In this Q&A, Walter Ripple, Vice President of Sustainability at Avient, discusses how Avient and its products are seeking to make a difference. "Brand owners for all types of consumer products are setting sustainability goals,” he said. Avient has developed material solutions designed to promote sustainability – ‘for our customers and for the planet’, he said.
We talk a lot about sustainability, but it seems as if different people have different definitions of what it actually is. So, how do you, at Avient define sustainability?
Avient’s strategy is based on the four cornerstones of people, products, plant and performance, and these four are all inextricably linked. In other words, you can’t have one of those without the other, which means we’re focused on all those areas. We align our activities, our messaging and our goals with all four of these cornerstones.
In terms of how we define sustainability, for a number of years now, we have offered our sustainability promise and we’ve adopted components of the 1987 UN Brundlandt report, in which they talk about sustainability in terms of meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their needs. To be honest, I’ve seen a lot of different definitions and I’ve tried to come up with some of my own, but frankly, to me, that says it all. Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.
And: sustainability has been core to our strategy for a very long time. I know that everyone’s talking about it now, and so are we, but, as the results we have already achieved show, we are not new to this. To give you an example: since 2016, which was kind of a baseline year for us when we started measuring things, our sustainability portfolio has doubled in sales. And in terms of planet and environmental initiatives, I can say that in the last three years, we’ve been able to improve our carbon emissions by 30%, or reduce them by 30%.
How long have you been in the role of Vice President of Sustainability at Avient?
Not that long, but let me tell you a bit about how I got here. I’ve been in the industry for 28 years or so. I started my career with Shell Chemical Company, after getting a bachelor’s in chemistry from Texas A&M University and I spent about 8 years there. I then moved to Avient, although when I joined we were of course still PolyOne.
A little over 20 years ago I moved to the company’s specialty elastomers business: prior to my current role - which I’ve been in a little over two years - I was running the global thermoplastics elastomers business. Why was I drawn to my current role? It’s simple. Sustainability megatrends and the challenges associated with them were becoming more and more important to the planet and for our customers, and I wanted to be part of driving Avient’s strategy to do our part.
And in July of last year, we purchased the Clariant Masterbatch business and changed our name. The idea was that two companies were coming together who were leaders in both our industries, so we formed under a new name called Avient. And a big component of that is the sustainable solution set that we offer to the industry.