Sustainability at Evonik
Sustainability: Stefan Haver, head of Corporate Responsibility at Evonik, explains why sustainability plays a major role at Evonik, how applicants and employees come into contact with the topic, and takes a look into the future.
Sustainability is an omnipresent topic today - what does it mean for Evonik as a specialty chemicals company?
Chemistry enables progress to be made in almost all areas of life. This is essential for the transition to a climate-neutral society and closed value creation cycles. What's more, it is the very prerequisite for us to be able to imagine a world in which more than ten billion people will live well and in harmony with the planet's natural limits in the future. This shows that what is ecologically and socially important is increasingly also financially worthwhile. For most of our customers, sustainability is high on the list of requirements. With our products and solutions, we help them achieve these goals.
Evonik has clarified its position on sustainability - what is new about the 2020+ sustainability strategy?
The topic of sustainability does not survive on flowery intentions and nice promises. It's all about binding targets, measurability and clear evidence. This should be regularly reviewed and updated. Our current environmental targets expire in 2020. That is why we have now set out how we plan to approach the next phase. And that is something to be proud of: By 2025, we will halve our absolute greenhouse gas emissions compared with the base year 2008. We have already achieved 30 percent of this figure today. Other elements of the strategy are the introduction of an internal CO2 price for investment decisions, a global water management system at our sites, and the comprehensive measurement and evaluation of sustainability opportunities and risks in our portfolio. We have therefore set ourselves a number of goals.
What concrete improvements will the new sustainability strategy make?
Integrating sustainability criteria into investment decisions, innovation processes and individual behavioral incentives. Sustainability management is only effective if it moves from the margins to the center of corporate decisions: as part of risk assessments, market development, profit and loss accounting. What we need and what we have done is to anchor sustainability in the corporate strategy itself.
Employees and applicants want to work sustainably
Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important criterion in the choice of employer - what are the arguments in favor of Evonik?
Hardly any other industry offers greater leverage to meet the sustainability requirements of the future. And hardly any other company places this claim as much at the center of its activities as Evonik. We already generate about half of our sales today with products that have been proven to contribute to improved resource efficiency in applications for our customers. More than 80 percent of our sales contribute positively to achieving the United Nations' sustainability goals, known as global goals. And we don't want to stop there. We are continuing our efforts to become the best specialty chemicals company in the world. In terms of sustainability, too. Also because it enables us to establish ourselves positively as an employer among our groups.
Evonik has employees and applicants from all over the world - how do you ensure that sustainability is implemented and experienced in the same way in all countries?
Sustainability is a cross-cutting issue. You don't do this in a quiet room, isolated in a corporate headquarters. You are in close contact with partners throughout the company. On this basis, we define the strategic framework for the company as a whole and coordinate joint implementation. Not abstract, but very concrete and from person to person. Fortunately, segment or country boundaries are not an issue in an international organization.
How were the employees' reactions to the new strategy?
We are experiencing an enormous response. If you work in chemistry, you have a special interest in proving to the world that you and your company are less part of the problem and much more part of the solution to sustainable development; you want to be seen to be objective. Some common prejudices look quite different. That spurs us on. And it sensitizes people to their own role in the value creation process. From occupational and plant safety to climate and environmental issues, sustainability is a top issue for our employees worldwide.
How can employees, especially Generation Y and Z, contribute to sustainability?
Whether it's Y, Z or whatever: he or she should be on fire for the cause and not be content with just supposedly simple solutions. The nice thing about sustainability is that it is so diverse that there is almost no experience, skill or strength that is not needed anywhere. That is diversity in the best sense of the word. The combination of sustainability and digitalization is playing an increasingly important role and is also relevant to our employees.
If interested applicants want to stay on the ball, how can they find out more about Evonik's activities?
Click on "Responsibility" at evonik.com and browse to your heart's content. If you like it fact-based, you'll appreciate our background reports or our well-documented non-financial reporting. If you want a little more of the 'human touch', you can also find the topic in our social media channels. In addition, employees on the career page illuminate various aspects of the topic in their stories or give insights into their everyday work on #HumanChemistry in their posts.
Their forecast: will the image of a company be defined in the future by its products or rather by the origin of the products?
I don't know if it should be separated that way. Each product has its own life cycle, which ranges from the source of the raw material, through the supply chain, production and use phase, to recycling or recovery. Good sustainability management always keeps this overall context in mind. Because this is the only way to achieve solutions that not only look good on paper, but also actually add value for society and the environment. I am convinced that markets and consumers will increasingly make informed decisions on the basis of such an overall picture.