16 June 2022
Carsten Knobel on taking Henkel’s Purposeful Growth agenda to next level | Interview summary
This is the condensed 7min version of the interview. Click here for the full version.
In this interview with managing partner and co-founder of SparkOptimus, Alexandra Jankovich, Henkel’s CEO Carsten Knobel discusses diversity, sustainability, digital transformation and the way Henkel uses digital to serve their consumers and customers better.
Key topics in this interview summary:
- Creating a clear competitive edge
- Importance of sustainability
- Creating value through digitalization
- Diversity program
Alexandra Jankovich: With Carsten Knobel CEO of Henkel I talked about diversity sustainability digital transformation and the way Henkel uses digital to serve their consumers and customers better. He started off talking about how to create a clear competitive edge.
Carsten Knobel: First of all I think it’s about a portfolio, a successful portfolio, with creating a clear competitive edge in the areas of innovation in terms of sustainability in terms of digitalization as well as future operating models and all of that is based on a strong company culture which is the foundation of everything. And I also believe that when I talked about the competitive edge, sustainability plays an important factor, and this is really something which can and must be also a clear differentiator for us. It’s a topic that has been always of high importance for Henkel. And today, sustainability is really crucial to generate growth, and also create value for our stakeholders.
Alexandra Jankovich: Yeah, a great and very important transformation. So, if we move to digitalization, you want to increase the value for customers and consumers through digitalization. How will you do this?
Carsten Knobel: I think digitalization is one of our focus areas within our framework to boost, really, our competitive edge. And by that, growing faster than the markets in which we’re operating. And digital can be a true value creator for us in order to get into direct contact with customers, into direct contact with consumers. And by that, addressing our target groups more effectively and also understand them faster, and better in that context.
And only through this direct contact with consumers, I think we are also able to keep our fingers on the pulse and really read them, understand them. And by that, react quickly on trends and also on changing market developments. And in this context, I think I would like to particularly highlight the direct to consumer in that consumer business. Because B2C has become an extremely important business model.
In my opinion, really, we need three things in order to get that thing right.
So, first of all, we need the right digital expertise. We need the right culture, but we also need the digital technologies behind that. And with this help, it is for us to develop new business models or to expand also existing platforms in which we are operating. And one example here is RAQN. RAQN, for us, is a new platform for digital business and e-commerce, which we have launched last year, developed by ourselves. And with RAQN, we laid, really, the foundation. for more speed and also more customer proximity in the online world.
And the key priorities of our incubators, are not surprisingly, speed and also agility. And by that, we have created a digital unit. We call it Henkel dx. And Henkel dx has opened a new digital hub in Berlin to foster digital innovation, but also the business models and leading technology solutions we have taken into that.
So, I hope you can see, Alexandra, Henkel’s digital transformation is in full swing. And for sure, we can still get even faster and better because not everything what we’re doing is working out at the first step. But I think it’s important to have also this attitude of trial and also accepting error or mistakes in order to get better going forward.
Alexandra Jankovich: Absolutely. That is very important. And you’re already giving a couple of examples of the consumer business, and I think you also have an ambition in the adhesives business with customer-centric digitalization to generate new business. Could you also share some of your actions or plans in that area?
Carsten Knobel: We integrate the digital technologies to change the way we operate, but also how we produce, how we sell to our customers.
And we are already, for some time, running a global e-shop for adhesives business, which in the meantime has created more than 30%, or around 30% of our business in total. So, with this, we will not only strengthen our existing business, but we will also further digitalize our customer experience across all the touch points. And by that, expanding it also to new business models. And with an addition to that, I think we will also further pursue our end-to-end data integration because data is definitely an important factor, also, when it comes to our adhesives technology in business.
Alexandra Jankovich: Yes, very good. And this data driven insight and being close to the customer with your world-class technology is, of course, the great combination that you want to achieve. And you also told about the eCommerce shop. What impact does it have, also, for growing value pools, like the small and medium-sized enterprises? The fact that you can serve them digitally.
Carsten Knobel: With this, you’re creating, for sure, speed. Also, in terms of less direct contact getting more efficient and effective in a way, and in adhesives differently than to our consumer branded businesses, we are not in touch with bigger retailers. But here with a couple of thousands, more than 30,000 of customers. And by that, you can’t operate with all of them face to face or individual basis. And by that, I think with this e-platform, you’re driving definitely efficiency and effectiveness into the organization and into the business.
Alexandra Jankovich: You have very clear goals in your 2030+ Sustainability Ambition Framework. Can you tell a bit about it?
Carsten Knobel: For sure, I can. I think it sets the strategic frame to further accelerate on transformation. Evolving our portfolio, our processes, and even more strongly towards the sustainability of what we’re doing. And this includes a new long-term ambition. And one is that we want to become climate-positive already by 2030. And that is 10 years earlier than we originally had planned for. And another focus is on a circular economy. So, we have set ourselves ambitious targets when it comes to the sustainability of packaging or sustainable packaging by 2025. So, 100% of our packaging material shall be recyclable until 2025. We want to reduce the amount of virgin plastic by 50% by developing smarter packaging, by reducing the plastic volume in general. But also by using more recycled plastic.
And acting sustainable, I think also means that we are promoting equal opportunities and strengthening diversity. And here, we have set ourselves a truly ambitious and important goal. We want to achieve gender parity across all management levels by 2025. And we are currently at 38%. So, this is also what it means for me to be “Pioneer at heart for the good of generations.” Taking, definitely, gender and also different views into account.
Want to know more? Read about how we worked together with Henkel to accelerate their beauty venture towards sustainable growth and to reach their D2C ambitions here.