Annual Report 2023

Annual Report 2023

Circular Economy



Our products are synonymous with high quality and effective skin care all over the world. Our aim is to meet our own high quality standards and the increased sustainability requirements while maintaining consumer trust in our products. For us, this trust also entails counteracting negative environmental impacts. We therefore feel it is our responsibility to optimize the environmental compatibility of our products and to use resources sparingly.

The Executive Board is responsible for integrating product sustainability into our C.A.R.E.+ corporate strategy and at brand level. The Corporate Sustainability Team reports directly to it. Our Sustainability Council maintains regular communication with senior management from Marketing, Research & Development and Supply Chain. The committee reports on ongoing projects and monitors the status of target achievement. We use the expertise of various departments and involve external stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, sustainability consultancies and NGOs to implement cross-functional and cross value-chain projects.

Holistic view of our products

It is important to us that we evaluate our products holistically according to their environmental and social impact. Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) are used to list and summarize all of the environmental impacts for specific products, from raw material procurement to disposal. Based on this analysis, we create a life cycle assessment that shows what impact the product has on the environment and where there is still room for improvement. Beyond the use phase, the environmental impact of our products depends to a large extent on the raw materials and the resource efficiency of our packaging. This is why we focus our sustainability efforts on these areas.

Sustainable packaging

The consumption of natural resources has increased continuously worldwide over the past decades. Negative environmental impacts as well as waste production are steadily increasing and causing lasting damage to the environment. To counteract this, Beiersdorf is committed to strengthening the circular economy. For example, the ability to recycle our packaging and ingredients is extremely important to us.

Our packaging is largely made of plastics due to its light weight, high stability, and simultaneous flexibility. This means that we use materials that are mostly based on finite fossil resources and are often not recycled. As a result, we are going to great lengths to optimize our plastic packaging in line with the sustainability principles of “avoid, reduce, reuse, and recycle,” thereby making our contribution to the circular economy. To make our actions measurable, we have set ourselves the following global targets in the area of packaging, which we intend to achieve by the end of 2025:

  • We aim to use 50% less fossil-based virgin plastic in our packaging in comparison to 2019,
  • integrate at least 30% recycled material into our plastic packaging, and
  • make 100% of our packaging refillable, reusable, or recyclable.

In 2023, we made the following progress toward our goals:

  • 16% reduction in fossil-based virgin plastics in our packaging (2022: 15%).
  • 12% recycled material in our plastic packaging (2022: 10%).

When calculating the target achievement for 2022 and 2023, the volumes for the base year 2019 were updated due to corrections in the master data.

While the integration of recycled material into our plastic packaging is progressing according to plan, we are expecting a delayed achievement of our reduction target on fossil-based virgin plastic in 2026 instead of 2025. This development is due to longer lead times for molds and equipment as well as above expectation volume growth.

In the reporting year, we decided to extend our target for plastic packaging design. By 2032, we aim to fully cease the use of fossil-based, virgin plastic in our packaging. In addition to the use of recycled and bio-based plastic qualities, this will also require the exploration of new, alternative materials. Starting with the reporting year 2024, we will report against this new mid-term target.

Our third goal, recyclability, relates to the end of the packaging life cycle. To make our progress with respect to recyclability measurable, we introduced a new methodology in 2021 in line with the principles promulgated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.1

In 2022, we established “Design for Recycling,” a further metric that requires packaging to be recyclable in at least one country from the outset, even if this is not yet globally possible given today’s infrastructure. This means that all packaging that is already globally recyclable today also meets the Design for Recycling criteria.

Both targets – Design for Recycling and global recyclability – have been applied to all types of packaging and materials we use (plastic, metal, glass, and paper) since 2022.

We assess global recyclability and Design for Recycling digitally based on the methodology of an independent certification body; the analysis relates to the share of recyclable materials in the total packaging weight. We then use these individual analyses to determine the recyclability of the overall portfolio.

In the reporting year,

  • 80% of our packaging weight came from packaging that was “designed for recycling” (2022: 80%).

In addition, the following share meets the requirements for global recyclability:

  • 67% of the weight of all packaging was considered globally recyclable (2022: 67%).

Environmentally friendly product formulations

In order to optimize the recyclability of our product formulations, we have set ourselves goals both for eliminating the use of microplastics as defined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)2 and for the use of biodegradable polymers.

One of these goals had already been reached by the end of the reporting year: We discontinued the production of Eucerin brand cosmetic products that contain microplastics – either by completely removing them from our portfolio or by revising their formulation. We have not used microplastics in NIVEA brand products since 2021.

Furthermore, we intend to use only biodegradable polymers in our European product formulations by the end of 2025 and thus make a contribution to preventing environmental pollution.

Polymers are molecules that consist of many recurring subunits. They are commonly used in cosmetics and provide various product properties, such as increased water resistance in sunscreen products. Many polymers containing organic carbon are biodegradable – that is, they can be fully broken down into water and carbon dioxide by microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi. However, this is not the case with other polymers, which leave chemical substances in the environment. We are gradually phasing out the use of such non-biodegradable polymers in order to reduce potential environmental impacts.

To this end, we evaluate all raw materials in terms of their biodegradability. The evaluation is based on Annex XIII of the European REACH Regulation and the corresponding Guidance on Information Requirements (Chapter R.11). The criteria for the persistence of substances contained in these documents define the timescale for a molecule to be considered biodegradable. On this basis, we identify polymers that are not sufficiently biodegradable and that should be eliminated from our European product formulations by the end of 2025. To achieve this goal, we are not only directly replacing ingredients, but also developing completely new polymer technologies. We report separately on the raw material group of silicones, which comprises dimethicone and cyclomethicone, among others. While silicones do degrade in nature over time, they are not biodegradable by definition due to their chemical composition – as they do not contain any organic carbon in the polymer chain. We therefore consider them separately from other polymers and are working to reduce their use as well.

In comparison with 2018, we already used 67% fewer non-biodegradable polymers in our European product formulations in the reporting year. This means that we reduced their share by a further 4 percentage points compared with the previous year. We were able to reduce the use of silicones by 36% compared to the 2018 baseline.

Moreover, we aim to increase the use of raw materials from non-fossil, renewable resources and at the same time make our procurement more sustainable. By doing so, we want to prevent negative environmental impacts caused by increased demand for certain raw materials (see “Sustainable land use” section).

Partnerships in the field of product sustainability

On our journey toward a circular economy, we at Beiersdorf are working closely with partners who share our goals. We are active participants in associations and international committees and use these platforms to engage in intensive dialogue with other stakeholders.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) is a leading organization devoted to accelerating the transformation to a global circular economy and building a regenerative and restorative economy. In this process, it collaborates with companies, academia, politics, and institutions. Within the foundation’s network, we discuss and exchange ideas with other members and develop new ones together. Beiersdorf supports the foundation and reports on the key figures of the Global Commitment. We have also been a network member of the EMF since 2021, and our area of focus during the reporting year was refill solutions.

To tackle the global problem of plastic pollution, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the WWF founded the “Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty” in 2022. Beiersdorf has joined the coalition as a supporter. The common goal is to see an ambitious, effective, and legally binding UN treaty signed that will end plastic pollution.

In 2022, Beiersdorf also joined the EcoBeautyScore Consortium, an initiative of more than 70 cosmetics and body care companies and associations aiming to develop an easy-to-understand, globally applicable standard that fosters informed decision-making for the consumption of cosmetics and skin care products. During the reporting year, employees from Research and Development, Corporate Sustainability, and Beiersdorf Shared Services contributed to the work of this consortium.

Beyond making an impact through its direct business activities, Beiersdorf also wants to support new ideas in the area of the circular economy. That is why the company has invested in the Swiss start-up firm DePoly via its OSCAR&PAUL Venture Capital Fund. DePoly develops selective, energy-efficient chemical recycling technologies for plastic and polyester waste streams that are currently not recyclable. This investment enables Beiersdorf to support the development of new recycling solutions for packaging in the cosmetics industry.

In June 2023, we presented our Sustainability Agenda, the progress we have made to date, and our upcoming opportunities and challenges to politicians, businesses, and interested private individuals at the Greentech Festival in Berlin.

1 As defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), packaging or packaging components are recyclable if their successful collection, sorting, and recycling can be demonstrated in practice and on a large scale globally.

2 In its definition, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) describes microplastic particles as solid plastic particles with a diameter of less than 5mm that are neither biodegradable nor soluble in water.

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