CIEX 2020: Pre-Conference Interview with Richard Haldimann, Head of Sustainability for Clariant

At the upcoming CIEX 2020 Virtual conference on 7th – 8th October, Richard Haldimann Head of Sustainability Transformation at CLARIANT will discuss innovation driven by circular economy in his presentation Gaining competitive advantage with the circular economy – Sustainability transformation at Clariant’’ We have spoken to Richard about his topic of choice and his motivation for joining CIEX 2020.

Question #1: Without giving too much away –what is the core message of your talk and what would you like delegates to remember?

Richard: Climate change, resource scarcity, technological advances, rising customer expectations– these are all real challenges. The chemical industry can and must deliver the innovation needed to create a more sustainable and circular economy. But a more holistic approach will be needed. Adopting circularity in the chemicals industry requires looking at the trends and needs beyond the established customer base and value chains. To gain a competitive advantage, businesses need to close the loop with cross-industry collaboration. Innovation and collaboration combined will help create the infrastructure needed to enable businesses to shift toward circular business models and improved sustainability.

Question #2: Why did you choose the topic of your talk?

Richard: Sustainability is the key societal challenge and therefore presents a unique business opportunity for us. The EU Green Deal with its commitments on a broad range of environment- and sustainability-related targets will become a very strong driver for change in our industry.Citizens and employees are demanding action not only with the Fridays for Future demonstrations but also when choosing the company to work for. Our customers are setting aggressive climate targets and circularity and they expect our industry to help them achieve those. Investors are committing to shifting portfolios and invest in line with the Paris Agreement.Everyone is under a lot of pressure to deliver and contribute to the UN Sustainable Development goals. At Clariant we are systematically pursuing these opportunities through our own sustainability transformation efforts, striving to maximize the synergies that chemistry has within its ecosystem and enable a sustainability transformation in the industry.

Question #3: What motivates you to join CIEX 2020 and what are your expectations?

Richard: The seniority of the participants and the high relevance of the topics. CIEX brings together thought leaders and experts from various fields and is always a good platform for networking along and across the value chain. Collaboration is an essential element of innovatione specially in the area of sustainability and circular economy and CIEX fosters this. My expectation is to develop connections in different fields and come away feeling inspired by what we will see and hear.

Question #4: The need for innovation has been a continued topic for the chemical industry –how would you sum up the current state of the industry, specifically with a focus on its innovation efforts?

Richard: The chemical industry is at a crossroads. Striving for carbon neutrality presents a huge challenge for many companies.Our industry has the innovation capability to deliver the solutions to many of the sustainability challenges we see today – if we decide that this is the priority and are willing to invest. Public funding will remain vital to limit the financial risks associated with significant investment in promising new technologies. The chemical industry is not always the most visible and yet we are fundamental to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Question #5: What must (chemical) industry leaders do to remain competitive and prepare for the future?

Richard: The global chemical industry faces a transformational change. We must embrace the challenges ahead, specifically those in the sustainability area, and see these as an opportunity. This is vital for our industry to remain competitive and relevant in the future.Without the continued development of sustainability-driven offerings, our businesses – some sooner than others – will start to lose markets, profitability and, ultimately, the interest of shareholders.Agility has become abuzz word and it may well prove the vital ingredient alongside talent.It’s a more speedy and digital chemical future in front of us. Leaders of the future will be the ones that quickly adapt to a rapidly changing environment and deliver what society needs.

Question #6: Looking back on the past 3 months please share your thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on the industry but also society in general

Richard: The epidemic forced companies to adapt quickly to unprecedented and difficult circumstances. I was struck by how people rose to thechallenge,thriving in a crash course in organizational agility and virtual team working and quickly building digital capabilities. I think we can be proud of our industry’s readiness to adjust operations and work together to supply urgently needed specialty chemicals like disinfectants to support the fight against COVID-19.

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