SDG Pioneer for Sustainability Goal-Setting

Sonay Aykan

Senior Associate Manager Global Sustainability

Colgate-Palmolive Co.

United States of America

At Colgate-Palmolive Co. headquarters in New York City, Sonay Aykan draws upon his passion for wildlife and justice to help steer the multinational conglomerate’s sustainability efforts.

“I'm always impressed with what nature has to offer for us, and I believe in equity not only among humans, but actually all living beings around us,” he says. 

For his work championing sustainability in the private sector, Aykan, who is originally from Turkey, was named the 2021 SDG Pioneer for Sustainability Goal-Setting by the UN Global Compact.

Colgate-Palmolive, guided by Aykan’s vision, has been working hard with its suppliers globally on three Sustainable Development Goals in particular - No. 9 on industry innovation and infrastructure, No. 12 on responsible consumption and production and No. 13 on climate action.

“The ideal outcome of this project will be to reduce our emissions from purchased goods and services by 30 per cent by 2025, and it will also contribute to reach our net zero carbon goal by 2040,” Aykan says.

Aykan led development of an assessment process that asked thousands of Colgate-Palmolive employees in more than 100 countries about sustainability and what ESG topics they saw as risks or opportunities, using the Sustainable Development Goals as its basis.

The project also engaged senior leadership in one-on-one interviews, asking which of the SDGs might pose risks or opportunities to their day-to-day operations.

“By doing so, we socialized the SDGs at every level of the company and collected significant data on how each SDG might impact our business,” he says.

Aykan also created a roadmap for expanded supply chain engagement to reduce the company’s Scope 3 emissions from purchased goods and services in its supply chains  to align with climate change mitigation and reduced water usage practices. 

In 2020 he won funding to analyze both the monetary and non-monetary risks to Colgate-Palmolive that might occur under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s climate action scenarios. The findings can be used in business decisions that help the company align its climate action decisions and policies.

He also has collaborated with scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, exploring innovative strategies to reduce the company’s plastic footprint in the oceans. One research project looked at e-trade, and another focused on reducing the amount of plastics used in toothbrushes, he said. 

Colgate-Palmolive became a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact in 2017, and is a member of its Climate & Health and its Water Security action platforms.

“I'm proud of the collective effort my colleagues and the suppliers are putting into this project,” he says. “I will be more proud if it helps create a more equitable world that we share with all the other living beings.”

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