The second day at the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS)centennial meeting was particularly interesting as in their Hot TopicsSymposia for the morning session, I have to choose between Historical Perspectives on the Chemistry of Oils and Fats (given that I was writing an article last week with this particular topic) and Sustainability for the Future in Fats and Oils.
I flipped a coin and the Sustainability topic won.
This was actually fortunate as the presentations from Unilever and Kimberly-Clark were very engaging and informative.
Kimberly-Clark(or “K-C”) was vocal about about the irritating lack of definition forthe term “green” and prefers the word “sustainable” instead. Thecompany defined sustainability according to Dow Jones SustainabilityIndex definition:
“It’s abusiness approach to create long-term shareholder value by embracingopportunities and managing risk derived from economic, environmentaland social developments”
The company said it led thepersonal products category of the 2008 Dow Jones Sustainability WorldIndex for fourth straight year.
Ken Strassner, senior vicepresident for Kimberly Clark USA, also highlighted the importance ofemployee engagement as part of the company’s sustainability strategyand particularly noted Wal-Mart’s personal employee sustainable goals program as a good example.
Wal-Mart’sprogram help their associates develop individual goals to improve theirhealth and wellness and the health of the environment.
“Thisprogram is a powerful tool and can help employees effectivelycommunicate to customers the company’s sustainability goals,” saidStrassner.
Some of the sustainability issues that thecompany expects to tackle in the years ahead include carbon emissions,resource consumption, water use, environmental product labels andcertifications, economic and social sustainability, credibility andeffective communications. Strassner believes the cap-and-trade plans being proposed in Washington will not go anywhere this year because “the US can’t afford it.”He did believe that the automobile industry will have significantchanges coming soon and that there will be much more aggressiveprograms to retrofit buildings in order to reduce their emissions.
Unilever‘sGerrit van Dujin, oil supply technology director, mostly talked aboutthe sustainability of their raw material supply chain especiallyconcerning palm oil.According to the company, over 80% of their purchased goods areagriculture materials. A lot of their sustainability strategies arefocusing on upstream sourcing raw materials as well as downstreamconsumer use.
Under their Sustainable Agricultural Sourcingprogram, Unilever plans to have all of their palm oil purchasetraceable and sutainably certified by 2015. Unilever purchases 4% ofthe global palm oil volume (about 1.6m tonnes) as of 2008.
The company is also working on sustainable sourcing of other vegetable oils such as soybean, sunflower and rapeseed.
Inthe Q&A portion of the session, there was an interesting lastquestion about the growing favorability of companies in applyingsustainability strategy (because of the benefits of cost-savings firstand foremost, and better company image not far behind). The question,however, was that why companies are afraid (or wary) of environmentalregulations which is contradicting their desire to be sustainable?Unilever and Kimberly-Clark refrained from answering (because there wasno time….hmmmm).
In the afternoon session, I was back in thebossom of Surfactants and Detergents division and heard from chemicalcompany Stepan about the challenges to innovation in the surfactantmarket; AkzoNobel’s interesting perspective on how the oleochemical(fats and oils-based chemicals) industry was born from trying to solveChicago’s waste fats problem in their river in the 1930s; and Dow Chemical as well as Cognis presenting their new eco-friendly surfactants.
Here’s a nice quote from AkzoNobel’s presentation: “Waste products often have value”
AkzoNobel’s Dale Steichen, vice president of research and technology for surface chemistry, said that the company already reduced their waste by 30% in the past 3 years by re-using and finding value to some of them.
Stay tune for the last AOCS roundup focusing on regulatory issues!
And for ICIS subscribers:
Plethora of ecolabels confuse shoppers – US executive-06/05/2009-ICIS News
Unilever aims all palm oil use traceable by 2015 -07/05/2009-ICIS News