History of Sustainability at Henkel

Henkel’s sustainability strategy has continuously evolved. When Fritz Henkel started his detergent business in 1876, his vision was to make people’s lives easier, better and more beautiful. From the very beginning, Henkel has taken responsibility for its employees, neighbors and the community. In 1912, a first-aid center was set up at the plant and a full-time nurse was hired. Since 1927, Henkel continuously improved its occupational safety through systematic accident prevention. The introduction in 1959 of regular ecological quality checks for detergents and household cleaners was one of the first steps to make sure that products and production had no harmful effect on the environment. In 1991, Henkel was one of the first companies to sign the Business Charter for Sustainable Development of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Today, worldwide management systems for safety, health, environment are in place, and the concept of sustainability is firmly anchored in Henkel’s corporate policy.

Milestones of Sustainability Orientation
1876Fritz Henkel founded Henkel & Cie in Aachen; workforce: 3 employees; manufacture of the first product named "Universal Laundry Detergent" based on waterglass.
1878First successful brands for home laundering in Germany: Henkel's "Bleich-Soda" (bleaching soda), a powdered mix of soda and waterglass.
1878Relocation of the company from Aachen to Düsseldorf-Flingern. Fritz Henkel arranges for office workers to receive free copies of the Düsseldorfer Stadtanzeiger (a local newspaper) to keep them up to date with current affairs.
1900Free midday meal for employees every day, construction of the first company apartments for employees.
1907Persil was developed as the first self-acting laundry detergent. It relieved housewives of the laborious rubbing by hand and the attendant wear and tear on the fabric.
1911Sport and games areas were provided for use during breaks.
1912A first-aid center was set up at the plant and a full-time nurse was hired.
1917Henkel employees elected their first representative body (workers' council).
1927Henkel became the first company in the chemical industry in Germany to employ a safety engineer, who was responsible for planned accident prevention. Alongside his safety tasks, he sought to improve conditions of work.
1933A welfare station was established on the site to offer advice to mothers, as well as care for infants and medical examinations for children.
1934Since 1927, systematic accident prevention work had reduced the number of accidents per 100 employees per year from 10 to 4.
1940Organization of a plant kindergarten as well as a site medical service staffed by volunteers.
1959Introduction of regular ecological quality checks for detergents and household cleaners.
1969Launch of the solvent-free Pritt glue stick and Persil 70. The enzyme-containing Persil 70 was given the claim "biologically active."
1971Setting up of the central department for environmental and consumer protection.
1976Launch of Proxidan – the first branded laundry detergent with reduced phosphate content.
1976Management Principles (since 1996: Guidelines for Teamwork and Leadership).
1980The first in-vitro tests were carried out in place of animal testing. Energy saving campaign as a consequence of the second oil crisis.
1982The first Fritz Henkel Awards for Innovation were presented to employees.
1986Principles of Environmental and Consumer Protection (since 1995: Principles and Objectives of Environmental Protection and Safety).
1986Launch of phosphate-free Persil in Germany.
1987Environmental protection is included as one of the aims in Henkel's corporate guidelines.
1990Systematic environmental protection training courses for all employees of Henkel KGaA.
1991Establishment of a works agreement on "Family and Work" between Henkel KGaA and the Works Council.
1991Signing of the Business Charter for Sustainable Development of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
1992Publication of the first Environment Report.
1994Corporate mission: Competitive advantages through eco leadership.
1995Publication of Guidelines for Teamwork and Leadership, which are binding for all Henkel employees worldwide.
1997Introduction of integrated management systems, binding company-wide SHE standards for safety, health and environment, and launch of worldwide SHE audits.
1998Founding of a central "SHE Coordination Circle" to accompany the implementation of the globally applicable SHE Standards.
1998Founding of the MIT Initiative (Make an Impact on Tomorrow) to support social volunteering by Henkel employees.
2000Introduction of Code of Conduct and Business Ethics.

The "SHE Coordination Circle" becomes the Henkel Sustainability Council as global Steering Committee chaired by the CEO.

2000The Henkel Environment Report is supplemented by social and corporate responsibility topics and becomes the Sustainability Report.
2001To mark the 125th anniversary of Henkel, support provided for 125 country projects.
2003Declaration of participation in the United Nations Global Compact.
2004Grouping of worldwide social responsibility activities under the umbrella of Henkel Smile.
2005Introduction of Code of Corporate Sustainability.
2005Henkel is the first company to sign the "Charter for Sustainable Cleaning" of the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (A.I.S.E.).
2006SHE-Standards supplemented by social standards and purchasing guidelines throughout the company.
2007Definition of the five Henkel focal areas of sustainable development and introduction of corporate sustainability objectives for 2012.
2008Henkel participates in a pilot project on "product carbon footprints" in Germany.
2009Introduction of global policy on "Diversity & Inclusion".


Introduction of the "Representation of Interest in Public Affairs" standard. Redefined Vision and Values as a contribution to Henkel's "winning culture."
2011Fritz Henkel Foundation now provides the umbrella for all social engagement activities.
2011New Sustainability Strategy 2030.

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Last updated: March 8, 2012