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In this interview, we talk to Cathleen Siemen, Sustainability Manager Europe; and Irina Chivu-Garip, Head of Scientific Affairs Europe, for Colgate-Palmolive.
The word SMILE is used widely in oral health.
The global giant Colgate-Palmolive uses the word too! Except in this case SMILE is all about sustainability. It headlines its 2025 Sustainability and Social Impact Strategy which has three main ambitions.
Social, there’s the “S”, helping millions of homes, there’s the “MIL” and environment, the “E”.
“It is part of our purpose, we are caring, and that includes for us both people and the planet. It is also how we want to grow our business,” says Cathleen Siemen.
Colgate-Palmolive products are in more homes than any other company, and with that lies responsibility. Cathleen adds: “We see in consumer data that they clearly expect from us that we tackle these big problems of our times, and of course we agree.”
S is for Social includes treating staff and communities in the right way with diversity, equality and inclusion and supporting wellbeing.
MIL is for helping millions of homes. “That’s actually where the magic happens with regards to the 60% of households we reach worldwide because that’s about the impact of more sustainable products we can offer and also the habits we can change,” enthuses Cathleen.
The third pillar is E for environment: eliminating plastic waste, saving water etc. Colgate-Palmolive is proud of its recyclable toothpaste tube, but if it ends up in the normal bin that is pointless. “We are engaged on various fronts to help make recycling more effective and we try to make the process clearer for people,” says Cathleen. Cost is important too, the Colgate-Palmolive recyclable toothpaste tube is cost neutral to the consumer.
Prevention is a huge part of the whole “save the planet” vibe at the company. “It definitely starts with adopting healthy habits, and taking care of your mouth has benefits throughout your lifetime,” says Irina Chivu-Garip. “Even from the very early stage when they get the first tooth, children need to be assisted to make sure they adopt proper oral hygiene.”
Colgate-Palmolive has its Bright Smiles, Bright Future programme helping over a billion children understand and practice good oral health.
Social outreach is vital. In the UK, Colgate supports a bus that provides the homeless community with access to oral care. Irina adds that In Germany a bus is also “visiting schools and kindergartens to educate little kids about oral health.”
When it comes to prevention, one of the most important things for Colgate-Palmolive is working closely with the EFP.
“We share the same goal, of helping people live healthier lives,” says Irina. “The biggest asset is to unite our forces. We come with a lot of expertise in communications, while EFP has a very well structured process which enables very high quality evidence-based guidelines output.”
Marrying the two skillsets allowed for a very successful initiative to get the prevention message out to the wider world with the Perio and Caries campaign.
Caries and periodontitis are more of a burden worldwide than heart disease or diabetes. Most people think they are inevitable, but they can be prevented with good oral hygiene and using effective products!
“We do know that prevention is a key component of sustainability.”
Irina adds: “As we keep people healthy, we for sure won’t have all those costs to treat those diseases.”
Whether it is prevention, turning the water off as you brush, or using a reusable toothbrush handle, it is about getting everyone working together. Practitioners, partners, consumers; and it has to be scaled up to change the world!
Enough to make you SMILE about the future!