Connecting with the next generation through sustainability

A guest article by Molly Bombonato, Henkel Intern, on the importance of sustainability for the upcoming generation.

Sustainability 27 Aug 2020
Molly Bombonato at Mendenhall Glacier in Juno, Alaska

I was excited to join the Henkel team in January 2020 as a Rotational Intern, switching between two of Henkel’s two business units: Beauty Care and Laundry & Home Care. It was an exciting opportunity, not only to learn and gain experience with a leading global packaged goods company, but to get a closer perspective into another interest of mine - the role of sustainability in product development, packaging, and corporate commitments.

You see, my first love has always been singing, and I had always planned for a career on the stage. However, while working as a singer on a cruise ship in Alaska, I went hiking on the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, and there, I saw the undeniable impact of climate change. Markers showed where the glacier had once been, so it was clear how much had melted away. I have loved nature and have been interested in the environment and responsibility with my own action, but it wasn’t until then that I realized how much our environment was in danger. I knew I had to switch gears away from performing and put the spotlight on sustainability.

At the Mendenhall Glacier in Juno, Alaska, where I saw the impact of climate change, and decided to take action.

Molly Bombonato

Connect with Molly on LinkedIn!

I first learned about Henkel when some of my now colleagues came and spoke to my MBA class at the University of Arkansas, where I am currently working on two master’s degrees in business and public service. I specifically sought Henkel out when considering internship opportunities because I was so impressed by the company’s core values and ambitious targets around sustainability. Henkel has made sustainability a way of doing business long before it became a buzzword.

Today, Henkel is working toward a long-term vision of becoming climate-positive (carbon negative) by 2040. And in just five years, Henkel aims to have 100 percent recyclable or reusable packaging for all its Laundry and Beauty products. With important partnerships like the TerraCycle/Schwarzkopf hair care packaging recycling program, and our significant relationship with Plastic Bank, Henkel is working hard to make a circular economy a reality.

Molly Bombonato

Henkel has made sustainability a way of doing business long before it became a buzzword.

Recently, through my role at Henkel, I was invited to be part of a webinar panel hosted by The Sustainability Consortium: “Be the Why to Their Z: Inspiring Generation Z, the Largest Consumer Market.”It was a pleasure to join that conversation and share how Henkel is innovating with the next generation in mind.

As a Millennial, I’m not alone in my concern for the environment. Studies show that Millennials and Gen Z prefer to buy (and will pay more for) sustainable brands. According to a Forbes study*, 54% of Gen Z state that they are willing to spend an incremental 10% or more on sustainable products, with 50% of Millennials saying the same. This compares to 34% of Gen X and 23% of Baby Boomers. What may have been a nicety for previous generations of consumers has become a necessity for ours. The next generation wants to do business with companies that share our values. Companies like Henkel.

An important example of how Henkel is taking steps towards sustainability is its partnerships with global recycling leader Terracycle, such as its program with Schwarzkopf hair products, enabling 100% of its retail product packaging to be fully recyclable.

In my short time at Henkel, I have been able to work on several sustainability projects. It has been interesting to be inside a company and be able to speak to people directly involved in packaging materials and ask specific questions about recyclability. I am excited to have the opportunity to talk to passionate Henkel employees across businesses who are creating solutions for these problems.

I am happy to be at Henkel, and grateful for the hike that ultimately led me here. I’m still trying to figure out what my future career looks like, but I know I want to find a position where I can make an impact. It gives me hope to know that major players in the retail industry, like Henkel, care about the environment as much as I do.

*Forbes report