Strategy & Management

Expert Statement: Zanna McFerson, Avantium

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?


Zanna McFerson: Avantium’s path to achieving carbon neutrality looks at a number of different areas, includ­ing our technologies, operations, people and leadership. We have out­lined several measurable goals for these, such as achieving 1.5 million tons of CO2 savings and a fully carbon neutral operation by 2030. We are also mobilizing our colleagues and the next generation of scientists, as well as focusing our leadership team’s advocacy efforts. These goals have been put in place to help us accomplish our overall ambition of a fossil-free chemical industry by 2050.
The key challenge currently is that weaning away from fossil-based resources on a global scale is happening too slowly. Also, sustainable alternatives are still in the development stage and need to be scaled up in a cost effective and efficient way. At Avantium, we are applying our scientific and research expertise to improve existing processes and invent new technologies for the chemical industry, to not only address the world’s dependency on fossil-based resources, but also create a more sustainable, circular future.
By setting our plans, we can hope to bring a number of economic and social benefits. We can 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, as well as collaborate with governments and industry associations to help inform the debate and shape climate policy.
We hope to galvanize many others that share similar values and are guided by the same end goals into action, so that together, we create a powerful coalition to reach our ambition of a fossil-free chemical industry by 2050. We not only want to be a leader in sustainability, but also create a ripple effect that draws others into action.