upon to supply brands with palm oil that meets their NDPE standards; indeed, they are all known to source from forest destroyers... It follows that by sourcing from these traders brands are buying palm oil contaminated by forest destruction.”

Reference:

Moment of truth time for brands to come clean about their links to forest destruction for palm oil (

On 30th November 2016 Amnesty International released a report called “The Great Palm Oil Scandal: Labour Abuses Behind Big Brands Names.” The report investigated labour exploitation on plantations in Indonesia that provide palm oil to Wilmar, one of the world’s largest processor and merchandiser of palm and lauric (palm kernel) oils and controls over 43% of the global palm oil trade. The report also traced the palm oil produced in Indonesia for Wilmar to a range of consumer goods companies that use palm oil in their products.

Amnesty International found serious human rights abuses on the plantations of Wilmar and its suppliers. These included forced labour and child labour, gender discrimination, as well as exploitative and dangerous working practices that put the health of workers at risk. The abuses identified were not isolated incidents but due to systemic business practices by Wilmar’s subsidiaries and suppliers, in particular the low level of wages, the use of targets and ‘piece rates’ (where workers are paid based on tasks completed rather than hours worked), and the use of a complex system of financial and other penalties. Workers, especially women, are employed under casual work arrangements, which make them vulnerable to abuses.

Amnesty stated “All of these are obvious and predictable areas of concern and risk. However, none of the companies that buy palm oil from Wilmar could demonstrate to Amnesty International that they had identified and addressed the actual abuses documented by Amnesty International.”

Colgate-Palmolive was said to have be sourcing palm oil from refineries where the palm oil has been directly supplied or, at the very least, been mixed with palm oil produced on plantations where there are severe labour rights abuses.

Colgate-Palmolive said none of the products Amnesty International listed contained palm oil from Wilmar’s Indonesia operations. They did not say which of their products do, although it acknowledged that they received palm oil from Wilmar refineries that Amnesty International linked to the plantations investigated for the report.

Colgate-Palmolive lost half a mark under Palm Oil and a whole mark under Workers' Rights.

None of the companies Amnesty International contacted denied that the abuses were taking place, but neither did they provide any examples of action taken to deal with labour rights abuses in Wilmar’s operations.

Reference:

The Great Palm Oil Scandal: Labour Abuses Behind Big Brands Names (30 November 2016)