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May 17, 2017

An eye on consumers

Efficiency squared

Consumers are increasingly attentive to the sustainability of the products they buy. More than 55 percent of them worldwide state that it’s a factor in their purchasing decisions. However, it often remains unclear how great an influence the consumer has on a product’s carbon footprint. When it comes to products like detergent or shampoo, which are rinsed out with water, the consumer can positively affect up to 90 percent of the associated climate footprint. Put simply, washing and rinsing with less water or at lower temperatures can make a real difference in terms of sustainability. To make this possible without having to compromise on quality, Henkel manufactures innovative products designed with resource-friendly production and usage in mind.

Three questions for Kathrin Menges, Executive Vice President Human Resources and Head of the Sustainability Council at Henkel

When we talk about saving energy in connection with the company, the first thing we tend to think of is production – where do consumers come into it?

Kathrin Menges: We look at our products’ entire lifecycle – from purchasing the raw materials, through production, logistics and all the way to consumption and packaging disposal. In fact, most of our products’ carbon footprint is generated when they are used for washing, cleaning dishes or taking a shower – and they are used in the millions, in households around the world.

Isn’t it a bit easy for companies to transfer the responsibility to consumers?

Menges: Quite the contrary. We take our responsibility very seriously, and that’s precisely why we are bringing consumers into the picture. We want to raise their awareness of these issues. Of course, the first thing we do is examine our own processes, and we work very hard on various ways of reducing our carbon footprint as a company – for instance in production. At the same time, we invest a lot of money in research and development to offer products that enable consumers to use resources sparingly. One example of this is washing at low temperatures – but with the same familiar Henkel quality, of course.

How do you go about raising consumers’ awareness?

Menges: We want to persuade consumers to use our products in more sustainable ways through targeted communication. Our three business units have launched many different initiatives for this: The “BeSmarter” initiative by Beauty Care to advocate for a more responsible use of water, resource calculators for working out your personal carbon footprint, and the Persil washing calculator are just a few examples. Our retail partners also have an important role to play in communicating with consumers. We support their sustainability-related activities. We know that we will only be able to cement widespread awareness for the sustainable management of our scarce resources, both in the business world and in the general public, if all of our partners pull in the same direction.

If we are to decouple increased quality of life from resource use, product innovations will play an essential role. They should offer customers and consumers more value and better performance at a smaller environmental footprint. A high degree of innovativeness is very important in achieving this. In 2016, Henkel employed around 2,700 people on average in research and development and invested 463 million euros in these activities. Our aim is to save 50 million metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2020 through our products and by helping our customers and consumers with our expertise.

  • Adhesive Technologies
  • Beauty Care
  • Laundry & Home Care

Michael Todd, globaler Leiter für Innovation, Adhesive Technologies

"As a market leader, the Adhesive Technologies business unit creates technologies that are used in a uniquely diverse range of industrial and consumer applications – from the automotive and aerospace industries through to consumer electronics, food packaging, DIY and many more. Sustainability is integrated into each step in our innovation and product development process, as we support our customers by developing leading technologies that help them increase energy efficiency, cut waste and emissions, and increase worker safety."

Dr. Thomas Förster, Leiter Forschung & Entwicklung, Beauty Care

"Life-cycle analyses show us that our consumers can influence the carbon footprint of our products to a very large extent as a result of their consumption behavior: More than 90 percent of the energy and water used with our rinse-off products is accounted for in the use phase. We want to increase awareness and motivate consumers to contribute to the responsible use of resources through their behavior. That’s how we as a company can achieve a better quality of life for as many people as possible, thereby creating more value for society."

Dr. Thomas Müller-Kirschbaum, Leiter Forschung & Entwicklung, Laundry & Home Care

"Consumers’ expectations mirror our own ambition: We want our products to satisfy the criteria of quality, environmental compatibility, and social responsibility. Our focus is on the topics of efficiency and recycling. Our products are used daily in millions of households and often require water and energy during their use. This is why we concentrate on developing products that enable the efficient use of resources such as energy and water. At the same time, we work to design smart packaging that uses the least amount of material possible. We have reached our targets as soon as all our packaging can be either recycled or is biodegradable."

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Footprint calculator

How much water do we need for showering and brushing our teeth? How much money can we save when washing at lower temperatures? Check out our handy calculators!