Responsible use of raw materials

Henkel is committed to responsible management of raw materials, and especially the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity. We have used ingredients based on renewable raw materials for many years to optimize the overall characteristics of our products, wherever this is compatible with ecological, economic and social considerations. A core objective of our research and development is to replace ingredients derived from mineral oil. Raw materials from renewable sources are being sought for this purpose. Starch- and cellulose-based raw materials are examples of ecologically and economically interesting alternatives. This is because they are available from numerous sources, such as corn, potatoes, cotton, and bast plants, and because their utilization reduces dependency on mineral oil, which is a finite and increasingly expensive resource. Renewable raw materials are already key ingredients in many of our laundry detergents, shower gels, glue sticks, wallpaper pastes, and packaging adhesives.

Renewable raw materials in our laundry detergents

Renewable raw materials are historically one of the major sources of raw materials for detergents and household cleaners. Soap – which has traditionally been used to wash laundry as well as for personal hygiene – has been made for centuries from vegetable or animal oils and fats. Today most detergents and household cleaners consist of a large number of ingredients, each with its own special function.

Most bulk ingredients of detergents and household cleaners are inorganic and cannot be replaced by ingredients based on renewable raw materials. Surfactants are an important exception. They consist of a lipophilic – fat-loving – part, which is obtained from vegetable or mineral oils, and a hydrophilic – water-loving – part, which is usually based on mineral oil or is inorganic. Surfactants which consist only of renewable raw materials, such as alkylpolyglycosides, are the exception.

To achieve the best possible washing performance, we use a mixture of different surfactants. In more than half of them, the lipophilic part is based on renewable raw materials – a result of our many years of experience with ingredients based on renewable oils and fats such as palm kernel oil, which can only be used for industrial purposes. The proportion of renewable raw materials in surfactants for our detergents and household cleaners is about 30 percent. The other 70 percent are accounted for by inorganic and mineral-oil-based ingredients.

Cosmetics based on natural and renewable raw materials

In the cosmetics sector, nature-based raw materials are used in all product groups. We refer to the use of individual nature-based active ingredients or fragrances in our products if these are associated with specific properties – for example, the care properties of shea butter and yogurt or the soothing effect of aloe vera.

Furthermore, we are working to increase the proportion of ingredients based on renewable raw materials in our cosmetic products, wherever this is both possible and appropriate. If mineral-oil-based ingredients in a formulation are replaced by starch-based ones, this increases the overall proportion of renewable raw materials and helps to conserve fossil resources. Regarding ingredients based on both renewable raw materials and mineral oil, only the renewable fraction is taken into account. Wherever possible, we calculate the percentage of renewable raw materials referred to the dry weight of our products. In certain markets and product categories it is common practice to include the water contained in the formulation in the calculation as well. More than two-thirds of the ingredients of the product formulations of our soaps, shampoos and shower gels are now based on renewable raw materials. The use of ingredients obtained from renewable raw materials is also on the rise in styling products. For example, thickener systems derived from mineral oils (polyacrylates) are being replaced by starch- and cellulose-based systems.

We are also committed to considering ecological and social aspects when we purchase renewable raw materials. We increasingly use ingredients from controlled organic crops in our formulations.

Natural adhesion

Renewable raw materials such as starch, cellulose, dextrins and proteins are used in many consumer and craftsmen adhesives and in industrial adhesives for a large range of applications. For example, we utilize renewable raw materials in glue sticks, wallpaper pastes, and packaging adhesives. Bottle labeling adhesives contain as much as 45 percent.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

Photo RSPO Certificate

Of course, we do not simply switch to renewable raw materials without considering the consequences. We must always be sure that we are improving the situation from an ecological, economic and social point of view. This becomes clear when one considers the increasing competition between the food and the fuel industries for land to cultivate the appropriate crops. Another example is the growing pressure on uncultivated areas (e.g. rain forests), which is posing an increasing threat to biodiversity and the livelihood of local populations.

Henkel uses – indirectly, via its raw materials suppliers – less than 0.2 percent of the world's palm oil and palm kernel oil as a raw material. Within our industry, however, our products occupy a leading position regarding the use of these resources, as about 30 percent of the surfactants we use in our laundry detergents and household cleaners are derived from coconut oil and palm kernel oil. This is why we see it as our duty to exercise responsibility by taking part in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which we have been doing since 2003. This organization promotes the sustainable production of palm oil and is an advocate of a certification and marketing model for palm oil from sustainable cultivation.

Since early 2011, we have also been an initiator and steering committee member of the "Forum on Sustainable Palm Oil" (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). The goal of this initiative – a collaborative effort of both manufacturers and retailers – is to promote sustainable palm oil worldwide. Its work is based on the standards defined by the RSPO, which it intends to refine and amplify.

We were the first company in the world to purchase palm kernel oil certificates, for the products of our Terra brand. We therefore helped to ensure that palm kernel oil from sustainably cultivated palm trees enters the supply chain for the production of surfactants. Since 2012, Henkel has been purchasing certificates for sustainable palm kernel oil to cover our entire range of laundry and home care products. We plan to build on this by taking further steps to focus the product portfolios of all of our business sectors on certified sustainable palm and palm kernel oil by 2015. The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) rated Henkel among the top performers in its international Palm Oil Buyers' Scorecard 2011, awarding the company the highest possible score (nine out of nine points).

Initiative on protecting woods and biodiversity

Logo Consumer Goods Forum

Henkel is one of the signatories to the Consumer Goods Forum resolution on deforestation and biodiversity. The participating companies are committed to taking individual and collective initiatives to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. In the case of Henkel, this mainly affects its purchasing of raw materials and other materials such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and paper.

Photo Terra products
The bottles for our Terra brand glass and bathroom cleaners and dishwashing liquid are made of 100 percent recycled material (PET).
Photo Dial Naturals

94 percent of the ingredients in the soaps and body washes of our Dial Naturals line in the USA are derived from renewable raw materials, and they are readily biodegradable.

Photo Pritt Stick

In the year 2000, we switched our Pritt Stick to a formulation based on renewable raw materials, which now account for 90 percent of its dry weight.

Last updated: March 8, 2012