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Global CSR Report: Henkel is pioneering sustainability for over 140 years

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German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel is leading the global movement towards a circular economy. It is the name behind many well-known brands in adhesive tech, home and beauty such as Bonderite, Aquence and Schwarzkopf. For more than 140 years since its inception in 1876, Henkel is pioneering sustainability through a visionary approach to supporting environmental and social progress. It’s no surprise then, that EcoVadis conferred Henkel with the 2019 Best Portfolio CSR Performance Improvement award in the field of sustainable procurement management. The recognition is coming from all corners. For its CSR work in Indonesia, it won an award from Fortasbi (Indonesian Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil Producers) at the RSPO Round Table in November 2019.
We present excerpts from the company’s 2019 global sustainability report.

1. Henkel is pioneering sustainability globally

As a globally active company with suppliers from around 120 countries, with production sites on six continents and a global presence through our three business units, Henkel understands sustainable business to mean acting responsibly and contributing to sustainable development together with business partners.
Henkel is pioneering sustainability with a long-term vision and an entrepreneurial spirit that covers all aspects of the value chain.

1.1. Commitments towards sustainable packaging

Henkel is committed to cross-industry initiatives for sustainable packaging. The conglomerate is a founding member of a new initiative focusing on plastic waste, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW). Close to 30 international companies along the value chain for plastics and consumer goods have joined forces to tackle the global challenge of a circular economy together. The aim of the alliance is to promote solutions that put a stop to plastic waste in the environment, especially in the ocean. Another example is Henkel’s membership in the New Plastics Economy (NPEC), an initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that brings key stakeholders together to rethink and reshape the future of plastics and build momentum toward a circular economy.
In October 2018, the New Plastics Economy introduced its Global Commitment, which has been signed by more than 400 organizations – including Henkel. The collective goal is to stop plastic waste and pollution at the source. Henkel is also founding member of CEFLEX, a consortium of more than 130 European companies and organizations aiming to make flexible packaging – which usually consists of multiple layers of film or foil that are often difficult to separate – easier to recycle.

2. Aligning with Sustainable Development Goals

Henkel supports the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by the 193 United Nations Member States in September 2015. The SDGs represent an important step toward a shared understanding of the challenges that we need to tackle worldwide to enable sustainable development. They cover the entire scope of sustainability topics that are relevant to all stakeholders – from industrial and developing countries through to emerging economies, as well as companies, NGOs, and participants from all industries and sectors along the value chain.
By providing a level of mutual understanding on the international level, these goals help to structure discussions on a national and industry level. They serve as guidelines for various organizations to identify priorities and enter into partnerships. As a company, Henkel is convinced that the goals provide a shared focus that can empower collaborative action and will accelerate progress toward sustainability. Sustainable consumption, packaging and plastics, combating climate change, human rights, equal opportunities and education are important topics for the conglomerate.
Henkel’s activities support almost all of the SDGs because it has a long history of working intensively on various aspects of sustainability, as well as a broad product portfolio and a presence across diverse markets.

2.1. Access to education (aligned with SDG 1, 14 and 17)

Henkel aims to promote access to high-quality education and increase the number of young people and adults with relevant competencies and skills. Schwarzkopfʼs Million Chances initiative was launched in 2016 to support women and girls in building a successful future for themselves. Henkel is also the main supporter of the Teach First Germany programme. In this way, it supports the engagement of university graduates and future leaders, who, as supplementary teachers, help schools and students in socially disadvantaged communities and social focus areas.

2.2. Promoting sustainable palm oil (aligned with SDG 1, 8, 13, 15, 17)

As part of CSR, the company aims to support sustainable practices in the palm oil industry along the entire value chain. By supporting sustainable palm (kernel) oil, it contributes to sustainable forest management and prevents deforestation. Collaboration with representatives from across the industry is at the heart of the approach. The team aims to increase the availability of sustainable palm oil and palm kernel oil on the market, for example, through collaborative projects that enable smallholder farmers to certify their crops as sustainable, increase productivity and improve their livelihoods.

2.3. Committed to protecting the climate (aligned with SDG 7 and 13)

In view of the urgent need to reduce CO2 emissions, it is Henkel’s long-term vision to become a climate-positive company by 2040 and make progress in further relevant parts of our value chain. As a first step, it plans to achieve a 75% reduction in the carbon footprint of production by 2030. It also wants to obtain 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

2.4. Turning waste into opportunities (aligned with SDG 1, 14, 17)

Henkel wants to reduce the flow of waste into the oceans, while also contributing to protecting our oceans. In 2017, Henkel became the first major global consumer goods company to work with the social enterprise Plastic Bank. In 2019, it extended this partnership for another five years. Since the start of the collaboration, Plastic Bank has opened several collection points for plastic waste in Haiti with the help of Henkel. The local population can return collected plastic to the collection centres and exchange it for money, goods or services. This creates value from waste before it can enter waterways or the sea.

2.5. Promoting sustainable consumption (aligned with SDG 12, 13, 17)

The company supports the goal of promoting sustainable and resource-efficient consumption. Its products and technologies are key to this because they are used in millions of households and industrial processes every day. The focus is on developing products that lead to resource efficiency in everyday use. Henkel also strives to encourage responsible use of our products through targeted communication. This is important because the environmental footprint of many of our products is determined during the use phase. The Henkel footprint calculator helps individuals to calculate their CO2 footprint.

2.6. Improving quality of life (aligned with SDG 1, 2, 17)

With social engagement, Henkel aims to support people around the globe and improve their quality of life. For example, volunteer efforts by employees have provided support for social projects in Uganda for many years. Supporting children is important because the country has a high child mortality rate due to poor nutrition and insufficient medical care. Corporate citizenship of this kind has been an integral part of the CSR culture ever since the company was established by Fritz Henkel in 1876.

2.6.1. Henkel CSR initiatives in India

In India, Henkel is working with local producers, like the organization Niine, to develop affordable, high-quality feminine care products. There are more than 350 million girls and women in India, but less than 20% currently have access to solutions for managing their menstrual cycles. In cooperation with a sanitary awareness campaign from the Indian government, Niine employs local women to produce these products close to where they are needed and invests in the health education of girls and women. Henkel supports Niine with adhesives, while its teams of experts also help to get the production process set up and optimized.

3. Corporate volunteering

Employees are actively committed to ensuring that our brands and technologies make significant positive contributions to environmental and social challenges. They are the interface to the company’s customers and consumers. In 2012, Henkel initiated the Sustainability Ambassador programme to encourage employees to engage even more strongly with the topic of sustainability.

3.1. Employees as Sustainability Ambassadors

Since the introduction of the Sustainability Ambassador programme, more than 50,000 Sustainability Ambassadors have been trained at locations worldwide. Training programmes have expanded in recent years to anchor the understanding of sustainability even more firmly within the company, and to encourage all employees to become Sustainability Ambassadors.
Employees are reached through an eLearning programme on the central global learning platform, as well as through team training sessions organized worldwide using standardized training materials. In 2019, Henkel also provided employees with extensive information about packaging and plastics. The communication campaign included dialogue with experts, recycling tips and employee events.

3.2. Motivating ambassadors to make a contribution

Henkel’s Sustainability Ambassadors are encouraged to visit schools to teach children about sustainable behaviour in the home. This helps the next generation to understand how to use resources efficiently from an early age. At the same time, the children multiply the impact by imparting their knowledge and their enthusiasm to others around them. From the start of the project in 2012 until the end of 2019, they reached more than 170,000 schoolchildren in 53 countries.
“(Y)our move toward sustainability” is an initiative introduced in 2014. It encourages employees to practice sustainability in their day-to-day work, for example by avoiding unnecessary printing, switching off lights or eating healthily.

3.3. Trashfighter initiative

Henkel has launched a global employee initiative as part of its commitment to a functioning circular economy and to the avoidance of plastic waste in the environment: In 2019, around 1,300 Henkel employees around the world took part in collection campaigns, removing waste from riverbanks, parks and cities. The objective of the Trashfighter initiative is to further raise awareness of waste in the environment. In Thailand, for example, teams collected waste on beaches – including plastic waste as well as fishing nets and glass bottles. In the USA, 16 collection campaigns took place at various locations. Teams from Düsseldorf also got involved, with more than 150 Henkel employees collecting plastic waste as “trashfighters” over four days. The goal of the initiative was to raise awareness about waste in the environment.

3.4. MIT Volunteering

Above and beyond existing programmes, employees are given opportunities to engage in volunteer projects and make their own contribution to the communities in which the company operates. To support employees and retirees around the world in their voluntary and social engagement in charitable institutions, Henkel launched the “Make an Impact on Tomorrow” (MIT Volunteering) initiative in 1998. It supports projects through product and in-kind donations, as well as by sharing expertise or investing time through paid leave.

3.5. Hot meals for the homeless

For more than 10 years, Henkel employee Duff Michowski has been supporting St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen in Detroit, USA. The charitable organization provides more than 40,000 soups and hot meals for people in need each year. In 2019, a grant from Henkel’s MIT initiative enabled the soup kitchen to purchase a new oven, a steam table, and a refrigerated buffet table. Henkel employee Duff Michowski has been involved in St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen for many years. The charity organization provides hot meals, offers shower facilities and clothing, and hosts a medical and dental clinic for people in need.

4. Smallholder projects promote sustainable production

Together with the development organization Solidaridad, Henkel is currently involved in seven initiatives to support sustainable palm oil as part of smallholder projects. With these partnerships, it annually supports the production of more sustainable palm oil and palm kernel oil used in products as a raw material.

4.1. Innovative farming in Colombia

In Colombia, the goal is to support local smallholders with the innovative platform Farming Solution. The platform was developed by Solidaridad to strengthen cooperation along the entire palm oil supply chain. It is also designed to help smallholders increase their productivity and reduce negative environmental impacts, helping them to achieve their goal of sustainable harvest certification sooner.
Palm oil is an increasingly important raw material in Colombia and approximately half of the palm oil produced there comes from small independent farms whose owners face several challenges. However, the productivity of small independent farms is 40% lower than that of an average-sized operation. Some smallholders are also concerned that access to the palm oil market will be limited if their harvests do not meet the criteria set out by the RSPO. This is because many major buyers of palm oil have committed to buying only oil products that are certified as sustainable.

4.2. Training farmers in Indonesia

The training and continuing education of smallholders forms an important part of the collaboration. In Indonesia, for example, two CSR projects were implemented in West Kalimantan to improve the living conditions of small farmers through activities including seminars on financial management as part of the Farmer Field School (FFS). In Ghana and Mexico, it was also possible to introduce more sustainable practices into agricultural production thanks to continuing education measures.
Henkel currently supports seven initiatives overall in Colombia, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Nigeria. To date, about 30,000 smallholders have been reached on about 300,000 hectares under cultivation. The above-mentioned award from Fortasbi (Indonesian Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil Producers) was handed out for these commitments last November.

5. Social partnership to transform waste into opportunities

Plastic Bank is a social enterprise that aims to stop plastic pollution from entering the oceans, while also providing opportunities for people in poverty. Henkel started working with Plastic Bank in 2017, and was the first major global consumer goods company to partner with the organization and successfully incorporate the plastic collected into some of its product packaging.
Since the beginning of the partnership, three new plastic collection centres have been established in Haiti, a country that lacks adequate waste management infrastructure. Local communities can return collected plastic waste and exchange it for money, goods, or social benefits. This creates value from plastic instead of letting it enter waterways or oceans as waste. The plastic that is collected in Haiti is then sorted and can subsequently be introduced into the recycling value chain as Social Plastic®. This is material that has been verified by Plastic Bank to indicate that the collectors received an above-market price for the plastic waste. The recycled Social Plastic® can be used in products or packaging, and in this way closes the material cycle. In 2019, Henkel took the next step in its partnership with Plastic Bank and extended the collaboration for another five years.
Following the success of the partnership launched in 2017, Henkel intends to support ongoing projects in Haiti, the Philippines and Indonesia. The company will make a significant contribution to establishing an infrastructure of more than 400 plastic collection points in Egypt. By working together, the aim is to increase the availability of Social Plastic® as a resource for the production of packaging. The development of collection infrastructure in Egypt will create additional capacities of up to 5,000 metric tonnes per year. This is equivalent to one billion bottles over a period of five years.
In 2020 alone, Henkel will integrate more than 600 metric tonnes of Social Plastic® into its product packaging. Plastic Bank has opened additional collection centres in Haiti since the partnership began. In addition, Henkel helped the social enterprise to set up a supply chain that ensures that the collected plastic waste can be processed and recycled, so that it can ultimately be reintegrated into the value chain.
In October 2018, the first Henkel packaging that includes Social Plastic® was made available. These successful projects have also been recognized externally: the two limited editions of Fa and Nature Box received the Packaging Europe Sustainability Award for their Social Plastic® packaging. Henkel also received the Ecovia Sustainable Beauty Award in the “Sustainable Packaging” category.

6. Social engagement initiatives

The company’s long-term commitment to social involvement that goes beyond direct business interests was especially evident in the establishment of the Fritz Henkel Stiftung foundation in 2011. Social engagement at Henkel is based on the four pillars of our corporate citizenship programme: corporate volunteering, social partnerships, brand engagement and emergency aid.
By 2020, they aimed to improve the quality of life of ten million people through our social engagement. They achieved this target in 2019, ahead of schedule.
Henkel and the Fritz Henkel Stiftung foundation support projects in the areas of education and science, social initiatives, art and culture, fitness and health, and ecology. They are particularly committed to education and career opportunities for young people.

6.1. New homes for families in need

Together with Habitat for Humanity, teams of Henkel employees have been building houses for families in need since 2014. In 2019, as part of one-week “Building Trips,” employees helped build multi-family houses for people in need in North Macedonia. Henkel also supports these activities with donations in kind, for example with building materials. Employees, together with the Habitat for Humanity organization, help to provide families with a new home by going on building trips like this one in North Macedonia.

6.2. Teach First

Since 2012, Henkel and the Fritz Henkel Stiftung foundation have been the main supporters of the non-profit educational initiative Teach First Germany, which encourages young adults to achieve a better school-leaving certificate. At Teach First, university graduates and future leaders support schools in disadvantaged communities. As additional teachers, they help students to find their own path and reach their full potential.
In 2019, in a joint project with the Joblinge initiative and the Technical University of Braunschweig, Teach First Germany focused on helping young people to make the transition from school to work. In addition to supporting Teach First in Germany, Henkel also supported the organization in Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Latvia, Ukraine, the USA and Vietnam in 2019.

6.3. Million Chances

Since 2016, the Schwarzkopf Million Chances initiative has been pursuing its goal of helping girls and women overcome challenges, while also giving them confidence and prospects for their future.
The initiative supports aid projects worldwide, often in cooperation with independent organizations such as Plan International Deutschland e.V. in China, Colombia and Egypt. Around 10,200 women and girls were reached by 27 projects in 2019.
The second Schwarzkopf Million Chances Award was held at Henkel in Düsseldorf in 2019. During a formal ceremony, four non-profit projects were recognized for their commitment to the rights and opportunities of women and girls. Each winning project received a cash prize of 10,000 euros, made possible by the Fritz Henkel Stiftung foundation.

6.3.1. Shaping Futures

The Million Chances umbrella also involves long-term initiative Shaping Futures. Since 2010, Schwarzkopf Professional and SOS Children’s Village have been offering young people the opportunity to obtain training in basic hairdressing techniques and establish livelihoods. More than 2,500 young people in 30 countries have already been trained thanks to the volunteer work of hairdressers and employees. Since its foundation, the Shaping Futures initiative has trained over 2,500 young adults from 30 countries thanks to the efforts of volunteer hairdressers. In 2019 alone, the initiative conducted 20 training courses in 18 countries.

6.3.2. Self-confidence of cancer patients

With Million Chances, the company’s Beauty Care division is also a partner of DKMS LIFE’s “Look Good Feel Better” patient programme. Since 1995, the non-profit organization has been holding free cosmetic seminars to empower female cancer patients with a new sense of self-esteem and courage during cancer therapy. For eleven years now, Beauty Care and DKMS LIFE have been organizing the Düsseldorf Charity Ladies’ Lunch to promote their commitment to female cancer patients. In 2019, Henkel expanded its commitment and launched a limited Gliss Kur DKMS LIFE Charity Edition. Henkel donates 20 eurocents to DKMS LIFE with the purchase of one of three hair treatments from the Gliss Kur product range.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation in the United States also became a partner of Million Chances in 2018. Henkel supports this initiative through donations and fundraising campaigns. In exchange, employees in North America receive information about topics including breast cancer.

6.4. Welcome Home

In 2019, the Welcome Home programme, which aims to provide a safe home for families in need, entered its fourth year. Through this initiative, employees from the Adhesives for Consumers, Craftsmen and Construction business area join together with aid organizations to help renovate and build safe places to live. The programme has supported projects in Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Hungary, North Macedonia, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania and the USA.

6.5. Disaster relief

In October, three major earthquakes occurred within two weeks on the Philippine island of Mindanao. At least 12 people died and hundreds more were injured. Tens of thousands of people had to flee their homes and seek refuge in emergency shelters. The Fritz Henkel Stiftung foundation supported a local aid organization in the purchase of tents, blankets, clothing, food and hygiene items. In cooperation with global and local organizations, Henkel continued to support the reconstruction of homes and cities following natural disasters in 2019, for example in the Philippines following the severe typhoon “Haiyan” in 2013.

In conclusion

Henkel is a sustainability pioneer. The German heavyweight has been coming up with new solutions for sustainable development while continuing to conduct business responsibly for nearly a century-and-a-half. This vision seems to run through the entire value chain, encompassing the company’s strategies, products, activities as well as its employees.

Disclaimer: The contents of this report are largely excerpts of the Henkel Sustainability Report 2019 published in the year 2020. Editorial work and coordination courtesy Uwe Bergmann, Greta Frohne, Yvonne Gottschlich, Dr. Dorli Harms, Annalena Hojenski, Mareike Klein, Rabea Laakmann, Christina Montag, Christina Salmen