Digitalization will permanently change processes and business models in the chemical industry and our customer industries, and yes, you can call that a revolution. But one that offers us a multitude of opportunities. That is why we want to actively drive the digital transformation of the chemical industry and capitalize on the potential at the right time. Last year, Lanxess launched a digitalization initiative including a new group function with a direct report to our CEO. Our key areas of action are the digitization of the value chain, the use of big data, the development of digital business models and the embedding of digital competencies among employees.
And what about threats? Globally some protectionist tendencies can be observed. Sometimes it can even lead to trade wars between the economically strongest countries. Does this influence Lanxess?
We observe those developments closely. History teaches us that trade wars are lose-lose and that they do not increase local production. We expect that politicians in this trade dispute will find solutions and that we continue with our strategy. However, if there are no solutions, then we will adjust our plans.
EU focuses on corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. How would you describe Lanxess’ engagement in environmental issues?
As an international specialty chemicals company, we bear a great responsibility when it comes to environmental protection, but also safety, social responsibility, quality and cost-effectiveness. Our activities in the field of corporate responsibility are recognized through our membership of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the FTSE4Good Index Series. Chemistry is and always will be chemistry – and we are well aware of that. However, we are combining commercial success with high social and ecological standards. And our effort is measureable: We have halved our specific CO2 emissions since 2007. For a company of our size that means reducing an equivalent of the CO2 emissions of around 600.000 cars. That makes a difference. The same is true for some of our product solutions. Take our high-tech plastics that replace metal parts of the car and significantly reduce its weight - and it’s fuel consumption. Or a new solution for the leather production, that completely recycles residues in the manufacturing process into retanning agents. This innovation was recently awarded by the German ministry of environment.
Last but not least - the future of Lanxess. What are the 2018 forecasts regarding sales?
We see an ongoing growth in all global regions. But we also face a weak agro market that might not improve before 2019. Moreover the rising political uncertainties could risk the global growth. However, even after the strong prior year we expect a volume growth and an increase of our operational results. In May, we expected our results for the full year to increase 5 to 10 percent against the previous year. Meanwhile we expect to reach the upper end of this guidance.
Dr. Rainier van Roessel was born in Oisterwijk, Netherlands. He studied business administration at the University of Cologne, obtaining his doctorate (rerum politicarum) in 1988. In the same year, he joined the Corporate Organization Department of Bayer AG. In 1993, he became a strategy advisor in the Strategic Planning Department. In 1997, van Roessel became Head of Strategic Marketing for Styrenics in the Plastics Business Group, and he was appointed Head of European Marketing for Polycarbonates in 2001. On January 1, 2007, van Roessel was appointed to the Board of Management and became Labor Relations Director of Lanxess AG.