Sustainability as a driver for innovation

Our consumers rightly expect products to satisfy the criteria of quality, environmental compatibility, and social responsibility in equal measure. And this is also our aim. Our brands combine excellent performance with responsibility toward people and the environment. We view this combination as the central driver for innovations and the basis for our future competitiveness.

The principle is applied as early as the product development stage. Each new product must make a contribution in at least one of our six focal areas. To make the advances we have achieved transparent and quantifiable, we have worked together with the Center on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP) in Wuppertal, Germany, to develop appropriate assessment models, which come together in the Henkel Sustainability#Master. At the heart of this tool is an evaluation of economic, ecological and social criteria throughout the value chain of a product.

Efficient products for sustainable consumption

We have set ourselves the goal of promoting sustainable consumption. Our products are the key here, because our brands are used daily in millions of households. We thus concentrate on developing products that enable consumers to use resources efficiently.

Current examples of energy-efficient products are Somat 10 and our low-temperature laundry detergents. Persil Megaperls and Purex Cold Water are two such laundry detergents that deliver their full cleaning power even at low wash temperatures. Energy savings of up to 40 percent can be achieved simply by reducing the washing temperature by 10 degrees – from 40 to 30 degrees Celsius, for instance. Mega-Caps – our newly introduced form of liquid laundry detergent concentrates – are examples of an efficient use of materials. Besides developing better products and solutions, we want to make it easier for consumers to make responsible purchasing decisions. Through targeted communication, we point out the advantages of our products and encourage resource-efficient use – for example, by means of our laundry calculator on the internet:

Persil Mega-Caps: Self-dissolving film capsules with liquid laundry detergent concentrate

Photo Persil Mega-Caps pack

Under our Persil, Le Chat and Dixan brands, Henkel has launched an innovative product on the European liquid laundry detergents market: Mega-Caps – water-soluble film capsules containing a liquid laundry detergent concentrate. The pre-portioned doses are not only especially user-friendly, but also effectively prevent overdosage. The liquid laundry detergent is encapsulated in a thin film that is 100 percent water-soluble. In direct contact with the laundry in the washing machine, the capsules provide full washing power even at low temperatures. In Germany, the washing capsules are packaged in a flexible stand-up pouch. This requires less plastic material than conventional bottles.


Further development of the European A.I.S.E. Charter for Sustainable Cleaning

In 2005, Henkel became the first company to fulfill the criteria of the A.I.S.E. Charter for Sustainable Cleaning. All companies that sign the Charter pledge to continuously improve their processes and to report annually on their economic, ecological and social advances, using defined indicators. More than 150 companies have now joined this initiative. Together, these indicators now reflect more than 85 percent of the European tonnage of laundry and home care products.

The A.I.S.E. Charter was revised in 2010, and a new dimension was introduced specifically for products. It is now possible to show that a product was not only manufactured by a company with sustainable business practices, but itself has a progressive sustainability profile. Four criteria are of particular importance here: the environmental safety of the ingredients; resource efficiency with regard to dosage and packaging materials; washing performance at low temperatures; and consumer information. Only products that satisfy all of the defined requirements can communicate this to consumers on the packaging by means of a new A.I.S.E. Charter logo introduced in July 2011. Our laundry detergents are among them.

Worldwide: Continuous improvements

We also continue to develop the sustainability profile of our products in all other markets and regions in which we operate. In the USA, for example, we extensively redesigned the bath and bowl cleaner of our Soft Scrub brand in 2011. The new formula contains a sugar-based surfactant. 70 percent of the active ingredients are derived from renewable raw materials. A “cold” manufacturing process ensures that less energy is consumed during production. We also changed the packaging material, which is now recyclable.

As a result, this Soft Scrub product has been certified and was included in 2011 in the Design for the Environment program of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Other examples include our laundry detergents Vash, Pak and Persil in the Middle East, which we switched to phosphate-free formulas in 2011. In addition, we constantly look for new packaging solutions to reduce the volume of packaging waste for consumers.

Responsible management of raw materials

Henkel has been using ingredients based on renewable raw materials for decades. In 2011, about 30 percent of the washing active substances (surfactants) in our laundry detergents and household cleaners were derived from renewable raw materials. This is clearly above the average in the laundry and home care industry as a whole. We are aware of our responsibility regarding the purchase and use of these raw materials. Since many ingredients in our products are obtained from vegetable raw materials such as palm kernel oil, we engage in activities to improve the cultivation conditions in the producing countries and to establish new marketing models for palm oil from sustainably managed plantations.

For our laundry detergents and household cleaners, we plan to have the palm oil and palm kernel oil supplied as raw materials for direct and indirect use in our products covered 100 percent by RSPO certificates for sustainably cultivated palm oil before the end of 2012. The Laundry & Home Care business will thus achieve the Henkel target ahead of schedule.

Better meeting customer expectations of “green” products

Photo Terra bottle

In developing the Terra line, our main aim was to produce a range of products that combined outstanding product performance with an especially high degree of environmental compatibility. The target group was defined as the LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) – consumers who expect high quality and place great emphasis on ecological aspects.

Within a short time, we were able to raise awareness of the brand among this target group and generate a very positive response. At the same time, the product line was not as successful as expected in all segments. A main reason for this is that the ecological benefit was not always clear enough to many consumers to convince them to buy Terra. We used this experience to optimize the marketing strategy for the Terra line. Among other things, we rephrased the statements concerning the ingredients, more clearly emphasizing the differentiating feature of our use of “renewable raw materials derived from plants instead of petroleum.” Surveys have shown that these measures have now led to greater consumer acceptance.

Experiences like these help us to better understand what consumers expect from “green” products and to use these insights to further develop our brands. We thus considered it important to take a new approach regarding the Terra packages. Since the end of 2011, the bottles for Terra dishwashing liquid, bathroom and glass cleaners have been made of 100 percent recycled PET material.

Adaptation to local consumer needs

The relaunch of the DAC products in 2011 was accompanied by an extensive communication campaign. TV commercials, promotions in stores, and communication through social media channels were all designed to raise consumer awareness of the importance of hygiene, see Dac-Home. Furthermore, we ensure that the active ingredients used not only deliver excellent hygiene performance, but are also health-compatible. For example, we pay special attention to the needs of allergy sufferers and people with sensitive skin. Seven Henkel laundry detergents have already been acclaimed as especially skin-compatible and allergy-friendly by the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF).

Research for the laundry detergent of the future

Since 2011, we have been engaging in joint research with the Max Planck Institute for Carbon Research on the use of biomass for laundry detergents. The aim of this collaboration is to develop washing-active substances derived from renewable raw materials such as wood and plant fibers that would otherwise be treated as waste. The Institute conducts the basic research on the catalytic splitting of biomass, while Henkel performs application tests to investigate the suitability of the developed substances for use in laundry detergents. This cooperation illustrates our endeavors to replace petroleum-based ingredients.

Brand engagement: "El Balad Baladna" –
This Country is Our Country

Photo Henkel employees

Week after week at the end of 2010, the people in Egypt went onto the streets to demonstrate for more democracy and freedom. In February 2011, a revolution finally ousted the old regime. The demonstrations left their mark on Cairo's streets. This was the starting point for a project sponsored by Henkel: "Working together for a new Egypt." To clean up Cairo, volunteers – including Henkel employees – worked their way through the streets of Cairo, scrubbing the sidewalks and removing graffiti from the city's walls. Through Facebook and Twitter, people were also able to propose new cities to the Henkel cleaning team and vote on where it should go next.

“We are constantly searching for new opportunities to develop better products, leaner supply chains, and stronger partnerships with our customers and consumers.”

Photo Pete HE
Pete He
Responsible for sustainability in the Laundry & Home Care business sector in the USA.
Photo Persil bottle
Since July 2011, Henkel has been using the new A.I.S.E. Charter logo in its product communication.
Photo Soft Scrub bottle

The Soft Scrub bath and bowl cleaner in the USA was included in the Design for the Environment program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in recognition of its recyclable packaging.


Photo DAC bottle
In the Middle East and North Africa, our DAC Disinfectant delivers outstanding cleaning results and prevents new bacterial growth for 24 hours. In Germany, Persil Hygiene Rinse eliminates up to 99.99 percent of all bacteria, even at washing temperatures as low as 15 degrees Celsius.

Last updated: March 8, 2012