SABIC doubles down on sustainability commitment in chemicals business

June 17, 2021 | 10:25
While targeting to grow into a world leader in the chemicals industry, SABIC has set stringent sustainability criteria for its future growth. Janardhanan Ramanujalu, vice president, regional head, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand, shared with VIR's Kim Oanh the company’s sustainability strategy for the years ahead.
SABIC  , chemicals  , sustainability  ,
Janardhanan Ramanujalu, vice president, regional head, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand, SABIC

What is SABIC’s plan for sustainable development in its next stage? What will be your focuses when implementing this sustainable strategy and what role does Vietnam play in this plan?

At SABIC, sustainability guides our ambition to be the preferred world leader in chemicals. Our approach aligns with several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), where we can achieve the greatest impact. We have embraced the UN SDGs through our own organic efforts to embed environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability into our DNA.

This commitment is rooted in our strategic corporate decisions and helps ensure growth goes hand in hand with long-term benefits to the environment.

Our sustainability strategy targets outcomes across six areas including innovation and sustainability solutions, circular economy, climate and energy, and resource efficiency, amongst others. These commitments are upheld globally and we keep close track of our progress, with all our business functions delivering key performance indicator (KPI) progress reports on these topics on a quarterly and yearly basis.

In 2019, we launched SABIC’s Global Sustainability Ambassador Program with the objective of elevating our employees’ knowledge and cultivating advocates to help build a better tomorrow. This employee-training programme is designed as part of our sustainability journey for continuous learning, adaptation, and improvement of our basic business processes and our response to the priorities of our diverse stakeholders.

Correspondingly, we innovate and collaborate with customers across the globe to develop solutions that can help address critical global issues. For instance, we worked closely with a customer in Vietnam and contributed raw materials towards a packaging solution that is puncture-resistant, which helped ensure fruits were better able to safely withstand the rigors of transportation and handling, while maintaining their freshness. With good protection and high transparency, this solution substantially reduced the damage caused by transportation and handling, and lowered the rejection rate by up to 20 per cent, hence helping to reduce food wastage.

It is said that the company has set a regional goal of reducing at least 77 tonnes of CO2 per year. With the logistics network transformation, what goal have you set for Vietnam? How will SABIC optimise the logistics network?

In line with SABIC’s 2025 strategy, which supports our sustainable development goals, we are committed to advancing an efficient and environmentally friendly supply chain.

Prioritising environmental and social responsibility at all stages of our supply chain brings value to the people and communities we touch, and challenges us to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, and perform better as a company.

We also use our supply chain carbon footprint model to trace emissions down to individual shipments and find new ways to continuously improve our performance.

We have achieved at least 77 tonnes of CO2 reduction per year in the Asia-Pacific region, which encompasses Vietnam, with our logistics optimisation and network transformation.

How will SABIC accompany and create opportunities for suppliers in Vietnam to participate in its sustainable development strategy?

Our Vietnamese offices are focused on business development and marketing for SABIC’s petrochemicals and specialties products. We provide value-added and customised solutions to our local customers by providing a diverse and well-balanced product portfolio, high-quality material solutions, and a comprehensive supply chain network. A key focus is addressing the dynamic and changing needs of our Vietnamese customers to address their distinctive domestic needs as well as their export markets.

For instance, our collaboration with Tan Phong Packing Company was a meaningful initiative that supported local communities along the Mekong Delta that have been affected by seawater intrusion and increasingly frequent droughts. A multi-layered bag was developed using SABIC materials to store freshwater for farming and hygiene purposes. These large storage bags can hold up to 30,000 litres of freshwater each, which would help provide villagers with access to fresh water during times of uncertainty.

The bags, which can be utilised multiple times, are an innovative and sustainable solution helping farmers tide over challenging times. Their low cost of production, ease of transportation, light weight, and flexible nature also allows them to be rolled up for convenient storage.

What outcomes has SABIC’s sustainable development strategy produced in Vietnam so far?

In Vietnam, we work closely with our customers to help ensure food safety with innovative plastic packaging solutions that can help protect fresh and processed food, extend shelf life, and reduce food waste. The urgent need to improve food security has been cast into the spotlight in the wake of the pandemic, with ongoing disruptions to global supply chains.

Another SABIC material solution in Vietnam is a mono material that can replace conventional multi-layer material, allowing for easier recycling. This material is used in the production of a self-standing pouch packaging while increasing seal integrity, allowing longer shelf life for packaged food and beverages.

We are continuously optimising services and solutions across our value chain to help our customers in Vietnam achieve their long-term sustainability goals.

What concerns SABIC when implementing its sustainable development goals in Vietnam?

One of Vietnam’s key environmental concerns is a lack of clean water. In response to this situation, the government has focused on strengthening the management of clean water production and trading activities, ensuring safe and uninterrupted water supply.

Aligned with the community’s needs, SABIC has also contributed towards ensuring access to safe drinking water for communities in need.

We are working together with the Red Cross in Vietnam to provide safe drinking water to communities struck by excessive flooding and landslides. Our donation of VND461.4 million VND ($20,000) has gone towards the installation of water filtration systems for six primary schools in the Nghe An province in Central Vietnam to ensure access to safe drinking water for over 2,400 students.

No one company can address critical sustainability issues alone. Meeting urgent sustainability goals needs robust collaboration between governments, industry, communities, and consumers. Such collaborations pave the way for comprehensive and sustainable solutions, which can help generate real and meaningful impact.

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