Renewable chemistry company Avantium has mapped out an ambitious strategy to help push the chemical sector towards a fossil-free chemical industry by 2050. In the below, Zanna McFerson, Managing Director, Renewable Chemistries at Avantium answers five quick questions about the company’s ambitions.
Avantium recently published a plan - Chain Reaction 2030 - in which the company commits to measurable sustainability goals to be reached by 2030. It’s an intriguing title – can you explain what it means?
We decided on ‘Chain Reaction’ for a number of reasons one of which is the very industry we are part of; a chain reaction is a chemical reaction so we thought the title was fitting for a renewable chemistries company like Avantium.
By its definition, a chain reaction is a series of events, each caused by the previous one. We want our Sustainability Plan to trigger action and inspire us to reach our goals and ultimately even exceed our targets.
We also hope that others who have similar goals join us in our ambition. We can imagine a chain reaction of change within the industry to reach our ambition of a fossil-free chemical industry by 2050.
The plan seems to be an all-encompassing one that affects all aspects of the company, including products, processes, technologies, working environment, and people. Can you say something about these different aspects and how these come together in striving towards a fossil-free chemical industry?
The plan is indeed all-encompassing, and we felt that tackling a daunting issue like the climate emergency required us to set up every aspect of the company and our business decisions to accelerate the transition to a fossil-free world. Our plan focuses on the four key areas where we can have the greatest impact on the societal and environmental issues we face today – these are our technologies, our operations, our people, and our leadership.
We set ourselves a wide-ranging series of goals and targets for each area. For our technologies and operations, we want to accelerate innovation to support the circular economy and drive responsible and sustainable business practices across the industry with the aim to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Our plan also includes goals to empower our own leadership to advocate for greater action by the chemical industry, mobilise our people and excite the next generation of scientists to help solve climate’s most pressing problems.
How is it organised - is there any one area you plan to start?
We know that we have challenged ourselves with these goals for the coming decade. It will require meticulous organisation and regular evaluation to ensure that we’re on track and to see what’s working and what isn’t. In addition to the overarching aims, we have outlined immediate next steps and future plans in each area. For instance, to ensure the safety of our employees, we’ll begin the formal certification process for the ISO45001 accreditation in 2022 with the view to complete this in 2023. Our first move for our ‘Great Place to Work’ recognition is to establish a baseline assessment to assess strengths and weaknesses, create short-term and long-term plans, as well as establish designated ‘Great Place to Work’ teams in each business unit.
For our technologies, we already conduct Life Cycle Analyses in order to understand what needs to be done for continuous improvement in environmental impact. We also investigate circular business models for each line of business. All of this will continue to ensure that our technologies are sustainable and can make a meaningful impact in the world.
As you say, Avantium cannot do it alone. How will you get other companies to join with you?
To succeed, we want partners who are change-makers, share similar values, and are guided by the same end goals. We know that we don’t have all the answers and that there is a limit to how much we can achieve by ourselves. We hope our plan will spur other industry players into action so that, together, we can create a powerful coalition to reach our ambition of a fossil-free chemical industry by 2050. At Avantium, we not only want to be a leader in sustainability; we also want to create a ripple effect that draws others into action.
Our plan can help us better engage with and educate the public on the impact of climate change, work with important stakeholders to fundamentally change the plastic value chain for the better, and collaborate with governments and industry associations to help inform the debate and shape climate policy.
We aim to actively seek out partnerships and opportunities for collaboration to ensure that we bring parties together for the greatest impact possible. So, let’s tackle the challenges ahead as one and together strive for a better tomorrow.
What will happen after 2030?
We believe that we are the first company to embrace an overall vision and ambition of a fossil-free chemical industry by 2050. Our first targets are aimed for this decade and after 2030, we will assess where we are on our roadmap and how we are doing as far as the industry and plan from there.
Now, our first focus is to achieve the targets we’ve set for ourselves. I’m so pleased that, for the first time, we have committed to sustainability targets that can be measured. We are making a serious and ambitious commitment and we are proud to do so despite realising that it will be challenging. We will be transparent on our achievements as we travel this road. If we fall behind, we will explain why, and if we exceed our expectations, we will stretch our ambition even further. Our journey, the industry’s journey, even the world’s journey to tackle the climate emergency will not stop at 2030, or even at 2050. It will only end when the transition is complete and sustainable achieving a circular, fossil-free future for all.