Transparency at the core of your sustainability agenda, an interview with Beiersdorf

Julia Beier from Beiersdorf

For brands, communicating about their sustainability efforts often means walking a fine line between proudly sharing their green initiatives and fearing being accused of greenwashing. Some even deliberately underreport their initiatives – a practice coined ‘greenhushing’ – in order not to be called out for greenwashing. Yet, the key to success in this area is transparency, both in the brand’s successes and in improvement areas. Skincare company Beiersdorf understood this well, and strongly focuses on transparency and honesty in its ‘Care Beyond Skin’ sustainable agenda.

In this blogpost, Joeri Van den Bergh connects with Julia Beier, Sustainability Manager for Responsible Sourcing & Human Rights at Beiersdorf, to talk about how the brand creates transparency across its supply chain.

100% honesty. 100% transparency

Skincare company Beiersdorf strives to be transparent about its sustainability progress, and one way of doing this is by offering its consumers comprehensive information on the ingredients it uses.

“As transparency is becoming more important for consumers when purchasing cosmetic products, our colleagues at NIVEA have developed an ‘ingredient glossary’,” says Julia Beier, Sustainability Manager for Responsible Sourcing & Human Rights at Beiersdorf. “It is anchored on the NIVEA website and provides simple yet detailed information on nearly 600 ingredients used in our product formulations. The information includes what the ingredients are made of, and what their function is within our skincare products. The goal of our approach: 100% honesty. 100% transparency.”


Sustainable cultivation of palm oil

Additionally, Julia points out that being transparent also includes looking at the entire supply chain of products and ingredients. “We are using palm-oil-based derivatives in the cosmetic industry. Palm crops have a high yield compared to other plant-based oils like olive oil or sunflower oil, so we invest in the sustainable cultivation of palm oil to avoid deforestation,” explains Julia. Beiersdorf reached its milestone of sourcing 100% sustainable palm-(kernel-)oil-based raw materials by the end of 2020, according to the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) Mass Balance supply chain model.

To increase transparency in the palm-oil supply chain, the company also initiated a project in 2018 to trace palm-based raw materials back to the level of refineries, mills and plantations. “Today, we already know the origin of 92% of our purchasing volume for palm-based raw materials; as a founding member of the ‘Action for Sustainable Derivates’ initiative, we want to further increase this number,” says Julia. By 2025, the company aims to source sustainably-certified key raw materials such as soy, coconut, and shea butter. Here, as in the case of palm (kernel) oil, Beiersdorf is focusing on projects that economically support the local communities and empower them to make more sustainable decisions when handling their lands.



Responsible sourcing of shea butter

Next to palm oil, Beiersdorf is also engaging in the shea-butter industry. Through its NIVEA Limited Edition with 100% pure shea butter, Beiersdorf showed its engagement as for responsible sourcing. The brand followed the principles of transparency and traceability of shea butter right back to some selected women’s groups in West Africa. The NIVEA shea butter packaging showed portraits of some of the female shea collectors, representing woman empowerment, and for each product sold, EUR 1 was donated to support the local communities.

In summary, Beiersdorf is serious when it comes to honesty and transparency about its sustainability progress and has set up several initiatives around this. Next to thoroughly informing its consumers about ingredients used, the brand is working hard to ensure ingredients such as palm oil and shea butter are sourced in a responsible way. Key is to take the entire supply chain into account.


Hungry for more? Stay tuned as we will release more Conscious Consumption interviews in the coming weeks!

Conscious Consumption

Conscious Consumption

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Joeri Van den Bergh
Co-founder, NextGen & Sustainability Expert

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Joeri Van den Bergh