Strategy & Management

Expert Statement: Hubert Fink, Lanxess

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?

Hubert Fink: When my colleagues and I de­cided in 2019 that Lanxess should become climate-neutral by 2040, we were guided by two ideas: First, we have a responsibility to contribute to the Paris Agreement‘s goal of limit­ing global warming to less than two degrees Celsius. Second, we see the business benefits. We will become an increasingly sustainable partner for our customers in the coming years. And thanks to greater resource efficiency, we will save costs in the long term. In a nutshell, climate protection is a business case.
Of course, it is first and foremost up to us to achieve the goal of climate neutrality. Only recently, we put a plant into operation at our Antwerp site to reduce nitrous oxide, which emits during the production of the plastic precursor caprolactam. A second facility will be added in 2023. In India, we are converting our energy supply to renewables. This has already been achieved in Brazil. At our major sites on the Lower Rhine, Germany, we will only use natural gas in the mid-term, which is more climate-friendly than coal. With our focus on specialty chemicals, we will do more business with lower emissions in the future. Our research focuses more strongly on climate-neutral process and technology innovations. All of this requires investment, but it pays off in the long term, for our business and for the planet.
However, the transformation to climate neutrality is not solely in our hands. We need political support. In Germany, for example, we urgently need more green energy, and at competitive prices. It is also essential that the European emissions trading system remains functional and that there is no double burden from national systems. Finally, yet importantly, we need simple and fast approval procedures for new, emission-reducing technologies and energy-efficient plants.