Colgate-Palmolive is a household brand name. Most homes have at least one of their products somewhere; whether it is the Colgate toothpaste, Irish Spring soap, laundry detergent, and many more. They are a large multinational company headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, and have over 39,000 employees in over 70 countries. As a large employer, who produces products to make people healthier, it seemed obvious to put in place a wellness program to improve the health of their own employees.
Eiji Nakagawa, director of global benefits at Colgate-Palmolive shared their strategy for global wellness at the 5th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress.
The sustainability strategy for Colgate-Palmolive focuses on three areas; people, performance, and planet. First, the commitment to people is based on promoting healthier lives and giving back to the community. Performance is dedicated to offering high quality products to the consumer. Finally, the commitment to the planet focuses on conserving water and reducing the impact on the environment.
Because employees are their core area, it became natural for the company to worry about the health of their workers. The aim of the wellness plan thus is to “encourage all Colgate people to proactively manage their health.” The motto and brand of the program is “Live Better,” which is translated into the language of the site. The idea behind “Live Better” is start with simple changes everyone can make to improve their health; instead of taking the elevator use the stairs, park a little further away from the door, and so on.
The actual wellness initiative was launched in 2011, when “Live Better” was introduced at the Global General Managers Meeting. This is a critical step. A wellness program, regardless of its size and scope, will never succeed without support from the management.
Fortunately, the global and country managers liked the idea; and even better for the program, became active participants in the program. A health assessment was given to each country to discover what the health issue was in each location.
A health assessment is a survey completed by the individual to determine what health risks the person in question has, if any. It was discovered that the big three issues globally were stress, inactivity and poor eating habits.
In 2012 the focus was on sustainability and keeping the momentum going. The theme for the year was “One World, One Goal”. During this initiative, an activity challenge was launched, with an online tracking tool. Colgate-Palmolive also began to focus on stress management in the global resiliency campaign; which included a customized toolkit for each individual country. The advantage of the toolkit is that it allows the program to be tailored to the needs of each country.
A difficult issue with any wellness program, especially one involving such a large corporation and financial commitment, is measuring return on investment (ROI). Colgate-Palmolive did manage to track it and found some interesting results. They were able to reduce health risks by 15 percent and health costs by 5 percent.
The tracking of data is important for these programs; it allows the administrator to track what is work, what is not, and what needs to change. With this data in hand it becomes clear that the program is complete success.
In the future Colgate-Palmolive plans to continue to keep up the momentum of their wellness initiative. They also plan on extending the program to the community, not only to the employees. It is because of their focus on sustainability and keeping up momentum that the program has been as successful as it has been, in such a short time.
A drop in medical costs is one of the goals of a U.S. based wellness program, but it is not always the case outside of the country because many governments pay for their citizens health needs the employer does not need to worry about healthcare costs.
Colgate-Palmolive still has programs in these countries however. It is the commitment to making healthier people that drives the program, the benefits of lower costs is just an added bonus at Colgate-Palmolive.