SABIC CTO: Chemical Industry Must Collaborate on Circularity

April 3, 2023
Says partnerships are key to advancing sustainable materials and ensuring future competitiveness

An executive with Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) is calling for more collaboration among chemical industry partners to remain competitive and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

Chemical producers must offer circular materials to remain viable in today’s economy, wrote Bob Maughon, SABIC’s executive vice president of sustainability, technology and innovation and chief technology officer, in a World Economic Forum column published on March 29.

As explained in the WEF column, “Simply put, offering circular materials is a requirement to stay competitive today, and will usher in a transformation of business models and roles across value chains. A more circular economy can foster deeper collaborations, transforming suppliers into partners and products into services that can be used again. By helping manufacturers, suppliers and retailers embrace circularity, chemical companies act as powerful partners, helping brands respond fast to changing consumer preferences and ultimately earn greater trust.”

He also noted that the chemical sector plays a key role in reducing overall industrial greenhouse gas emissions as the industry supplies most of the materials used in manufactured products.  The chemical industry can create 29 million new jobs by embracing low-carbon and energy-efficient technology and processes, he said, citing a report from the Center for Global Commons and Systemiq.

He suggested that SABIC’s two-phase plan to achieve carbon neutrality could serve as a template for other chemical companies’ sustainability efforts. The first phase is a multibillion-dollar plan to reduce direct and indirect emissions levels 20% by the year 2030 using 2018 levels as the baseline. The process includes investments in renewable electricity, low-carbon hydrogen and carbon-capture infrastructure. In the second phase, the company plans to expand upon its phase one advancements and tailor it for each site’s geographic requirements.

SABIC has made several announcements in recent months related to its sustainability efforts. Last week, the company announced that it has joined the Value Balancing Alliance, a global organization that’s developing a methodology to measure the impact of environmental social and governance programs.

In early March, the company said it has partnered with Coolbrook, a Helsinki, Finland-based technology and engineering company, to decarbonize ethylene production via Coolbrook’s Roto Dynamic Reactor technology. And in January, the company said it plans to produce 1 million metric tons of its Trucircle renewable polyethylene and polypropylene materials by 2030.