Our endeavour for India assets is to reduce carbon footprint from production and processing: Vinod Paremal, President and Managing Director, Evonik, India Subcontinent

  • June 08, 2023

Evonik is exploring the sourcing of renewable energy for its production assets in India. The company is also evaluating the utilization of biomass as an energy source to further reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions. 

What are the global trends in specialty chemicals in 2023? 

Last year, the effects of the Ukraine war, high inflation, and fluctuating energy prices brought significant challenges to our operations and also the chemical industry, and they still do. At Evonik, we are cautiously optimistic for 2023. Much will depend on how sustainably energy prices and inflation will soften and how strong the recovery of the global economy is going to be, especially with respect to China. In the first quarter of 2023, in particular, the negative trend of the second half of 2022 continued. From the second quarter onwards, the situation is likely to gradually improve.

Amid the headwinds, the industry is pressing on with its transformation towards sustainability. So is Evonik. With our next phase of strategic transformation, we have fully and systematically integrated sustainability into all elements of our strategy. We are executing targeted and massive investments in green growth and making sustainability our central innovation driver. In this context, we are strengthening our sustainability portfolio and reducing our footprint by cutting emissions from production and processing.

Evonik India's performance in FY 2022-23? List the key achievements for Specialty Additives, Nutrition & Care, Smart Materials, and Performance Materials division in FY 2022-23? 
Evonik's India cluster had a strong growth in FY 2022–23 compared to FY 2012–13, with robust performance across the Specialty Additives, Nutrition & Care, and Smart Materials divisions, and steady performance in the Performance Materials division.

Globally, Evonik is focusing on transformation through sustainability and profitability. What's your strategy for India and how are you making it a reality? Sustainability is a central element in Evonik's purpose ‘Leading Beyond Chemistry’. Evonik India sustainability plans for FY 2023-24? 
Evonik goes far beyond chemistry to create innovative, profitable, and sustainable solutions for customers. As a specialty chemicals company with presence throughout the world, Evonik sees sustainability and long-term business success as two sides of the same coin.

In line with Evonik’s sustainability approach, our endeavour for India assets is to reduce carbon footprint by significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions from production and processing. Also, in India, we are exploring ways to utilise available bioresources to improve the sustainability of our products. The inauguration of the Zero Liquid Discharge Plant at our Dombivli (Maharashtra, India) site last year is evident of how we accept responsibility for our businesses, our employees, the environment, and society.

Further, in India, we can also play an enabling role in the country’s sustainable journey by providing solutions to our customers and industry. The so-called Next Generation Solutions from Evonik not only make our customers' products more sustainable but also help them improve their climate footprint.

For example, in line with India’s net zero target by 2070 and 500 GW renewable energy target by 2030, the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation initiative, Evonik is supporting our customers by providing sustainable products and solutions like Sepuran Green membranes for Bio-CNG applications, CAPLUS for CO2 removal, Vestamin IPD for wind turbine applications, etc.

Evonik is making targeted investments in six defined innovation growth fields that promise high returns. Please explain? 
Our innovation portfolio focuses on six growth fields, which are assigned to our growth engines in highly attractive markets with above-average growth rates. The six growth fields are: Sustainable nutrition for livestock and people; Healthcare solutions; Health-enhancing substances and nutritional supplements; Gas separation membranes; Cosmetics solutions; and products for additive manufacturing. 

We are right on track to generate additional sales of more than €1 billion with our innovation growth fields by 2025. Sales from these innovation growth fields rose more than 20 percent last year to €600 million.

The company has set a goal of investing more than €3 billion in the growth of Next Generation Solutions by 2030 in order to increase their share to more than 50 percent. Areas where you are investing? 

Next-Generation solutions are products with superior sustainability benefits. That includes, for example, drug delivery technologies for controlled release of pharmaceutical active ingredients, gas separation membranes for biogas and hydrogen, as well as natural-based active ingredients for cosmetics. Examples of investments include: Battery materials: We have opened a new research centre for lithium-ion batteries in China. In Japan, we are expanding production capacity for alumina for the battery market; Biodegradable surfactants: Production plant for biodegradable surfactants is being built in Slovakia; and Pharmaceutical lipids: In the USA, we have just begun construction of a plant for pharmaceutical lipids required for mRNA-based medicines.

Do you see an increased role of Evonik India's R&D centres in the global scheme of things? New areas where you would be focusing? 

India is the 5th largest economy in the world. With the pace at which the economy is growing and also with the impact of the budget for 2022–2023, domestic demand is also expected to increase. Under these circumstances, Evonik’s business is expected to grow at a good rate. With most of our products being technology-driven, I would definitely expect Evonik’s R&D centre to play a very important role in areas of new product and technology development. Evonik’s R&D centre would also play a role in tapping the needs of the Indian market and developing products to suit the specific requirements of Indian customers.

The Research Centre India (RCI) was established in 2002. RCI is Evonik’s Oral Competence Centre, providing global support in formulation development for the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and food industries. RCI has been identified as a differentiator by continuously enhancing its competencies and footprint to support the global health care business. 

Aligning with this centre is the Catalyst R&D facility at Dombivli, located in the industrial corridor on the outskirts of Mumbai. Catering to regional and global customers across varied industries such as pharmaceuticals, agro, fine chemicals, food, and edible oil, this site supports the product line Life Sciences and Performance Catalysts, which comprises oil and fat hydrogenation catalysts, precious metal catalysts, and activated metal catalysts.

Over the last two decades, the R&D centres in India have played an important role at a global level in delivering new products and technologies. The potential of the Indian technical talent pool has been acknowledged over the years. I feel confident that the role of Evonik’s R&D centres will become even larger over the coming years, and organic synthesis will also be a focus in India, along with Oral and Catalyst. The focus will be on next-generation solutions with clearly positive sustainability benefits that are above the market reference.

Important step in the sustainable transformation is the rapid overhaul of energy supply. What's your India strategy with respect to purchasing green/renewable electricity and how are you making it a reality? 

We are exploring the sourcing of renewable energy for our production assets in India. We are also evaluating the utilization of biomass as an energy source to further reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions.

CSR initiatives planned for FY 2023-24? 

We are deeply committed to improving the social environment in any way possible and consciously reach out to support causes across the board, primarily in the realms of children’s education, women's empowerment, and healthcare. In 2023, we are entering into a partnership with CARE India to support the STEM education of girls from underprivileged areas. Evonik will support the setup of seven vibrant STEM learning spaces called the "innovator’s laboratory". These are community-level tinkering spaces for children to build STEM thinking skills using digital and non-digital tools. Also, onsite mentoring, community events, and student-driven projects will be organised to improve the science, mathematics, and digital literacy skills of girls.