Interview with Dr. Peter Florenz, Member of the Henkel Sustainability Council for Governmental Relations

Participation in political decision-making by companies – called corporate lobbying – is often viewed critically by society…

Dr. Peter Florenz: This is unfortunately true, even though we generally find this view to be unwarranted. Lobbying is, in fact, meaningful and useful, not only for companies, but for society as well. The preparation of political decisions requires input from all social groups if fair, responsible and balanced solutions are to be found. These groups naturally also include companies. We at Henkel are often directly approached by politicians and regulators asking for our opinion and expertise on specific questions – especially in the case of topics that are directly related to our business areas and on which we have been able to amass valuable experience through our engagement in the industrial and consumer goods sectors throughout the years. The prerequisite is, of course, that this dialogue is open and transparent.
 
How can this be ensured?

Dr. Peter Florenz: Last year, for example, Henkel signed on to the Transparency Register of the European Union. This voluntary register makes the participation of company representatives in the various working groups transparent. Our aim here is to openly indicate the topics for which we help to shape the decision-making process of the European Commission. Moreover, within the company we have established clear rules in regard to our lobbying activities, and we have published these in our “Representation of Interests in Public Affairs” standard. These rules, by the way, also include the fact that Henkel does not provide financial or other forms of support to political parties.

Why is it actually important for companies like Henkel to have an influence on discussions in the political arena and industry associations?

Dr. Peter Florenz: Above all to ensure that planned legislation can actually be implemented in practice and that the desired social steering effects can indeed be achieved. At the moment, regulators are focusing intensely on the chemical and consumer goods sectors. These two fields are directly relevant to Henkel’s business environment. REACH and the EU Action Plan for Sustainable Consumption and Production are examples of this. By participating in the development of these sets of regulations, we as a company are in a position to communicate our own interests and experiences, as well as those of our employees, customers and consumers. We thus offer a kind of “reality check” for political decision-making. We do not do this all by ourselves, by the way. It is often more effective to form a joint opinion with other companies in industry associations and working groups and to then – strictly adhering to compliance and antitrust regulations – speak with a single voice. For this reason, we are involved in many national and international projects and voluntary initiatives.

Which ones, for example?

Dr. Peter Florenz: We have long been an active member of the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (A.I.S.E.) Since 2005, we have been engaged in the Charter for Sustainable Cleaning, the only voluntary sustainability initiative of its kind up to the present time, whose primary aim is to continuously improve standards for the manufacture and use of laundry and home care products. This charter has been signed by 130 manufacturing and retail companies up to now, covering more than 80 percent of the volume of laundry and home care products produced in Europe. We also collaborate with Europe-wide working groups in regard to topics such as REACH and the recognition of alternative methods to replace animal testing. Increasingly important to us is working with our customers – such as our involvement the Sustainability Consortium established by Walmart, which focuses on the measurability of sustainability performance. In Germany and the USA, we are involved in joint projects with partners in research, industry, trade, politics, and nongovernmental organizations aimed at developing a reliable and internationally uniform method of calculating the carbon footprint of products. This is because we consider that helping to develop new standards is just as much a part of our responsibility as adhering to existing ones.

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