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May 16, 2014
Colgate-Palmolive Commits to Emissions Reductions
    by Robert Kropp

Shareowner engagement by Walden Asset Management leads to agreement by the company to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with standards recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

When Ceres and Sustainalytics published Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability recently, the report noted that while a majority of large companies are taking steps to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, only about one-third “have established time-bound targets for such reductions.”

“Given the acceleration of environmental and social challenges globally – floods, droughts, and workplace tragedies – most US corporations are not keeping pace with the level of change,” Ceres president Mindy Lubber said.

Recently published reports on climate change, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US Global Change Research Program agree that the effects of climate change are already being felt today.

Even the military is warning of dire consequences; a military advisory board, consisting of retired generals and admirals, recently reported that “Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national security challenges for the United States.”

Under such conditions, one more corporation agreeing to emissions reduction targets won't tip the balance, but it does seem reasonable to hope that Colgate-Palmolive committing to targets might be the latest in a potential wave of companies to do so. This week, Walden Asset Management announced that as a result of its engagement, Colgate-Palmolive has publicly committed to reducing its GHG emissions by 25% by 2020 and 50% by 2050. The IPCC has recommended such reductions as necessary in order to keep increases in global temperatures from exceeding 2°C.

“This commitment couldn’t come at a more important time,” Timothy Smith and Aaron Ziulkowski of Walden stated in a press release. “The latest round of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading scientific authority on climate change, underscore the importance of robust action now, and the global community is working to develop a next generation climate agreement.”

“With this commitment, Colgate‐Palmolive is demonstrating that reducing GHG emissions is good for the planet and good for business,” they continued. “We hope that this commitment will serve as a catalyst for other companies considering GHG goals for the first time, and those that are setting new goals.”

Colgate has long been one of the champions of sustainability in the corporate world. It has been reporting its GHG emissions to CDP since 2004. In 2012, following shareowner engagement by Calvert Investments, it agreed to publish a sustainability report that includes a policy on sourcing sustainable palm oil. And engagement by As You Sow led to the company agreeing to make all packaging in three of its four product groups recyclable by 2020.

“Until now, our goals have focused on energy use per ton of product,” Colgate stated in its most recent sustainability report. “Given the urgent need for action on climate change and reflecting our values of Caring and Continuous Improvement, we consulted with Walden Asset Management to develop rigorous goals for the next phase of our strategy.”

“Colgate‐Palmolive’s actions should also serve as proof positive to our political leaders that robust action on climate change is imperative,” Walden stated.


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