“We do not have a separate sustainability program at Kemira. Instead our company has sustainability at the heart of our strategy, the way we operate and the impact we wish to have. As such, sustainability is not seen as something separate and we have integrated sustainability considerations into all our business processes. For us sustainability has become part of simply doing business,” Rasmus Valanko, Head of Corporate Sustainability, explains.
Sustainability allows Kemira to look beyond traditional company metrics and consider the impact we have across all our stakeholders. By applying sustainability knowledge and expertise to business and market understanding, we are better able to uncover the risks and opportunities for Kemira.
In other words, sustainability at Kemira is about ensuring that each business and function can see a bigger picture and understand interlinkages that can have a material impact on profitability today, and in the future.
“Leading sustainability in Kemira is about helping colleagues in various roles understand the changing business context and also translate between Kemira and the world of sustainability experts. This allows people in Kemira to set more robust plans and capture new opportunities,” Rasmus continues.
Sustainability is a growing trend influencing our business context, be it through regulation, customer requirements, investor ratings or local community concerns. A big part of this role is to understand the detail of the changes that are taking place but also predict what is coming around the corner. This intimate understanding of sustainability helps the company make better decisions.
“At a more practical level, I can split my activities into three areas: our footprint, handprint and communication,” Rasmus explains and continues:
“We have mapped our primary impacts and our footprint tends to be linked to managing risks. To manage these risks, such as energy pricing or environmental incidents, we need to collect reliable data, analyze the data to derive insights, and develop improvement plans from the options. This is how sustainability can help manage our costs. Key stakeholders for this work include EHSQ, Sourcing and Manufacturing.
On the handprint side, a focus of the work is to develop new and more sustainable products. While this includes the footprint, our potential to make a positive impact through our customers is much greater. This is due to the fact that chemicals tend to be small components of final products by mass, but they can make a very big difference in terms of quality and sustainability. So, I work with R&D and product line management to target the market for sustainable solutions.”
Finally, Kemira reports on sustainability performance across a number of platforms. Central to this is the annual report, but also includes CDP, Ecovadis and a few others. We also need to track our ratings on platforms used by investors such as Sustainalytics and engage with different investors for their own internal analyses. Linked to reporting is our continued need to communicate about our sustainability efforts and achievements. This is the area that our customers are particularly interested in, but has relevance for all our stakeholders, not least our own staff around the world.
“Sustainability will always require making trade-offs. For instance, should you save a liter of water or kilogram of CO2? Is sugar cane better than potato starch as a feedstock? It is rarely possible to meet all sustainability criteria, given that the concept is so multifaceted. However, it is possible to balance these sometimes-conflicting priorities. A key challenge is making decisions with incomplete or ambiguous information, but fortunately these are done together with colleagues across Kemira.
Another challenge is to support the businesses and functions in implementation. While our direction is clear and supported, we still need to build our sustainability capabilities across the organization at every level. We will need to continue engaging internally to help staff understand the issues and how each person can best contribute to our sustainability goals. In other words, we still need to shift the company culture in a similar way that we have done for safety,” Rasmus says.
“Maybe it is due to our cultural roots in Finland, or the engineering mindset of this industry, but we are strong believers in leading by example.
The best proof comes from showing what can be done in our own operations, not just talking about the issues.
To this end, we aim to be leaders on sustainability in our industry and make steady progress towards minimizing the negative impacts and maximizing the positive contributions we can make to society,” Rasmus comments and concludes:
“Kemira has identified water, the circular economy and climate change as the key areas where our talented people and chemistry expertise can have the biggest positive contribution to society. Through our own examples of tangible and meaningful action, I’m confident that we can inspire others to follow suite.”
To learn more about Corporate Sustainability at Kemira, please see our Annual Report 2019.