German specialty chemicals firm Evonik, Beiersdorf’s supplier of palm (kernel) oil derivates, had also joined the commitment.
Beiersdorf had been working with WWF since 2018 in the western Indonesian province Kapuas Hulu District where it had founded a smallholders’ association ‘Mitra Bersama’ to spearhead plans for RSPO certification. The latest four-year extended commitment between Beiersdorf, Evonik and WWF now aimed to ensure all 200 members of this association, who jointly owned around 300 hectares of land, were certified according to RSPO standards before June 2026. Another goal of the commitment was to give these smallholders direct market access to a palm oil mill.
Connecting with Indonesian smallholders
Longer-term, Beiersdorf and Evonik wanted to source palm (kernel) oil derivatives for products directly from this region, meaning certification of these smallholders represented an “important building block” in achieving this goal.
“Both companies have been committed for several years to the sustainable cultivation of palm oil and a transparent supply chain, and they share the target of deforestation-free sourcing,” Beiersdorf said.
According to the personal care major, the “first phase” of working with the smallholders, with the creation of an association and various training courses implemented, had laid a “solid foundation” for achieving the planned RSPO certification in the coming years.
In Borneo, Beiersdorf, Evonik and WWF would be working in the Indonesian part of the island, West Kalimantan, to “prevent further conversion of natural forests by promoting the cultivation of sustainable palm oil and improving the living standards of the local smallholders”.
Silke Düwel-Rieth, head of business and markets at WWF Germany, described the extended cooperation as “exceptional” because it combined “transformative corporate objectives with local nature conservation”.
“Together, we are strengthening sustainable palm oil production to preserve healthy, species-rich forest systems,” Düwel-Rieth said.
Palm oil, Indonesia and beauty
According to Statistica, global consumption of palm oil sat at around 75 million tons in 2022, with Indonesia representing the largest producing country with over 40 million tons produced. The cosmetic, pharmaceutical, detergent and cleaning industries accounted for around 20% of this palm oil consumption last year.
But Beiersdorf said that, for the cosmetics industry, it wasn’t palm (kernel) oil directly that was being processed, rather so-called palm (kernel) oil derivatives – used as surfactants for foaming or as emulsifiers for a smoothing effect. The personal care major, for example, used around 30,000 metric tons of derivatives per year in the manufacture of its skin and body care products, including its Nivea and Eucerin brands.
However, since 2020, the company had been sourcing palm (kernel) oil derivatives entirely as RSPO Mass Balance certified (RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil from certified sources that is mixed with ordinary palm oil throughout the supply chain) and had a the target of sourcing all palm-based raw materials deforestation-free by 2025 – part of its wider ‘Care Beyond Skin’ sustainability agenda.
Last year, Borneo-based wild harvest ingredient supplier Forestwise called on all international beauty brands to support local communities on the island and empower them to protect the remaining forests and wildlife it shelters. In 2021, WWF said it was certainly time for big beauty to “galvanise” rising consumer engagement around sustainability.