Raw materials with a future
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 35 percent. The other 65 percent are accounted for by inorganic and mineral-oilbased ingredients.
Starch-based styling products
In the cosmetics sector, natural raw materials are used in all product groups. 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. 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. 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. Renewable raw materials make up one third of our new hair styling cream, Osis Buff.
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. 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.
Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil
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 in fact a leading position regarding the use of these resources, as about 35 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 Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). 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. We were the first company in the world to purchase palm kernel oil certificates, for the products of our Terra Activ brand. We therefore helped to ensure that palm kernel oil from sustainably cultivated palm trees enters the supply chain for the production of surfactants. We plan to build on this by taking further steps to focus our product portfolio completely on certified sustainable palm and palm kernel oil by 2015.