Strategy & Management

Expert Statement: Martin Babilas, Altana

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?

Martin Babilas: We want to leave our footprint on innovations, not on emissions. Therefore, we have already consistently pursued an ambitious sustainability course for many years. Currently, we are on target to reduce our CO2 impact from production and energy procurement worldwide to zero already by 2025.

We believe that industry plays a decisive role in driving forward global climate protection. But the climate protection targets cannot be achieved without sufficient electricity from renew­able energies at competitive prices and the corresponding grid infrastructure. Therefore, policy­makers need to promote renewable energies much more strongly and swiftly. Incentives must be created to ensure that sufficient electricity and heat energy from CO2 neutral sources will continue to be available in the future. Furthermore, policymakers should create comparable competitive conditions for the industry with internationally uniform CO2 pric­ing.

As more and more companies strive to become climate neutral themselves, the need for our experience in researching and develop­ing innovative solutions that make industrial and consumer products more sustain­able will even rise. Wire enamels from Altana‘s Elantas division, for example, are increasingly being used in electric vehicles and extend their service life. Byk offers a solution for the recycling of polypropylene in car batteries, which was previously not recyclable. An aluminum pigment in wall paints developed by our Eckart division ensures that up to 50% of the heat is radiated back from the walls into the room. And a PVC-free seal from the Actega division helps beverage bottlers save 10,000 tons of steel for their crown caps.

With regard to our suppliers, we have set up a program to consistently further improve the CO2 balance of purchased raw materials.