Byczkowska: Crisis spurs innovation

The challenges of a difficult environment and the pursuit of climate neutrality are an opportunity to increase our competitiveness, says Katarzyna Byczkowska, Managing Director of BASF Poland.

Publikacja: 19.09.2023 02:53

Byczkowska: Crisis spurs innovation

Foto: Aleksander Zieliński

European industry is facing many challenges due to the currently very difficult business environment and the need to meet climate targets. These challenges have a particular dimension for industrial companies. What are BASF’s commitments to sustainability and green transformation?

For almost 20 years, our motto has been that at BASF, we create chemistry for a sustainable future. The environmental and social responsibility aspect is firmly embedded in our strategy and our DNA. In terms of specific targets, for example, we have made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050. This may seem a bit unambitious, but, as you mentioned, for industry, especially energy-intensive industry, and we are the most energy-intensive industry, this is still a big challenge. We intend to reduce emissions by 25% by 2030. The process is ongoing.

Sustainable business is also about a sustainable approach to resources and closing the loop. How does it work in your company?

BASF’s philosophy has actually been based on a closed loop economy from the very beginning. The first factories and the main factory at our headquarters were built based on the Verbund concept. It relies on the fact that what has been created in one plant, can be used in another. Waste from one production process becomes raw material in another. The energy that is created in one place is used for the next process. This is a circular system where nothing is wasted. Today, given the environmental issues, this approach gives us another advantage, including the fact that the energy efficiency has helped us in terms of cost savings. It allows us to use much less energy and raw materials. So, we have been closing the loop from the very beginning. We also have several technologies and products to help us do this.

What exactly?

Our chemical recycling technology, for example, which definitely helps us close the loop. In case of materials, and it is mainly plastic, they have been recycled mechanically so far. Currently, with our chemical recycling technology, we can process virtually all plastic waste into oil and make other products from it. This is a good example of how nothing is wasted. In traditional recycling, waste has to be separated and not everything is suitable for recycling. For example, merged materials are difficult to separate. In addition, re-used or re-manufactured products cannot come into contact with food, which results in all sorts of restrictions. Chemical recycling is free from such problems. This is an example of closing the loop and the technology that makes it possible.

All these activities incur costs: investment in research and development, new solutions, changes in practically all areas of the company (product design, manufacturing, and logistics). How does this affect the competitiveness of your company and, more broadly, of the entire European industry? How do you deal with these challenges? Can they be reconciled?

The direction of the transformation and expectations are certainly a challenge for everyone. Conversely, they give us the chance to launch innovative products that are expected by everyone (both our customers and our partners) and help us become more competitive. So, these challenges also work this way. It is often the case that our business partners or customers are in need of an innovative product to close the loop or achieve climate neutrality. So, it is a challenge on the one hand and an opportunity to increase our competitiveness through innovation on the other.

Before the pandemic, the issue of the deindustrialisation of Europe was raised. You were one of the first to offer it for discussion. Poland responded with the idea of reindustrialisation in Europe. The pandemic brought the concept of nearshoring into the spotlight of global companies, which assumes moving production closer so that it is resilient to disruptions in supply chains. What is your strategy in such a complex environment?

In terms of our company and our production, more than 50% of our business is located in Europe. We have had no areas to be dealt with entirely on other continents. The pandemic was not a challenge on such a large scale, either. However, the current situation is a serious challenge for the entire industry, especially energy-intensive industry, and as I mentioned, the chemical industry is the most energy-intensive of all industries. This is due to the economic crisis and high energy costs, e.g., gas prices, as compared to the situation on other continents. This reduces our competitiveness.

What can be done then?

We cannot do much about gas prices. It may ultimately turn out that certain products are no longer profitable to produce in Europe. It might be more profitable on other continents. Nevertheless, as I said, the current situation is an opportunity for us to innovate. We can focus on innovative products that help us achieve zero-carbon and thus boost our competitiveness.

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materiały prasowe

European industry is facing many challenges due to the currently very difficult business environment and the need to meet climate targets. These challenges have a particular dimension for industrial companies. What are BASF’s commitments to sustainability and green transformation?

For almost 20 years, our motto has been that at BASF, we create chemistry for a sustainable future. The environmental and social responsibility aspect is firmly embedded in our strategy and our DNA. In terms of specific targets, for example, we have made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050. This may seem a bit unambitious, but, as you mentioned, for industry, especially energy-intensive industry, and we are the most energy-intensive industry, this is still a big challenge. We intend to reduce emissions by 25% by 2030. The process is ongoing.

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