TfS: If don’t look afterfuture, don’t have future

TfS: If we don’t look after the future, we don’t have a future

8:00 AM, 25th November 2016
Richard van der Merwe, Vice Chairman & Managing Director and CEO, Bayer CropScience, India.
TfS, sustainability, supply chain, chemical industry, Bayer CropScience, Richard van der Merwe, Indian chemical industry.

In a discussion, Richard van der Merwe, Vice Chairman & Managing Director and CEO, Bayer CropScience, India with Chemical Today magazine speaks about together for sustainability (TfS) initiative and sustainability in the chemical industry.

By Debarati Das

Defining sustainability in chemical industry:

Sustainability means future viability. It is a part of our corporate strategy and we are continuously working on it every single day. In the essence, if we don’t look after the future, we don’t have a future.

Sustainability initiatives at Bayer:

At Bayer, our stand on child labour is unequivocal. We do not tolerate child labour whatsoever. One challenge that we faced in the early 2000s was when we acquired a local company in seed supply chain in India. We found out that there was a tremendous amount of child labour involved in the seed production process.

Although we did not employ child labour at the farms, it was a bigger societal problem that we were facing where the farmer's involved children in the process. We then decided to initiate a child care programme in 2005 and rolled it out in 5 states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu wherein we entered into contracts with the farmers prohibiting them from employing child labours. We also started the initiative-Learning for Life, where we send these children to schools.

Thus far, we have sent over 6000 children to school. After 11 years, we achieved what we set to achieve. Today we find very few incidents of child labour in the farms we have contracted. Sustainability is a long-term initiative which takes a lot of dedication and commitment from the entire organisation and not something which can be achieved in a day.

Challenges while driving sustainability:

It is a tough call to discontinue products which are not aligned to sustainability. In South Africa, we found out that a product was wrongly being used by anti-social elements of the society for killing dogs and when we took back the products, the farmers were very upset with us as we took away a tried and tested solution for them. Although the product had a huge economic benefit for us, but as an organisation, you have to take a stand at some point in time.

Application of sustainability at Bayer:

In 2011, we joined hand with other companies to form TfS -an initiative where with our peers and our supply chain, we face the challenges of sustainability together and not as individuals.

Be it Bayer, BASF, or any other company, we are all committed to providing safe and reliable products to the growing population. It is important to drive sustainability for the benefit of the human kind. At Bayer, we aim to have an assessment of 100 percent of our high potential suppliers by 2017 and 100 percent assessment of high-risk suppliers by 2020.

Role of digital platform in sustainability:

We invest heavily in digital farming. For example, in Brazil, there are massive farms and it is physically impossible to monitor it. With digital technology today, we are able to detect even a small fungus in a particular leaf of a particular plant and a proactive measure can be taken before the spread of the pest.

So, instead of spraying more chemicals, digital technology enables to use fewer chemicals on targeted areas. The next step will be to connect this digital technology to a tractor with a sprayer which will automatically reach the affected plant and spray the required chemical. So we are looking at providing innovative solutions to the farmers to effectively feed the growing population.

Future focused actions on sustainability at Bayer:

Sustainability would develop dynamically and has to be a continuous journey. We are committed to maintaining a very high level of sustainability. In this journey, we face many challenges. There are new pests, new diseases that keep coming up and it is up to us to find new solutions to these new challenges. And all this needs to be done keeping sustainability at the fore.

© Chemical Today Magazine

See the Interview Coverage in Chemical Today magazine (Pg 28)

View the interview on Mobile, download the Chemical Today magazine app 



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