We all know: when it comes to the climate crisis, it’s all-hands-on-deck time! And corporations play a huge role in this fight. At Henkel we take that responsibility seriously. Sustainability has been in our DNA ever since our inception back in 1876. 

In 1992 we became one of the first companies in Germany to release an environmental report – something we have done every year since.  Fast forward to today’s milestone: Our biggest beauty care production plant in Wassertrüdingen – where some of our biggest brands manufacture their products – is now CO2 neutral!

The key to this achievement is renewable energy and the use of energy efficient processes – think electricity generated by sunlight, hydropower, as well as biogas powering the whole plant.

That’s a big deal because Wassertrüdingen is where we produce 70% of our products in Europe – and now we’re saving 7,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions, annually! That’s more than 3,000 households would emit in a year. For trees to capture that much CO2, we would need to plant 599,000 of them! 

Wassertrüdingen CO2 neutral production - Thumbnail

How did the production become CO2-neutral? 

We are constantly increasing our efficiency on the site and using energy efficient equipment and processes reduces the CO2 emissions accordingly. One of the early actions, which can be considered as a starting point for the journey was the installation of a co-generator in 2012. This energy efficient process generates heat and electricity from the gas which saves around 350 tons CO2 per annum. Additionally, energy metering and implementing sensors in the plant supported activities aimed at making processes more efficient.

We are constantly switching to renewable electricity sourcing. As explained, we need electricity in the plant, for the production (or manufacturing) equipment, lighting, and for cooling. Since 2018, the plant has been powered with renewable electricity sourced from the grid.

Implementation of a Solar Panel field: By the beginning of 2021, we installed solar panels on the roof and on a field at our production site. We started generating our own green electricity with solar panels that have a surface area of more than 2 soccer fields. The ratio of electricity generated from this photovoltaic system annually is 20% in comparison to the total amount of renewable electricity sourced from external provider.

We also need thermal energy for the heating needed in production processes as well as in buildings. Typically, the thermal energy comes from so-called natural gas (fossil-fuel base), but our plant converted to and started using biogas from August 2021. Together with the electricity which we decarbonised earlier on, this move to biogas confirmed that the total energy needed for "production" is decarbonised 100%, which means that we now have CO2 neutral production.

Our decarbonisation activities were not limited / stopped by the production process. By the beginning of 2022, we switched from normal diesel (fossil base) and started operating the fire brigade trucks as well as moving trailer and train cars on the site with CARE-diesel. This diesel has a CO2 neutral certificate (like biogas) and is accepted as CO2 neutral. This activity has brought our WTR site to the status of CO2 neutral plant.

Let's remember, our solar panels are already over-compensating any potential left-over CO2 sources in our plant. In addition, CARE-Diesel is already eliminating the CO2 emissions of trucks. We are taking our actions to next level and replacing all the trucks and forklifts with electric versions by the 1st half of 2022 (the orders have been placed). This ultimate action, in combination with the surplus energy (from solar panels) given to the grid, fully confirms that the whole factory is predominantly CO2 Positive.

How much energy does Wassertrüdingen consume each year?

Annually Wassertrüdingen consumes the energy equivalent of more than 3000 households. This is the amount of electricity used by the equivalent of 2500 households and the amount of gas used by the equivalent of 750 households to be more precise.

How much CO2 is saved now at Wassertrüdingen?

Our CO2 neutral production at Wassertrüdingen saves around 7500 tons of CO2 per year. 
That is more than going around the world 900 times: 37.437,874km with a car (934.22 times around the world). To absorb this amount of CO2 800 football fields filled with trees would be needed (599,006 trees for one year means 838.94 soccer fields with trees). Speaking of 2021’s closing figures, Plant Wassertrüdingen manufactures about about 70% of overall production tonnage of our EU sites (out of Wassertrüdingen, Viersen, Maribor).

And what’s next? What is our way forward in terms of CO2 neutrality?

The next steps for our Wassertrüdingen plant are to switch to electrical vehicles to reduce the amount of CARE diesel even though it's CO2 neutral (convert from biodiesel to green electricity). And for all sites we will to continue to think about the efficiency, reduction of energy needs and costs, and continue on the decarbonization journey with more plants.