Toothpaste and cleaners and shampoo, oh my! Colgate vs. Unilever

Beauty and personal care giants, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive have been named as being amongst the top 10 biggest plastic polluters worldwide in a new report from The Changing Markets Foundation, named ‘Talking Trash: The Corporate Playbook of False Solutions.’ Dozens. Both companies have an array of several different products that can be seen in stores throughout the country. What is the actual difference between these two?

Deciding which consumer goods company to support can be a tough decision, so we’ve tried to break down both chains and what your purchase will support.


Why you should trust us

At Ethically, we compile scores from over 700 verified sources to create a granular profile of more than 10,000 companies and brands, evaluating their impact on the environment, society at large, and good business. You can learn more about Ethically’s process in our Methodology and you can see the scores yourself by downloading the Ethically browser extension.

The companies


Colgate-Palmolive Company is an American multinational consumer products company headquartered on Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It specializes in the production, distribution and provision of household, health care, personal care and veterinary products.


Unilever is a British multinational consumer goods company headquartered in London, England. Unilever products include food, confections (candy), energy drinks, baby food, soft drinks, cheese, ice cream, tea, cleaning agents, instant coffee, pet food, bottled water, toothpaste, chewing gum, frozen pizza, pregnancy tests, juice, margarine and spreads (Upfield), beauty products, personal care, breakfast cereals, pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare products. Unilever is the largest producer of soap in the world. Unilever’s products are available in around 190 countries.

Scores Overview

These two companies are close when it comes to their ESG measurements. There are few small differences that make one company’s score a bit higher than the other. 
Overall, Colgate scored a 59/100 and Unilever scored a 63/100. Unilever’s score advantage over Colgate is highlighted in the three score categories but is especially significant in the Environment category. 

Let’s dive in (Reminder, check out our Methodology for definitions on each of these subtopic scores)

Impact on the environment

Impact on the environment relates to how a company or brand impacts the natural world around us. This could be related to the products they create, their manufacturing policies, or even their corporate response to climate change. Colgate and Unilever both impact the environment in a number of ways, from their manufacturing policies to the products they produce. Below are more details comparing these two companies. 


Score: 65


Score: 74


Unilever significantly beats Colgate in this category, with the scores being 74 to 65. This category has to do with the companies’ compliance with environmental regulations, energy efficient operations and development of renewable energy and alternative environmental technologies. 

Double clicking on that score difference, Unilever scored a 80/100 in Energy & Climate Change, a 75/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 66/100 in Resource Management. On the other hand, Colgate scored a 72/100 in Energy & Climate Change, a 57/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 65/100 in Resource Management.

Impact on social responsibility

Social responsibility includes all the things that make a company “good”. Whether that’s giving back to the community, standing up for equal rights, treating workers fairly. Colgate and Unilever both have a number of policies around LGBTQ+ rights, community outreach, and equal pay and rights for all.


Score: 62


Score: 63


The first one point  difference can be noted within the Social Responsibility category, where Colgate scores a 62/100 and Unilever scores a 63/100.This category includes all programs, policies and performance in diversity, labor relations and labor rights. It also focuses on compensation and benefits as well as employee safety. 

The major differences were the respective companies’ Diversity and Labor rights rankings Colgate: 63 vs. Unilever: 68, Training, Health & Safety rankings Colgate: 65 vs. Unilever: 62 and Compensation with Colgate: 58 vs. Unilever: 59 score.

Quality of corporate governance

Corporate governance is much like social responsibility, but for how the company operates internally. Do they have a diverse board? Is there transparency in accounting? Are they doing what they need to do to survive and operate in an ethical and correct manner? Colgate and Unilever both are large public companies with shareholders and boards they answer to.


Score: 54


Score: 55


Unilever has another one point advantage over Colgate, with the Governance score being 54 to 55. The Governance score refers to leadership structure and the values that determine corporate direction, ethics and performance.

Upon further analysis, Unilever pulls away from Colgate in the rankings of Board (57 vs 55), in Transparency & Reporting (53 vs 54) and in Leadership Ethics (53 vs 54).


Ethically partners with CSRHub as a primary data source, which in turn, aggregates over 700 data sources, compiling them into simple, easy to digest grades. 

Colgate and Unilever infiltrate the market with dozens of different products. Understanding the practices and policies of each company gives consumers the power to determine what they will and will not support.

Unilever’s score is four points higher than Colgate’s. As observed throughout the comparisons, Colgate lacks behind in the Environment Category; however, both companies score similarly in the Social Responsibility and Governance categories. If you’re a Colgate advocate and want to see more evidence that they’re committed to these areas, email our CEO at and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

If you want to stay up to date on how these companies are progressing with their scores, make sure you download Ethically. We pull data regularly to make sure our scores reflect how companies are doing today, not years ago.

As always, please check out our Methodology page for more details on how we get our ratings data.

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