Global challenges: working together for a better future
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Population growth, climate change, environmental pollution – the world faces major challenges in the coming decades. The task now is to work together to find ways to turn them into opportunities. Because that is what they are: opportunities for innovation and ideas. Opportunities for a sustainable future.
On the Mauna Lao volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean: At an altitude of around 3400 meters, researchers are measuring the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – just as they have been for more than 60 years. The concentration of greenhouse gases has increased by almost a third over the last few decades, and the trend is rising. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions is an indicator of a global problem: a long-term rise in temperature.
Climate change is one of the major global challenges of our time, along with others such as environmental pollution, a lack of biodiversity, poverty, and the scarcity of resources. Today, the global ecological footprint of humankind is already greater than the resources available on Earth can sustain. The world’s population also continues to rise, along with consumption and the need for resources. So, how should this situation be addressed? Uwe Bergmann, Head of Global Sustainability at Henkel, has one answer: “Taking responsibility, developing innovative solutions and working together – these are three important factors in shaping a sustainable transformation for our future.”
Global challenges require global solutions
The United Nations is calling on countries and institutions to work together to find solutions to the global challenges of the 21st century. In September 2015, they adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They create a common understanding that, as global challenges, eradicating poverty, safe-guarding prosperity and protecting the planet can only be tackled together.
Taking responsibility, developing innovative solutions and working together – these are three important factors in shaping a sustainable transformation for our future.
Uwe Bergmann, Head of Global Sustainability at Henkel
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Large companies have a responsibility to bring about positive change and create shared values: This is also true for Henkel. “We have recognized the major challenges and aligned our sustainability strategy with them. With our commitment to sustainability, we are contributing to the implementation of the global development goals,” explains Uwe. Creating more value for customers, consumers and the company while reducing the environmental footprint at the same time – this idea is at the heart of the sustainability strategy. “We know what a positive contribution sustainable innovation can make. This is our biggest lever,” Uwe emphasizes, “because our products and technologies are used millions of times a day all over the world.”
Three commitments, one goal: a sustainable future
With its commitment to sustainability, Henkel wants to contribute to the implementation of the U.N.’s global development goals. The balance between economic success, environmental protection and social responsibility has been deeply anchored in Henkel’s corporate values as a goal for 140 years. Our support for ecological and social progress forms the basis for our leading position in the field of sustainability. To further our role, at the beginning of 2020 we defined commitments in three areas of particular relevance to customers, business partners, consumers and society: Climate protection, a circular economy and respect for human rights.
1. Climate-positive by 2040
Droughts, floods, tornadoes – climate change as a global challenge is no longer an abstract discussion. It is a threat to agriculture, infrastructure, health and, ultimately, economic growth. Climate change must be counter-acted, which requires a transformation of the global economy and the management of resources, explains Uwe. To reduce CO2 emissions and limit global warming, Henkel is pursuing a long-term vision of becoming a climate-positive company by 2040. Henkel products are an important lever.
Henkel pursues the vision to become a climate-positive company by 2040. To support this, we design our production sites to be energy-efficient and use electricity from renewable sources.
Up to 90 percent of the environmental footprint for Henkel’s products is created when they are used. That’s why we focus on products and technologies that help customers and consumers save energy during use – for example when washing with Persil or Spee. Innovative detergent formulations enable our consumers to wash at low temperatures, or even with cold water, while still generating a very good wash result. If all wash loads using our heavy-duty detergents used cold water, more than seven million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be avoided every year. We want to raise awareness of the energy-saving potential through the “be sustainable – wash cold” logo on our detergent packaging.
2. Promoting a circular economy
Up to 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year. This is equivalent to one truck load of plastic per minute. Since plastic packaging fulfills important functions such as protection and transportability, it cannot simply be dispensed with, says Uwe. “But its use can be optimized where possible and recycling rates increased. And, of course, our common goal must be to promote solutions that stop plastic waste in the environment, especially in oceans.” This works through various levers.
Henkel is focusing on promoting a circular economy. The goal: By 2025, all consumer goods packaging is to be recyclable or reusable. We want to overcome specific recycling hurdles for each packaging category – such as flexible or black packaging. At the same time, we want to use more recyclate (recycled plastic) in our product packaging. We already use the material for the bottle bodies of Pro Nature cleaners or for those of the vegan fabric softener Vernel Naturals. The use of recyclate saves 33 to 50 percent of the energy that would otherwise have to be used in the production of new goods.
Henkel actively promotes a circular economy. Until 2025, 100 percent of Henkel’s consumer goods packaging will be recyclable or reusable.
Consumers are also an important factor. In 2019, Henkel developed logos for product packaging that communicate the proportion of recycled content or the recyclability of the respective packaging, and/or help to ensure that the product is recycled properly. In this way, we are promoting sustainable purchasing behavior and supporting proper recycling. Since September 2020, Henkel has also been one of more than 85 global companies and organizations involved in the new HolyGrail 2.0 initiative, leading the way in digital watermarking. Digital watermarks allow packaging to be identified accurately and contribute to efficient recycling.
3. Supporting social progress
Poverty and social inequality continue to be global problems of our time. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these imbalances. Companies must also play their part in addressing these problems in their global supply chains. Henkel has committed itself to 100 percent responsible sourcing by 2025. One example is the commitment to sustainable palm oil production. By promoting sustainable palm oil and palm kernel oil, Henkel is helping to manage forests sustainably and prevent deforestation. At the same time, we support smallholder farmers in South America, Africa and Asia because palm oil production secures the livelihoods of many smallholders and their families.
Henkel supports projects with smallholder farmers. Targeted training enables them to have their harvests certified as sustainable, increase their productivity and thus improve their livelihoods.
The promotion of women’s rights is another area of important focus for Henkel – for example through the Schwarzkopf “Million Chances” initiative. This initiative was launched in 2016 to support women and girls in laying the foundations for a successful future and a self-determined life. Million Chances not only supports entry into the labor market, but also participation in apprenticeships, especially in the field of technology.
“The world is facing major challenges, and everyone has a responsibility to contribute,” says Uwe. Partnerships, resource-saving solutions and innovations can improve the balance between the economic, environmental and social needs of people and the state of the planet.