Interview with Enric Holzbacher, Member of the Henkel Sustainability Council for the Adhesive Technologies business sector

Henkel has defined five focal areas for sustainable development. Which of them are especially relevant to your business sector?

Enric Holzbacher: Since our portfolio includes an enormous variety of products, the priority could be on different focal areas in each specific product category. However, we find that most of our products contribute to the focal areas of “health and safety” and “energy and climate.” Consequently, we decided to concentrate primarily on these two topics in our product development.

With what results?

Enric Holzbacher: In “health and safety,” for example we made great progress last year in regard to solvents. These are often the subject of controversy in public debate because of their possible negative impact on health and the environment. We have been working for many years to replace the solvents in our formulations, but through acquisitions, new solvent-based products kept being added to the portfolio. In 2010, we therefore set ourselves the target of decreasing the use of solvents in our consumer adhesives by 50 percent relative to today. Our vision is to eliminate solvents from all our consumer ranges of contact and assembly adhesives by 2030.

How do you plan to achieve this target?

Enric Holzbacher: The change-over will be done in several stages. We began by looking at areas where potential health hazards due to misuse of our adhesives were most likely to occur, as well as areas where substitution was both technically feasible and acceptable in the market. Since the end of 2010, none of our consumer adhesives contain any toluene or methylene chloride. We drew on our experiences in Chile to achieve this. As far back as 1995, Henkel Chile substituted the toluene in its adhesives when it became known that street children were misusing them for glue-sniffing, in other words as intoxicants. Prompted by Henkel’s example, the Chilean president signed a law on December 24, 1998 banning the production and sale of toluene-containing adhesives anywhere in the Chilean market. For its pioneering role, Henkel received a national health award from the Chilean Minister of Health. To make sure alternatives will be available in time to shape a future without solvents, we are investing long-term in the development of new basic technologies.

And what contributions are you making to the “energy and climate” focal area?

Enric Holzbacher: Many of our products have great potential to contribute to climate protection. We offer a variety of systems comprising joint sealants, insulating foams and panels, and waterproofing membranes that enable the professional sealing of windows, doors and façades, thus increasing the energy efficiency of buildings. One of our main priorities for the immediate future will be to raise awareness and foster transparency among our customers. We have to point out where energy is being lost unnecessarily in buildings and explain why this is so.

How do you aim to do this?

Enric Holzbacher: By offering professional advice on all aspects of our products or providing tools like energy calculators – the way we do in Germany, for example at our website This is the only way we can make the advantages our products bring visible to our customers. In other markets such as Central and Eastern Europe, we establish schools for professional craftsmen. We train them in how to use the products correctly and raise their awareness for environmentally compatible building materials. This is how we convey the message that investing in high-quality adhesives, sealants and insulating materials pays in the long run.

My Report
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