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Apr 30, 2015  Düsseldorf / Germany

Interview with Uwe Bergmann

Sustainability is a journey

Uwe Bergmann, Head of Sustainability Management at Henkel, recently gave an interview to NonWovens News magazine, a customer communication published by the Packaging & Consumer Goods business within Henkel’s Adhesive Technologies business unit. "Sustainability is still a journey," Bergmann said in the article. "We will need to learn and constantly adapt to changing circumstances and evolving expectations. The key challenge is to keep it moving in the right direction and at the right pace. Henkel has demonstrated that it is committed to meeting this challenge and willing to work with industry partners, politicians, government bodies and any interested parties actively.”

Uwe Bergmann

Uwe Bergmann, Head of Sustainability Management at Henkel.

In your opinion, which market is the furthest along on the path toward the 2050 target?

Sustainability is a global challenge involving all sectors and all of society. There are Ieaders in most industries and markets, but overall, some sectors have made more progress than others. Often those sectors have either experienced substantial sustainability challenges or are close to consumers. Let me give you two examples that have received a lot of public attention. First, the chemical industry has made huge progress in safety, efficiency and product stewardship since the late eighties. Second, the automotive industry has significantly improved fuel efficiency over the last 10 or 15 years in many markets. However, even the most advanced companies and sectors still have a long journey ahead of them.

Is there much collaboration between markets? If so, could you give some examples?

Today there is a lot of dialogue between leading companies, within and across sectors. We need to develop a common understanding of the global or regional priorities in order to drive progress. For example, this was one element of the Action 2020 project which the World Business Council for Sustainable Development organized. We also need to align on tools and measurement approaches. For instance, at Henkel we very openly share our Sustainability#Master® approach, which compares the sustainability performance of products and processes. And finally, many challenges require collaboration along the entire value chain. That's why we have brought together packaging converters, food companies and retailers to discuss food safety.

Who will be the key drivers of this topic in the coming years: Government, NGOs or business?

My impression is that many businesses have recognized the challenge. They see that the global economy is not on track to meet the demands of a growing population with the limited resources of our planet. At the same time, there are many expectations, sometimes conflicting demands, and the business case is not always clear. This means we can either wait for politicians and regulators to drive progress through regulation, wait for NGOs to push the agenda with their campaigns - or we can focus on our own resources and skills. If we align on the priorities in our value chains and innovate and collaborate on the right solutions, we can drive progress and create value for our businesses.

Key suggestions for corporate sustainability

Alongside his answers to the three questions above, Bergmann set out his three key suggestions for how large companies should approach the topic of sustainability:

  1. Develop sustainability strategies that reflect their social and environmental impacts, as well as global and regional challenges relevant to their business.
  2. Steer the implementation of this strategy by defining relevant targets and measuring progress.
  3. Ensure transparent reporting on this progress internally as well as externally.

Henkel views leadership in sustainability as not only a responsibility, but also an opportunity to continuously strengthen its competitiveness.  The company has defined three strategic principles to implement its strategy: products, partners, and people. For more information on Henkel’s sustainability strategy, please visit: www.henkel.com/sustainability