Shea Butter – Natural Care from West Africa

Shea butter is an amazing moisturizing all-rounder. People across Africa have been using shea butter for thousands of years to protect their skin from drying out due to the hot climate in the sub-Saharan countries. Due to its outstandingly caring, naturally nourishing properties, shea butter has become indispensable in today’s body care and cosmetics products worldwide. This high-quality butter is also a vital ingredient in many Beiersdorf products – it is used in our lip balms and body lotions, for example.

Shea butter is a naturally renewable raw material and is mainly sourced from the West African countries of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Benin, Nigeria, Togo, and the Ivory Coast. The only region in the world where the shea nut or shea tree grows naturally is the “Shea Belt” that stretches right across Africa south of the Sahara. A shea tree can live to be over 300 years old and can take 15-20 years to bear fruit for the first time. The shea nuts grow on the branches of the tree, which can grow up to 20 meters high. Shea butter is extracted from the nuts in complex steps. The special thing about the shea tree is that it is difficult to cultivate – there are no shea plantations to date. New trees are the result of a targeted regeneration process controlled by farmers that supports the “accidental” germination of shea tree seedlings. This means all nuts from wild-sown, widely scattered shea trees on the savannah and on arable land are gathered by local people.

“Women’s gold”

African woman

The harvesting and production of shea butter has traditionally remained firmly in the hands of African women. This is why in Africa shea butter is also called “women’s gold” and is one of the few products on the continent that is economically leveraged by women alone; it is estimated that 16 million women earn their living in the shea supply chain. They possess the knowledge, passed down through generations, to produce shea butter in the traditional way.

The increasing global demand is enabling women in rural and often very poor areas to improve their living conditions. They organize themselves into women’s collectives to be able to present themselves confidently to partners and buyers, and to form a secure negotiating base. Through their sales they now make a substantial contribution to maintaining their families and can invest in the education of their children. At the same time, their status in their communities is improving. Our aim at Beiersdorf is to further promote these women’s independence and autonomy.

Our commitment to fair trade and responsible sourcing

Beiersdorf joined the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) in 2019. Founded in 2011, the organization has 500 members from 35 countries, including women’s groups, suppliers, brands, retailers, and non-profit organizations. 

Through public-private partnerships, the GSA promotes sustainability in the industry, sets quality practices and standards, and improves the livelihoods of African women and their families in rural areas. In addition, the GSA works with suppliers to implement numerous projects that support and empower women, develop local communities, and protect local ecosystems.

Supporting women shea harvesters on the ground

Sheanuts process

In cooperation with the Global Shea Alliance and our shea supplier AAK, we support women's groups in Burkina Faso and Ghana. The project objective is to train and support 10,000 women shea collectors over five years, mainly in the areas of health and safety, production optimization and business know-how – all key factors in better shea butter production. In the same way, the women are empowered to earn a sustainable and secure income. Over the next five years, 10,000 shea collectors will be directly supported through numerous activities and projects. These women will receive various targeted training courses and learn more about the production of high quality shea.    

In addition, as part of the “Clean Cookstoves Project” they will learn how to make shea-processing stoves from local materials such as cow dung or termite sand. Not only do these stoves save wood and are therefore more CO2 friendly, they also make cooking the shea nuts safer and faster. We are also planting over 10,000 shea trees on the ground as part of the project. What’s more, this way we are helping combat climate change as the trees bind CO2 and can counteract the spread of the desert. Through this project we are promoting rural development by sustainably securing the women shea collectors’ livelihoods and promoting their emancipation by offering them the opportunity to trade in a self-determined way.

NIVEA Limited Edition – 100% pure shea butter sourced socially responsibly from West Africa

Our NIVEA Limited Edition with 100% pure shea butter follows the principles of fair trade and ensures the traceability of shea butter right back to the women's groups in West Africa. As part of the "Freedom to Innovate" program, a cross-functional team of four dedicated employees implemented this product idea.

The direct purchase of shea nuts from the local female harvesters by our shea supplier promotes their development and makes them independent from intermediate suppliers. This fair, direct trade creates a win-win situation. The products feature personal portraits of and statements by the women shea collectors. The Limited Edition has been available at NIVEA Haus in Hamburg and Berlin and in the NIVEA Online Shop since December 2019.