A word on sustainability with Dr. Ralf Zerrer

Head of Strategic Marketing ICS, Clariant

»Sustainability«, in your opinion what does this term mean today? Is sustainability more a claim or a commitment for companies?

Sustainability to Clariant means balancing the three dimensions of economy, environment, and society. We have taken the principle of the United Nations 1992 Rio de Janeiro Conference on the Environment and Development – achieving a balance between economy and ecology – and expanded the environmental considerations with social aspects. We see this as the whole foundation for sustainability.

Sustainability has gone beyond being a trend to become a commitment for companies. Why? Without sustainability, companies cannot be successful in the long run. Sustainable production means to create long-term values that help future generations to meet their needs. This can only be achieved by the efficient use of resources, by the development of innovative solutions, and by treating people fairly and with respect. This attitude towards doing business opens up opportunities and is a factor which is becoming increasingly important for companies to set themselves apart from competitors. While sustainability for consumers is often relegated to environmental issues, companies see it more along the lines of efficient production and economic savings.

Is sustainability more an issue or an opportunity today? Does sustainability represent more a cost or an investment for companies?

Sustainability has a real impact on the future of companies. There are game-changing developments underway in business due to megatrends such as environment protection, globalization, or resources and energy. To ignore these means not only lost business opportunities now but also risking growth opportunities in the future, and even risking staying in business. In the beginning this requires investments, for example in efficient production systems, safety, and product development. Opportunities can be found in the development of innovative products that use fewer resources over their entire lifecycle or products that are based on sustainable renewable raw materials. Successfully transforming a company towards sustainability means a shift from issue management to harvesting opportunities.

What is the experience of Clariant within this context? What is the sustainability strategy at Clariant?

Clariant has been investing in safe products and both efficient and environmentally compatible processes for years. Likewise, we have continuously initiated measures to live up to our responsibilities towards employees, customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders. We know the success of our business lies in our ethical contribution towards the environment and society, as well as the ability to adapt to an ever-changing world, now and in the future. We also know that Clariant can only be successful if its customers are successful too.

Clariant has already achieved some important successes in its efforts to reach a balance between economical, ecological, and societal interests. Sustainability awareness has increased continuously throughout the company over the past several years. To consolidate this trend and to document its significance, Clariant has embedded sustainability into its Corporate Strategy. It is our fifth strategic pillar – a reflection of the increasingly key role it plays in our operations, culture and as a driver for growth and innovation.

Sustainability opens up significant business opportunities for us in terms of finding answers in the form of products and solutions for companies. At the same time, customers can utilize these products for their own sustainable branding, for example, in the end consumer market, where more and more people are looking for products with a sustainable footprint.

In this context we are taking steps to make the sustainability value of products more visible to our customers. In 2013 Clariant introduced the »Portfolio Value Program« as part of which the whole product portfolio was systematically evaluated from the point of view of sustainability. In this the Business Units examine the intrinsic sustainability of the product portfolio, the products and also in comparison with comparable products in the market. The results of this analysis will give indications as to the type and scope of the improvements required to the product portfolio. At the same time the assessment allows Clariant to award the best-in-class products in the portfolio with the EcoTain® label. EcoTain is our approach to providing customers with a benchmark against which they can measure the sustainability of our products across the whole lifecycle. It provides a physical label to give them the confidence of choosing a product that exceeds market standards.

We believe that the concept of »being sustainable« has to be ingrained into an organization’s culture for it to work. That takes a lot of analysis, time, and on-going effort to see where improvements can be made; changing to a way of working that puts sustainability front of mind at all levels of the organization. The pursuit of sustainability requires a transformation process but one that we would be foolish to ignore because of the opportunities it presents. Our listing on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI) in 2013 and 2014 as one of the top 10 percent leading chemical companies worldwide in terms of sustainability performance is recognition of our progress.

Sustainability is an all-round process starting from natural resources up to the final consumer and the fate of residues or waste. How to ensure this process? What is Clariant doing within this frame?

One of the key things here is not only to look at your own sustainability efforts and to go beyond just legal compliance, but also to look into broader spheres of influence. And we are doing this across all the markets we serve, including the industrial and household cleaning segments.

Clariant views working with customers and the rest of the value chain to help them achieve their sustainability goals as an important responsibility. For example, seeing how we can support the sustainability efforts of our customers through more sustainable products and providing additional information about sustainability on our different products and operations. This is why we are working on integrating sustainability into our business processes via our Portfolio Value Program and our EcoTain® label.

Through these measures sustainability will gradually be integrated in the business processes, over the whole value chain, starting with the sourcing, over production up to the customer, to whom we can offer better and more sustainable products. We are looking to increase the sustainability of the raw materials we purchase, and try to make use of renewable raw materials as much as possible - as with our sugar-based glucamides known as GlucoPure® for the detergents sector, which are predominantly based on renewable raw materials and provide the cleaning power of traditional surfactants.

From an operational aspect, Clariant’s part in ensuring the sustainability process calls for continuous improvement in operational efficiency, on all input factors, which reduces cost and frees up value for other purposes, as well as contributing to improving our own environmental performance. At the beginning of this year Clariant issued new environmental targets for the year 2025. These will drive continuous improvement in six key parameters towards even more efficiency; while at the same time helping to reduce costs.


Ralf Zerrer, Head of Strategic Marketing ICS, Clariant

How important is collaboration to your part in ensuring this all-round process?

The whole sustainability process fuels innovation and the need to find new solutions and fresh approaches. Fundamental to this are collaboration and partnerships. To share a familiar name - our customer Unilever awarded Clariant the »Unilever Partner to Win Award« in the category Joint Value Creation for the second consecutive year in 2014. The global packaging platform was standardized and flexible packaging was developed exclusively for Unilever through close cooperation between Unilever and the research and development experts of Clariant Masterbatches. The advantages were improved cost efficiency for the packaging while maintaining the same quality and product characteristics.

Upstream, we are collaborating at the chemical sector level in the Together for Sustainability (TfS) initiative to obtain transparency and improve sustainability within the supply chain. Sustainable business starts with the sourcing of raw materials and services. Balancing cost efficiency and a high level of quality, ecological, and social standards with a sustained security of supply is a major challenge in a more and more globalized value chain. Increasingly closer relationships with suppliers and customers offer opportunities to create sustainable value with secure, high value added value chains. TfS helps to further integrate sustainability into its supply chain. TfS supplier sustainability assessments provide information not only on the consolidated risk, but it also differentiates between the topics of environment, labor law, fair business practicesn and supplier management. The approach developed and implemented by TfS leverages synergies amongst the participants and delivers an independent, standardized, and quantitative evaluation regarding suppliers’ sustainability and risk profiles.

In your opinion, is »sustainable« always »natural« or »green«? Is »green« or »natural« always »sustainable«?

Sustainable means more than simply being a »natural« product. Sustainable embraces the whole process from ensuring performance of an end-product is not compromised to enabling customers to lower dosage or use fewer natural resources in their production. It also means ensuring a manufacturing and logistics process that minimizes potential impact on nature, the environment and people’s health. Every effort is made by Clariant during the development of products to manage their »sustainability potential«. Renewable, certified raw materials play an important role in this sustainability as well as e.g. the energy-saving production, the safer handling, a long lifetime of the derived products and residue-free disposal or reutilization.

What would the ideal sustainable detergent look like?

Clariant Home Care sustainable solutions range from rheology modifiers that allow highly concentrated formulations, thus reducing packaging and transport costs to additives for reducing energy consumption by allowing low temperature washing. We believe that a sustainable detergent is more than just »green« resources. It has to attend to the performance needs of the final consumer. For example, with GlucoPure® we bring together outstanding expertise with a clear understanding of our customer needs. We are proud to offer the best of both worlds – »green« that cleans. GlucoPure is made from 95% of renewable carbon and presents a performance that matches the current non-renewable benchmarks in the market. The combination is unique.

Renewable sources, use of enzymes, optimization of production processes, better logistics, compaction, less packaging, lowering washing temperatures, less washing liquor, no loss of performance and educating the consumer. How to implement these pivotal aspects for the sustainable production and use in detergency? Which is the weakest point of the flow?

With regards to renewable sources, we are currently working in our R&D department to further improve the Renewable Carbon Index even towards 100%. Then, we are partly using palm-based material. But we do offer GlucoPure in RSPO Mass Balance quality. By 2016 Clariant intends to have certified all its relevant production sites. We are striving to achieve RSPO Segregation by 2020.

For most of the other aspects, it is really about a strong focus in R&D and innovation while having sustainability as a key pillar in the company’s strategy. This is how we can best support our customers in producing sustainable detergents in the future that address consumer needs for performance and a good environmental profile, and their own efficiency targets.

What can the detergent segment expect from Clariant in terms of future sustainable innovations?

Sustainability is an integral part of Clariant’s strategy, which means we will continue our commitment to listening to customers in this regard and focus our R&D on areas to best support their product development. GlucoPure is a true innovation for this segment, and we are looking forward to working closely with customers to explore its full market potential.

Source: H&PC Today  Vol. 10(3) May/June 2015 P 59 – 60

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