Sustainable solutions, digitalisation are the way ahead
As the new BASF Vice President for operations in the Middle East, could you take us through the roadmap of the company?
BASF is an active partner in the industry in the UAE. We have been present in the region for over a century, and our office in the UAE dates back to the 1970s. You can, therefore, say that we are deeply rooted in the region. In addition to our regional headquarters in Dubai, we have offices in Abu Dhabi, Al Khobar and Cairo. In the UAE, we operate a state-of-the-art polyurethane system house in Dubai Industrial City and a production facility for construction chemicals in Dubai Investment Park. Our construction chemicals business also has sites in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. In Bahrain, we operate a production facility for customised plastic additives. We have always aligned our business with the strategic vision and economic agenda of the governments in the region. What the visions have in common is not only a strong drive towards growth and economic diversification but also the realisation that having a commitment to sustainability is key to achieving long-term growth. We see unprecedented opportunities in various sectors to support these national priorities, and hence, we share our knowledge and expertise. After all, our commitment to sustainable solutions is anchored in the corporate purpose of BASF, which is to create a sustainable future.
To what extent is BASF reinforcing its commitment to sustainability, innovation and digitalisation, while also expanding its footprint across the region?
Our new strategy, which we presented in November 2018, aims at profit and a CO2-neutral growth. This means that we will decouple our greenhouse gas emissions from organic growth. To achieve this, we will improve the management, efficiency and integration of our manufacturing sites, and wherever possible, we plan on purchasing a greater share of electricity from renewable energy sources. We have already reduced emissions by 50% in absolute terms, compared to 1990 levels, while doubling our production in this period. In addition, we are working closely with a number of relevant stakeholders to drive sustainable water action and have been awarded a top ‘A’ rating by the international organisation, CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project. We also want to grow our share of so-called ‘accelerator’ products, including in the Middle East. Across all customer industries, we have identified 13,000 accelerator solutions. These are products that have made a substantial contribution to making the value chain more sustainable. An example of an accelerator product that is performing very well in this region is Neopor, an insulation material that offers improved insulation performance and contributes to climate protection and energy efficiency. Another example is Elastocool, a system made for the insulation of fridges and freezers. The material has a low-thermal conductivity by approximately 0.5 mW/mK, which enables the achievement of energy classes A++ and A+++. The fast cycling time leads to higher output in production, while high compressive strength values lead to lower material consumption per unit. In addition, digital solutions are helping us achieve our sustainability-related goals. Digitalisation presents opportunities, and by using digital technologies and data, we are able to create additional value for our customers and increase efficiency along with the effectiveness of our process. Digitalisation makes our business smoother and eventually makes it cheaper.
You mentioned that there is a strong drive towards localised, advanced manufacturing. What are the challenges you foresee, and how do you plan on tackling them?
When we look at Egypt, a key market in our region, we are increasingly serving local customers, whereas, in the past, a large part of our customer base was multinationals with a presence in Egypt. Other countries in the region, including countries in the Gulf, are also moving in a similar direction. Therefore, I see opportunities for BASF, rather than challenges. One driving factor will be localisation. We are already producing locally and will expand this in the future with the mixing, blending and packaging of materials. Local storage is also becoming increasingly important.