In February 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Beiersdorf’s 2018 Sustainability Review document.

The report detailed how the company had taken steps to reduce its environmental impact in relation to packaging materials, the use of harmful chemicals in products, energy use, logistics, waste, palm oil and water use-listing the steps it had taken in relation to Sustainable Development Goals. The company was considered to have demonstrated reasonable understanding of its main impacts.

The report contained disclosure of the company’s carbon emissions broken down by source and scope.

The report contained at least two dated and quantified future environmental targets, as stated below. In addition, the report stated an intention to publish new ‘ambitious’ targets in its 2019 report, which was due for publication in March 2020, according to a questionnaire sent to Ethical Consumer by the company.

The stated targets were:

Reducing energy-related CO2 emissions (Scope 1 and 2) per product manufactured by 70% by 2025, compared to base year of 2014

Reducing specific waste volume per metric ton of end product by 2020 by two percentage points from 2015 base year.

The report was independently verified by Ernst & Young; this was stated to include the “inspection of […] systems and processes for compiling, analysing and aggregating relevant data." This was interpreted to mean that all the quantifiable data in the report was subject to an independent auditing process.

Overall, the company received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for Environmental Reporting.

Reference:

Sustainability Review 2018 (12 February 2020)

In March 2020, Ethical Consumer searched Beiersdorf’s website for the company's policy on the use of microplastics and non-biodegradable liquid polymers. In the FAQs section, Beiersdorf stated that they had eliminated microbeads from their rinse-off cosmetic products and were aiming to reduce the amount of Nylon and eliminate other sythetic polymers from their rinse-off products by 2020. In their Sustainability Commitments, Beiersdorf stated they had targets of NIVEA products being 100% microplastic free by 2021, Eucerin products being 100% microplastics free by 2023 and using exclusively biodegradable polymers in European product formulas by 2025.

According to Beat the Microbead, there are more than 500 known microplastics ingredients that can be found in our personal care products such as toothpastes, face washes, scrubs and shower gels. They are tiny plastic particles that are added for their exfoliating properties, but sometimes purely for aesthetic purposes only.

A recent report by Code Check found that non-biodegradable liquid polymers were also prevalent across a wide range of cosmetic products. Like microplastics, these materials degrade with a similar difficulty in the environment and may cause similar harm.

In 2018, the UK government banned the use of microbeads in toothpastes, shower gels and facial scrubs. However, some products classified as “leave on” were not subject to the ban, this would include lotions, sun cream and makeup, as well as abrasive cleaning products. This ban did not extend to non-biodegradable liquid polymers.

Given that the company was still using microplastics in its products and did not address the issue of non-biodegradable liquid polymers, the company lost half a mark under Pollution & Toxics.

Reference:

www.beiersdorf.com (12 February 2020)

In February 2020, Ethical Consumer receieved a completed questionnaire from Beiersdorf.

It contained a response to a question on the use of parabens, triclosan and phthalates in its products.

Some forms or uses of these chemicals were banned or restricted in the EU or the USA.
Triclosan is an antibacterial and a suspected endocrine disruptor. Parabens are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to breast cancer. They are used as preservatives. Phthalates, usually DEP or DBP, are used in fragrances and are endocrine disruptors.

A strong policy on toxics would be no use of these chemicals or clear, dated targets for ending their use.

The company stated that Triclosan is not used in Beiersdorf products.

On phthalates, it stated: "Beiersdorf does not use any phthalates in packaging materials nor do we use Diethylphthalate (DEP) as denaturing agent in any product formula."

On parabens, it stated: "When we use parabens, these are primarily methylparaben and ethyl paraben because of their proven effectiveness and their scientifically demonstrated tolerability among users. Only occasionally we also use propylparaben and butylparaben in some Beiersdorf products. For consumers who prefer paraben-free products, we also offer products without these preservatives (around 80% of our products are paraben-free)."

As the company did not use Triclosan and had taken steps to avoid using phthalates, it received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for its toxic chemicals policy and lost half a mark under Pollution and Toxics.

Reference:

www.beiersdorf.com (12 February 2020)

Beiersdorf, the German owner of brands such as Nivea, was one of the world’s 30 biggest cosmetics and personal care companies investigated by Greenpeace East Asia (GEA) in a report dated July 2016, which ranked the companies on their commitment to tackling the issue of microbeads in their products.

Microbeads are a type of microplastic that can be found in our personal care products such as toothpastes, face washes, scrubs and shower gels. They are tiny plastic particles that are added for their exfoliating properties, but sometimes purely for aesthetic purposes only.

The four main criteria used by GEA were:
1. Commitment & information transparency: Did the company have commitment on microbeads? Was it publicly available and easy to access?
2. Definition: How did the company define microbeads for their commitment?
3. Deadline: When would the company meet their commitment?
4. Application scope: Did the commitment cover all products in all markets?

Each company was scored by GEA based on their responses to a Greenpeace survey, as well as any publicly available information. Each criterion was weighted equally and scored out of 100, to give a final maximum score out of 400.

In scoring 340 out of a possible 400, coming joint first in the report, Beiersdorf was still found to have fallen short of an acceptable standard.

The company had made a commitment to stop the use of microbeads in its products by the end of 2015. However, its definition of microbeads was deemed to be too narrow.

GEA made the following comments on Beiersdorf’s microbead commitment:
1. It was limited to just one type of plastic-polyethylene -rather than all types
2. It was silent about its application to all product types
3. It was silent about its use of microbeads for all possible functions.

Beiersdorf also used other solid, insoluble plastic polymers (such as nylon/PA) in its leave-on products. This was an example of continued plastic use that fell outside of their narrow definition of microbeads. It was therefore a loophole in their commitment.

Reference:

Global Cosmetics & Personal Care Companies' Microbead Commitment Ranking (July 2016)

Forest 500, ‘the world’s first rainforest rating agency’, is a project of the Global Canopy Programme. In 2019, it published its fifth annual ranking. It ranks 350 of the biggest companies in forest-risk supply chains and the 150 biggest investors in these companies.

Tropical rainforests cover 7% of the earth, but contain 50% of global biodiversity. Their ecosystems regulate global water systems and the climate, and they directly support the livelihoods of over a billion people. The social and economic benefits of these services are estimated to be in the trillions.

Over two thirds of tropical deforestation is driven by the production of a handful of commodities including; palm oil, soya, timber, paper and pulp, beef, and leather. These commodities are in products we use every day and are present in more than 50% of the packaged products in our
supermarkets.

Companies and financial institutions had been assessed and ranked in respect to their policies addressing potential deforestation embedded in forest-risk commodity supply chains. The 2018 report stated that "the Forest 500 methodology was updated in 2018 to better distinguish between companies who have set commitments, and those that have taken the next step towards implementation. This new methodology has meant that many companies have received lower scores this year." A document on the 2019 methodology stated that had been updated again to better align with the guidance of the Accountability Framework, a set of norms and guidance on ethical supply chains developed by a coalition of civil society partners. Three new indicators were added and two indicators were updated.

The Forest 500 ranking and analysis will be repeated annually until 2020, to help inform, enable and track progress towards deforestation free supply chains.

Each company was rated from 0-5, across five categories:

Beiersdorf was one of the 350 companies rated in the 2019 report.

It received an overall score of 3. Its scores in each category were as follows:
Overall Approach 1 out of 5

Commodity Score (palm, paper & pulp) 3 out of 5

Commitment Strength 4 out of 5

Reporting and implementation 2 out of 5

Social Considerations 3 out of 5

The company had not signed up to the following collective commitments:

New York Declaration on Forests signatory
Consumer Goods Forum member

As it had scored under 4 overall, it lost half a mark under Habitats and Resources.

Reference:

Forest 500 - 2019 ranking (2019)

In February 2020, Ethical Consumer checked the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) website and found Beiersdorf’s 2018 Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP). The company's website was also checked.

100% of the total palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm oil derivatives used by the company was reported to be certified by the RSPO, although none of this was through a segregated mechanism. The company picked up additional marks for disclosing volumes and having a group wide commitment.

The company was also awarded marks for making efforts to map its supply chain for palm products, claiming to be able to "trace back 92% of our sourcing volume for palm (kernel) oil-based raw materials to their precise origin".

The company did not, however, publish a list of its suppliers of palm products.

It was also found to be conducting additional positive initiatives though being a member of FONAP Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil. Overall, it received Ethical Consumer's best rating for its palm oil policy and practice.

Reference:

Generic www.rspo.org (2020)

In March 2015 the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a report called 'Fries, Face Wash, Forests:
Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments.' The report was an updated version of its 2014 report ‘Donuts, Deoderants, Deforestation: Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments.’

The report noted that palm oil production had contributed to climate change through the destruction of carbon-rich tropical forests and peatlands. It also highlighted exploitation within the industry, particularly child labour, poverty wages and dangerous working conditions, and the violation of indigenous land rights.

The report evaluated the same 30 firms across three sectors (packaged food, personal care, and fast food), scoring them on the extent of their global commitments to use palm oil that is deforestation-free, peat-free, and traceably and transparently sourced. In addition it had added a new sector, scoring the top ten largest supermarket, pharmacy, and discount companies based on their sourcing commitments for their storebrand products, bringing the total to 40 companies examined.

Companies scoring more than 60 overall were deemed to have a ‘strong commitment’, those scoring 36-59 were classed as having ‘some commitment’, those with 35 or less were described as having ‘little commitment’ and those scoring 0 were considered to have ‘no commitment’.

Beiersdorf received a score of 51.3 and was considered by UCS to have some commitments to sourcing palm oil sustainably.

Reference:

Fries, Face Wash, Forests: Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments (March 2015)