Sustainable Palm (Kernel) Oil

Many ingredients that are essential for the production of cosmetic products – such as emulsifiers and surfactants – are extracted from mineral or vegetable oils, e.g. palm (kernel) oil. As a global skin care company we do not purchase palm (kernel) oil directly but use derivatives (further processed substances based on palm (kernel) oil). Our annual requirement is around 38,000 tonnes, equivalent to 0.05% of the annual global production of palm (kernel) oil (source: United States Department of Agriculture 2022). To conserve scarce resources and minimize the environmental impact of our products, we work closely with our partners along the supply chain to promote a sustainable palm oil economy. 

When sustainably cultivated, oil palms are ecologically very efficient plants that allow maximum oil production on a comparatively small area of cultivated land. At Beiersdorf we actively support a sustainable palm (kernel) oil economy that does not lead to the deforestation of rainforests, i.e. primary or secondary forests. Since the end of 2020 we only use palm (kernel) oil from sustainably certified sources in all our products worldwide.

Palm Sustainability Roadmap

Guided by our Palm Sustainability Roadmap, we steer our activities towards sustainable raw material procurement, maximum transparency along our entire supply chain, and improving the working and living conditions of smallholder farmers. To achieve these goals, we pursue several strategic approaches.

Sustainability Certifications

In recent years we made significant progress in switching to sustainably produced palm (kernel) oil. As early as 2011 we began to base our palm (kernel) oil procurement practices on the RSPO Supply Chain Certification Standard (SCCS) established by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO); since then we have steadily increased the proportion of mass-balanced palm (kernel) oil since the first delivery of certified palm (kernel) oil in 2015.
An important milestone was the award of the RSPO Multi-Site SCCS Certificate 2016 for our consistent transition to sustainably certified palm (kernel) oil-based raw materials worldwide.

We achieved our target of using 100% sustainably certified palm (kernel) oil and its derivatives by the end of 2020. This means that in our products we only use raw materials from sustainable sources – based on the mass-balance model as defined by the RSPO.
The following methods are available for the procurement of certified sustainable palm (kernel) oil: book and claim, mass balanced, segregated and identity preserved (IP). For more information, please visit the RSPO website.

Highest possible transparency

Only if we know our supply chain well can we effectively implement our sustainability criteria and respond to new challenges. This makes transparency the key to effective engagement. We therefore strive to work very closely with our suppliers to trace the raw materials we use right back to their source.

In 2018 we launched a project to trace our palm (kernel) oil-based raw materials further upstream than our Tier 1 suppliers, all the way back to the refineries and mills. The project objective is to maximize transparency in our palm (kernel) oil supply chain, identify sustainability “hot spots”, and provide targeted support for local projects. Our largest raw material suppliers (Tier 1) are integrated into the project, meaning we already know the origin of 94% of our purchasing volume for palm (kernel) oil-based raw materials. The majority of our palm (kernel) oil-based raw materials (derivatives) originate from Indonesia (54%), including Sumatra and Borneo, and Malaysia (42%). Other sourcing regions include Thailand and Colombia (4%).

Sustainable transformation in the cultivation regions

As part of a cooperation project with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, we have been working since mid-2018 to improve the livelihoods of palm (kernel) oil smallholder farmers. We want to convince them that the sustainable cultivation of oil-bearing palms without further deforestation contributes to improving the living standard and income situation of local communities. Through our commitment not only the 240 smallholders involved in the project benefit directly, but also the three local villages with around 4,500 inhabitants. This current project has been extended for a further four years. We aim to certify smallholder farms according to the RSPO standard by 2026.

Furthermore, together with the specialty chemicals company Evonik and the WWF we are promoting sustainable development through a major joint landscape project in the Malaysian region of Tabin, in Sabah on the island of Borneo. The aim of the program is sustainable palm oil production and an end to deforestation. To achieve this, by 2025 all palm oil farmers and a total area of 20,000 hectares will be certified according to the internationally recognized RSPO standard. Additionally, we are working with Evonik and WWF to protect wildlife habitats in Tabin, since this region is home to many endangered species. The aim is to stabilize the populations of endangered species such as the rare Borneo elephant and the orangutan over the next five years.  

In the future we also aim to implement projects with other partners that bring about such direct improvements in the local palm (kernel) oil supply chain. The findings from our transparency and traceability project will help us to select and implement these projects. In planning them, considerations for the local communities’ needs and specific issues in the procurement regions are foremost.

Further commitment

Beiersdorf is closely involved in both the RSPO and the Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil (FONAP) in order to promote an end-to-end sustainable palm (kernel) oil economy. The RSPO Principles define a responsible minimum industry standard, while FONAP is strongly committed to environmental and local community concerns through advanced certification criteria. These include:

  • Stopping and preventing cultivation on peat lands and other areas with a high carbon soil content
  • Enforcing a ban on highly hazardous pesticides (in accordance with the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, WHO class 1a and 1b pesticides, and paraquat)
  • Introducing strict emissions reduction targets for greenhouse gases
  • Ensuring that certified palm oil mills also purchase non-certified raw materials (Fresh Fruit Bunches) exclusively from legal cultivation.

We also support the FONAP Smallholder Farmers Project "Impact of the FONAP Add-on Criteria on Small Producers in Malaysia". This is carried out in cooperation with WWF Germany by the non-governmental organization Wild Asia in Perak, Malaysia. The aim of the project is to collect feedback from smallholder farmers on the four FONAP Add-on Criteria, to test their applicability and ensure their feasibility. Further information on our engagement can be found on the RSPO website under our member page and on the FONAP website.

In 2019 we also joined the "Action for Sustainable Derivatives" (ASD) initiative as a founding member - an alliance committed to achieving transparency and sustainability along the supply chain of palm (kernel) oil derivatives in the fields of cosmetics, personal care, detergents and oleochemicals.