07/01/2022 | Trends
Five areas will be addressed at ACHEMA: fossil-free production, circular economy, industrial water, sustainable chemistry and bio-based economy. As the leading platform for the process industry, the intention is to strive to expand the scope beyond "just" innovative solutions already on display.
That is one of the reasons why the EY innovation stage will bring together startups, institutions in science, technology, business, education and finance as well as political and regulatory protagonists for what’s expected to be something of a revealing interdisciplinary discourse.
On the Monday of the event, Frank Jenner will publish an EY DigiChem study, updating a similar one from 2020, which gave some strong indicators of how much digitisation in the chemical industry has been accelerating. So much so that 90 per cent of those questioned told researchers that they expected "evolutionary, revolutionary or even disruptive" changes. The survey, carried out in co-operation with an independent market research institute, went on to highlight the fact that many medium-sized and larger chemical companies are already using digital technologies to radically change their existing processes and structures.
Many executives felt that digital technologies were having an increasing impact on their company's strategic and operational positioning. In particular, it would affect innovation and development (56%), the customer interface (56%), the processes and efficiency along the value chain (55%), logistics and sales (62%), sales and order management (59%) and customer service (58%).
And 51 per cent said that the biggest benefit of their digitisation projects so far had been cost savings, followed by faster turnaround times (47%) and better customer centricity (43%).
Many also found that their company was able to adapt relatively easily to the Covid lockdowns, thanks to the digital progress that had already been made. As a result, most were able to switch to remote working and customer service in a very short time, and digitise processes that were previously analog.
Ahead of its publication, I spoke biefly to Mr Jenner about the work his company have been doing in the interim.
ACHEMA Inspire: The Green Innovation Zone will be multi-faceted and cover many disciplines. Can you summarise what green innovation means to you?
ACHEMA Inspire: Have there been any recent initiatives that have impressed you or made an impact on your thinking?
ACHEMA Inspire: You talk generally about change being ‘on the horizon’ in terms of chemical value chains. How close are we to effecting meaningful change?
ACHEMA Inspire: There is no doubt that the process industry is fully committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. What in your opinion is most needed in terms of help in achieving those.
ACHEMA Inspire: You mentioned that EY has recently joined the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. How will your involvement bring the greatest benefit?
ACHEMA Inspire: Finally, how would you describe the way digital transformation is helping to reshape operations in the chemicals industry?
Editor's Note: The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the UN in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and promote prosperity by 2030. There are 17 of them, all integrated on the understanding that action in one area will affect the outcomes in others, that development must also balance the social, economic and environmental sustainability.
Among them are also commitments to promote clean water and sanitisation, responsible consumption and of course production and affordable clean energy. Its impact has so far been positive on just a corporate level. In 2017, Ethical Corporation Magazine, based in London, published its Responsible Business Trends report which showed that 60 per cent of respondents were integrating the SDGs into their business strategy, a rise from the 47 per cent of a year earlier.
But according to a more recent study by GRI, the Amsterdam-based non-profit Global Reporting Initiative, four in five companies now include a commitment in their sustainability reports to the SDGs, even though fewer than half have set measurable targets for how their actions contribute towards fulfilling them.
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