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Sustainability in the chemicals industry

Your expert for questions

Oliver Golly
Partner, PwC Strategy&
Tel.: +49 211 3890-389
E-Mail

Sustaining Values in Chemicals – From "License to Operate" towards "Value Creation"

Sustainability is hardly a new discovery in the chemicals industry – its Responsible Care® initiative was founded 1985. For decades now, companies in the chemicals industry have dealt with topics such as safety, risk management and environmental and health impact due to increasingly stringent regulations and growing public awareness.

So what's changed? The chemicals industry plays a vital role in tackling major societal challenges such as climate change, global food supply shortages or how we deal with plastic waste. Expectations placed on chemicals companies are high: in addition to improving their own footprint they are also supposed to promote sustainable solutions and innovative strategies in every customer industry they serve. After all, many innovations – from introducing new mobility concepts, over affordable housing to ensuring a sufficient food supply for the world's population – are enabled by the chemicals industry’s new materials and processes.

Yet, capturing opportunities in that new space needs moving from a reactive, compliance-driven approach towards creating and capturing value – in a sustainable way. Our industry experts at Strategy& and PwC can help you achieve this.

"Many chemicals players struggle to understand the value created through their more sustainable products and processes – and how to capture it to justify investments in innovation and technology"

Oliver Golly, Partner, PwC Strategy&

Major changes within the industry

The chemical ecosystem and the industry discussion on sustainability are widely shaped by three dimensions that need answers: 

  • Regulation: Compliance with recently introduced, more stringent regulations such as the EU's gradual ban on single-use plastic bottles and regulations governing potentially hazardous substances necessitate investment in innovative alternative materials and processes.
  • Technology: New technologies emerge at a rapid pace. Biotechnologies or chemolysis used in recycling or renewable raw materials for use in production are but a few prime examples. If these are to be successful, they need to be scalable and competitively priced.
  • Ecosystems: Established value chains are being re-configured with new players entering the ecosystem, such as recyclers, preprocessors, or tech start-ups. Established companies will have to re-evaluate and potentially reposition themselves.

Chemicals companies that actively participate in the debate about sustainability and the chemicals industry and find solutions for these issues are at a clear advantage: they can actively leverage growth opportunities instead of merely reacting to developments in order to avoid jeopardising their license to operate.

Your situation

Seizing opportunities to create positive value

The chemicals industry is in a unique position to address myriad sustainability issues from two perspectives: with a view to its own footprint and as an "enabler" of downstream value chains.

While many companies have (more or less) clearly defined long-term objectives it often remains to be seen how exactly these will be achieved. 

  • How clearly have our aspirations and future role been defined? How is this implemented into our strategy? And does our organisation understand what that implies, precisely? 

  • What are tangible measures to actually implement these objectives? How do we create transparency and measure progress?

  • How well do we understand the impact we have on our customers’ value creation through our chemical products, processes and solutions – are we close enough to our partners and markets?

  • How do we move from a legacy asset-backed management approach towards a new form of value creation and monetization? What are value drivers behind new business models or a circular economy?

Our services

Turning ideas into reality

The experiences of chemicals companies with regard to sustainability vary greatly. Companies don't always start from the same place. Our experts at Strategy& and PwC will help you promote your individual sustainability agenda. We focus on those aspects that are particularly important to you:

Sustainability strategy
Create clarity on your sustainability strategy, objectives and future positioning – in harmony with your corporate strategy.

Creating value
Understand and revalue created through chemical products and processes, and translate into innovative business and monetization models

Operating model
Anchor sustainability within your organisation, processes, decision-making and KPIs. This also means leveraging digital technologies,

Operations transformation
Analyse your supply chains and production networks from end to end, taking into consideration ESG, risk management and location aspects. Develop sustainable energy supply concepts.

Impact measurement
Create transparency and a comprehensive, reliable database in order to calculate the impact of your business activities along the entire value chain. Don't forget the ecological and social criteria!

Skills and culture
Develop towards a purpose-led organisation. Identify capabilities gaps and ways to bridge them (e.g., through M&A, alliances or partnerships).

Our promise

Our experts at Strategy& and PwC will advise you on your path to sustainability

From start to finish: We're your one-stop-shop for all your transformation needs – from strategy to implementation. This also includes tools, data acquisition and organisational embedding.

Complete package: We maintain close ties to industry stakeholders, including regulators, NGOs and global/regional forums. We can quickly anticipate changes, both in the chemicals industry and in your customers' industries.

Experienced: We have a wealth of experience with the highly complex ecosystems of the chemicals industry – worldwide.

Real added value: We help you create sustainable value on triple bottom-lines: financial performance, social welfare, and environmental benefits.

"Our 23rd Global CEO Study revealed that 58 percent of CEOs in the chemicals industry are already planning investments in sustainability in the coming year. This development underscores the significance of sustainability in the chemicals sector."

Ruirui Zong-Rühe,Director, PwC Strategy&

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