Sustainability at Henkel – as demonstrated by our brand “Persil”
We put the highest priority on acting responsibly throughout the value chain. The crucial factor here is how a company behaves in generating its profits, and whether it conducts its business in a responsible manner.
This fundamental attitude is not new at Henkel, but has been part of our DNA ever since the company was founded in 1876. Fritz Henkel’s ambition was to produce laundry detergents that would make the laborious washing easier. Together with his sons, Fritz Henkel, Jr., and Dr. Hugo Henkel, he accomplished this “washday revolution” in 1907 with Persil – the world’s first self-acting detergent. It washed and bleached without using chlorine. Persil not only did away with the physically strenuous task of rubbing the laundry by hand, which caused the fabrics to wear, but also improved household hygiene. These were directly tangible contributions that Henkel made to social progress.
Yesterday’s progress soon becomes routine. One wonderful invention is not enough. What is needed is a steady stream of ideas for even better and totally new products. Innovations are also key to sustainable development. They express our conviction that it is essential to always strike a healthy balance between economic, ecological and social objectives. This is a long-established belief at Henkel.
“Water is the gold of the 21st century.” This statement expresses the growing worldwide concern regarding water resources and their conservation. This topic has long been of vital importance to Henkel. As long ago as 1958 – over 50 years ago – we started to analyze the water in the Rhine and its tributaries systematically to determine the levels of washing active substances. Our innovative pioneering spirit was also demonstrated by the launch of phosphate-free Persil in 1986.
Everyone who opens a newspaper or watches the news on television knows that ensuring the provision of adequate energy supplies will be a major challenge in the future. Closely connected with this are emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the threat of climate change. The basis of our contribution to reducing the energy needed to wash laundry is the pioneering work in enzyme research that we have carried out since the 1970s. Laundry used to be washed at 90 degrees Celsius. Persil now achieves the same level of cleanliness and removes stains better than ever at just 20 degrees Celsius.
The needs of a continuously expanding world population and the sharp increase in world market prices of raw materials have drawn attention to the future availability of raw materials. From the very beginning, the responsible handling of resources has been standard practice at Henkel. This includes our systematic approach to waste management. Our motto for waste has always been “avoid, reduce, recycle.” We have consistently used ingredients derived from renewable raw materials in our products.
The safety of our employees as well as customers, consumers and the communities in which our sites are located, is a key component of our promise of quality. In 1927, we were the first chemical company in Germany to hire a safety engineer to systematically promote accident prevention and occupational health and safety. Since that time, we have continuously improved safety in the workplace. The occupational accident rate has now been reduced to just 1.7 per million work hours.