Strategy & Management

Expert Statement: Herwig Buchholz, Merck

CO2-Neutral Chemical Industry - The Challenge of an Industry Transformation

10.03.2021 - The European Chemical Industry has set out on an ambitious path to become carbon neutral.

Germany, as one of the major chemical manufacturing nations, has committed to achieve this goal by 2050. But companies need to translate this industry vision into their specific context.
System changes of the scale of CO2 neutrality for a whole industry sector require a new mindset. Major transformations command long lead times and require consistent and persistent follow-through. It is all but clear whether enough value is created to justify the huge investments and how new value generated is distributed among critical players and investors.

CHEManager asked executives and industry experts to share their opinions on this industry transformation, which is a multi-stakeholder challenge and comprises economical, technical, societal and political aspects. We proposed to discuss the following aspects:

  • What is your strategy / timeline to become carbon neutral and what are the key challenges on the path to achieve this goal?
  • What political / regulatory mea­sures are needed to encourage companies to invest in carbon neu­tral technologies?
  • What economical / societal benefits do you expect or hope for by decarbonizing your business?
  • How do you plan to involve external stakeholders critical for achieving CO2 neutrality?


Herwig Buchholz: At Merck, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is a core element and one of the three goals of our sustainability strategy: By 2040, we want to be climate-neutral —not just in terms of emissions at our own sites and from energy purchases, but along the entire value chain.
This goal cannot be achieved without major changes. Start­ing with our product developments, we are already working to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint through a wide range of initiatives and projects. Cutting down on energy consumption, utilizing renewable energy sources, and minimizing our process emissions are key elements of our climate mitigation efforts.
In recent years, we have focused on reduc­ing greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency projects. We are contin­uously improving the energy efficiency of our buildings as well as our research and production activities by adapting and moderniz­ing them. In addition, we are working to reduce process-related greenhouse gas emissions and emissions from our own energy generation. Since 2019, we have increasingly been purchasing electricity from renewable sources, and we are committed to engage in green virtual power purchasing agreements.
However, it is also clear that climate change is a global challenge that can only be resolved together. And while global attention to the issue is important, solutions are even more important. We need different, visionary approaches in many areas. For example, agriculture is a huge producer of CO2. A recent United Nations report calls on people everywhere to substantially cut down on their meat consumption in order to help save the planet. That is why we are committed to the topic of clean meat: meat grown in the lab has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We are working closely with a broad range of partners across different sectors — includ­ing academia, start-ups, non-profits and large corporations. Our ambition is to lever­age science and technology to achieve last­ing progress for mankind. For us, sustainable entrepreneurship and profitable growth go hand in hand.