TfS: It takes innovation drive sustainability

TfS: It takes innovation to drive sustainability

12:00 PM, 24th November 2016
Dr Raman Ramachandran, Chairman and Managing Director, BASF India Ltd & Head, BASF South Asia.
Dr Raman Ramachandran, Chairman and Managing Director, BASF India Ltd & Head, BASF South Asia.

In a discussion Dr Raman Ramachandran, Chairman and Managing Director, BASF India Ltd & Head, BASF South Asia 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:

The accepted definition of sustainability in the industry is that any product, solution or initiative that we take is taken with the understanding of the balance of the economic, social and environmental impact that the product will have. Given the challenges and problems that humanity faces, it also creates opportunities for us to come up with differentiated products which can solve some of these problems.

India faces daunting sustainability challenges of rapid urbanisation, waste management, increasing pollution, falling agriculture productivity and depleting natural resources. The answers to many of these challenges lie in innovations in chemistry and this presents an opportunity for the chemical industry. It is important that industry, academia, government and other stakeholders collaborate for creating an environment that spurs innovation.

An active judiciary, vigilant civil society and demanding consumers are creating a push towards greater sustainability. A more consistent enforcement of regulations and an approach of incentive/penalty is required to encourage adoption of sustainable practices. Equally important is the voluntary adoption of global best practices in areas such as sustainable sourcing, responsible care and product stewardship. Successful adoption of sustainable practices in the Industry would require organisations to embed sustainability in their goals; to shift from a profit and revenue based model to one that encompasses all three pillars of sustainability.

Ways in which BASF implements sustainability:

First and foremost, we have embedded sustainability in our corporate purpose, ie. “We create chemistry for a sustainable future”. We look at the long-term trends on earth and the significant challenges we would face. This gives us opportunities to come up with solutions that will allow us to live on this planet with the resources that we have.

Second, we have established clear mid to long term goals of achieving sustainability like by 2020, 90 percent of our manufacturing sites would have certified energy efficient systems in place. As on 2015, we have already achieved 40 percent of this goal. On greenhouse gas emission, we have a clear target that compared to 2012; we will have 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2020. We will also have sustainable water management practices on all our sites by 2020. And third, lot of our researches are focused on these future sustainability challenges and we constantly come up with products that contribute to sustainability.

Challenges while driving sustainability:

One of the challenges is the short term impact of walking the talk. When you take upon sustainability, there are certain steps that you are forced to take for an immediate economic impact. At BASF, there are some products which significantly contribute to sustainability, some which do not have too high an impact on sustainability front and some which have certain risks associated with it.

With innovation, we are constantly trying to make these products in sync with our sustainability goals. However, there are also some products which do not fit into our concept of sustainability and we have to take the tough call of not selling these products at all. Last year, we shelved a 25-year-old agricultural chemical which had an immediate economic impact on us but was not in sync with our mission.

We have a goal to increase our products with high impact on sustainability by 20 percent by 2020. Some of these products have a significant social and environmental impact but are not that economical for us as there are cheaper and less sustainable products available in the market. So, even though there are not many takers of these products, we continue to manufacture it and push it into the market because we know that eventually there will be a market for these products in future.

This strict adherence to governance and ethics brings us to our next challenge where internally it sometimes becomes a challenge to convince our team to manufacture/sell highly sustainable products which are not finding many takers in the market. We address this problem with constant communication both internally, externally.

BASF’s future measures on sustainability:

We have really stepped up in our commitment to sustainability. We have very clear, time-specific goals, which are measured annually and we are pretty close to achieving all the set parameters. By 2020, 70 percent of our suppliers will be assessed on sustainability parameters and we further help them adopt better sustainable practices. There is no end point to sustainability, this is a journey. It is all about being committed to what we have promised.

© Chemical Today Magazine


See the Interview Coverage in Chemical Today magazine (Pg 27)

https://www.worldofchemicals.com/digitalissue/chemicaltoday/chemical-today-october/11

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

http://bit.ly/21W5H0z

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