Our European Surfactants Initiative

Our company has always used natural ingredients such as vinegar, lemon and baking soda (natron) in our products. A large portion of our cleaning products is made up of wash-active substances called “surfactants.” They cause grease and grime to dissolve in water during washing or cleaning processes.

Conventional cleaning agents often contain crude oil-based surfactants. Sustainable cleaners, however, call for surfactants made of regenerative raw materials, that is, of renewable plant-based sources.

European oil plants instead of tropical oils

Most market participants have used almost exclusively tropical palm kernel oil and, to a lesser extent, coconut oil in the production of surfactants. However, surfactants based on tropical oils destroy the rainforest’s biodiversity in the long term and even the rainforest itself, the green lungs of the Earth.

Therefore, in its biodiversity protection efforts, Werner & Mertz relies not on the use of tropic oils alone and continuously raises the portion of surfactants based on European oil plants such as rapeseed, olive, linseed and sunflowers. Rapeseed and sunflower oils come from German, Poland and France;  linseed oil from France and Belgium and olive oil from  southern Europe, Spain, Italy and Greece. None of the oils used competes with food production.

Surfactants made from plants cultivated in Europe have the following beneficial effects

  • Protect the rainforest in tropical regions
  • Save energy and avoid emissions (transport)
  • Use of European oil-producing plants without impairing food production
  • Rapeseed cultivation restores fields
  • Fosters biodiversity with European oil-producing plants

Vegetable oils from temperate climate zones, however, are composed differently from tropical oils. Therefore, surfactants based on oil-bearing seeds from temperate zones cannot achieve the same effect if they replace tropical oils 1:1 in formulas for household cleaning and personal care products. The use of native oils requires investment in research and development.

In our ambitious project “European Surfactants Initiative,” we are avidly researching the feasibility of obtaining all surfactants from European oil plants in order to avoid the use of surfactants made from tropical oils.

At the moment we still use a certain proportion of coconut or palm kernel oil in our formulas. We are supporting the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the sustainable cultivation of  palm oil.