Pros: SmartLabel shows great ingredient transparency, Reduced manufacturing water use, Great supply chain oversight
Cons: Sustainable initiative applied only to premium product line, Low manufacturing transparency
Colgate sets an example with regards to their supply chain supervision and product transparency. The general public and their costumers can easily see what is in the products they are buying and why they are used. Colgate is also helping the communities they are based in, and dependent on, by ensuring their workers are fairly compensated and work in healthy conditions. Although it is unclear how efficient the manufacturing process is for this individual product, the company also seems to constantly seek the least environmentally expensive processes for their products. Their pledges, and successful metrics, are an impressive set of data that make their working and manufacturing trustworthy and constantly improving. The last hurdle for Colgate to get over is to ensure the life cycle of this toothpaste is more in tune with their environmental commitment. We can tell they are looking for ways to make toothpaste that is less harmful and whose packaging is better for the environment. But if this new product is rare and inaccessible it will not be very effective. If as a consumer you are able to afford their more sustainable product line, you should try it out and let Colgate know this is the direction they should take. Otherwise, we should push the company to make sustainable product their main offering, not an extravagance.
This is an item that has been in many people’s homes around the world. It is so familiar that we often take it for granted, and rarely question its nature. Considering people brush their teeth multiple times everyday, releasing toothpaste into wastewater and discarding toothpaste tubes constantly, it is important to consider the environmental effect of toothpaste. Luckily, Colgate provides a good amount of information for this product that will allow for a thorough review of its materials and safety. In the end, we will be able to draw some informed conclusions about the sustainability of this household staple.
Colgate starts off really well as they directly link their “smartlabel” site under their product. Unfortunately in this case it seems to link to the ingredients of a different product, but we can find the Triple Action-specific information with a direct search in smartlabel. This site has the list of included ingredients, justifications for their use, health, safety & environmental precautions and even related sustainability campaigns by the company. This is an example to follow as it provides transparency and easy access to crucial information for consumers. To start, the only active ingredient is Sodium Flouride. This is commonly used anti-cavity chemical that is already used in many municipal water treatment facilities. Despite some vocal controversy, this compound is not harmful to humans in concentrations anywhere close to the tiny amount in our water or toothpaste. Furthermore, the compound is likely manufactured in a lab as a byproduct of fertilizer, reducing the direct environmental impact of its use. Inactive ingredients include water and different types of gums and sugars which help create the texture of toothpaste, none of which are harmful when used in this product. Sodium lauryl sulfate is used a foaming and cleaning agent, and this is another widely used and abundant chemical with no negative health effects at this concentration, and it is biodegradable. Other chemicals are used to balance the chemical properties of the toothpaste and make sure it looks and taste as we expect. There are also colorings which are used under threshold restrictions set by the FDA which pose no threat at these levels. Overall, despite how abstract and artificially sounding the components sound, regular toothpaste is safe to use and its ingredients are mostly sustainable. Colgate can reduce skepticism of their product by minimizing the cocktail of chemicals used and ensuring that even if digested their toothpaste remains harmless. They try this with “Smile for good,” an alternative product line with less artificial ingredients and a recyclable package. Triple Action’s packaging is a concerning part of the product regrading sustainability. It is comprised of various layers of plastics pressed together and, in combination with traces of toothpaste, the package cannot be recycled. Colgate is working on creating recyclable tubes, however they still depend on a strong recycling infrastructure, can be affected by toothpaste traces and are only applied to their more expensive toothpaste line. It would be good if the company could apply the improvements from their “Smile for good” line to their main line of products, rather than making sustainable products a rare and expensive alternative.
The Smartlabel site does not include information on the manufacturing process. In theory, the process would consist of correctly mixing the correct ratio of ingredient in a tank and maintaining a perfect temperature to mix together as desired. It is hard to tell exactly how clean and efficient these processes are. However, their sustainability site points to process improvements which save billions of gallons of water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. From 2002 to 2018 Colgate manufacturing sites have reduced their energy intensity and emissions by about 30%, and improved landfill waste and water usage by over 40%. They also have various initiatives and goals, such as No deforestation, zero landfill waste and reduced water consumption which suggest Colgate is actively working to reduce the impact of their industrial processes. It would be ideal if Colgate maintained their ingredients transparency with their process, more clearly providing metrics of their use of energy, waste production and water treatment with each product line. Although we do not know the exact metrics and sustainability goals for this specific product’s manufacturing line, it is reasonable to think that it has increased it’s efficiency and cleanliness at a rate similar to the general trend of their overall manufacturing sites.
Things start well again in Colgate’s supply chain. Their Supplier Responsible Sourcing Assessment (SRSA) program asses the company’s providers to ensure they comply with social and environmental standards set at their own manufacturing sites. They also made a commitment to not source any materials from conflict zones. Unlike other companies, Colgate states they have successfully managed to source from conflict-free zones, and their thorough supply chain monitoring makes this claim credible. Furthermore, they support the most important international standards
on labor rights, following these principles: every worker should have freedom of movement, no worker should pay for a job and no worker should be indebted or coerced to work. This pledge from a global company is especial as they are committing to ensuring all of their workers around the world are treated with fair labor rights. With regards to diversity, the company has various programs to support equal pay, inclusion for various underrepresented groups and even screen their suppliers to fit their diversity goals. These many initiatives set a huge example, and demonstrate that the company is committed to support their employees, their communities and their well being.