Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Consumer Products (under development)

Lead PI: Dr. Christoph Johannes Meinrenken , Satyajit Bose , Dr. Steven Alan Cohen

Unit Affiliation: Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management (SPM)

January 2020 - Ongoing
Global ; North America
Project Type: Research Outreach Education

DESCRIPTION: Global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most urgent and extensive global threats confronting the world today. Despite our awareness of its harm, the level of global emissions continues to rise. Emissions associated with the manufacture and distribution of consumer products make up more than 70% of all human-created greenhouse gas emissions. Companies that measure and report the carbon footprint of some of their products have been shown to lower those footprints significantly.

For this project, Columbia World Projects would partner with the World Resources Institute (WRI), a global research organization that works to sustain natural resources, and leading consumer goods companies, including the Colgate-Palmolive Company. Together they would build a new open-source methodology for managing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with Colgate’s and other partners’ consumer products. The project will use fast product carbon footprinting, a data science-based, largely automated, economical and scalable approach developed by researchers at Columbia University. The approach uses machine learning to analyze the footprints of tens of thousands of products across a company’s portfolio and evaluates how to reduce the carbon emitted as they are produced and distributed.

The Colgate-Palmolive Company would spearhead the project via an early pilot which would analyze the carbon footprints of a considerable portion of Colgate's portfolio and integrate the results into Colgate’s decision architecture to inform various initiatives aimed at reducing the company’s emissions. WRI will track the methodology’s alignment with accepted carbon footprinting standards and ensure that it can be used for other commercial products at any other companies. Additional research will focus on how to best educate the public about the importance of product-embedded carbon emissions through media coverage and how consumers use such environmental information when making purchasing choices.


Columbia World Projects




Alison Miller


Columbia World Projects


Colgate-Palmolive Company



carbon footprint emissions


Decarbonizing the Planet Sustainable living