Heike van de Kerkhof | CEO | Archroma

The chemical industry has many roles in sustainability. It provides chemicals, materials, and technologies that enhance safe and efficient use of energy and natural resources. It delivers them in a way that protects human and environmental health. One such organization that is driving the sustainable agenda bringing continued improvement to their purpose is Archroma – a chemical manufacturing company.

This interview highlights the consistent endeavors of team Archroma that treads the extra mile to quench the needs of its client organizations with utmost excellence.

IS: Tell us about your company, its inception story and the vision behind.

Team Archroma: Archroma’s heritage traces back to when Kern & Sandoz was established in 1886 in Basel to produce textile dyes. In 1995 Clariant was formed, as a spin-off from Sandoz, and in 1997 acquired the specialty chemicals business of Hoechst.

The company continues to grow with additional acquisitions, such as the global textile chemicals business of BASF, M. Dohmen, a specialist in automotive and synthetic dyes, and more recently the stilbene-based optical brighteners business of BASF for paper and powder detergent applications.

Archroma works with 3,000 employees over 35 countries and with 25 production sites. The company operates a highly integrated, customer-focused platform that delivers specialized performance and color solutions in over 100 countries.

Archroma believes in continuously challenging the status quo in the deep belief that it can make its industry and the industries it serves sustainable.

IS: Kindly give a brief overview of your products and services.

Team Archroma: Archroma is a global, diversified provider of dyes and specialty chemicals, supplying industries, such as textile, fashion, leather, packaging, paper, adhesives, paints and construction.

The company supports customers that manufacture a large number of everyday products, with innovations and solutions such as the anti-UV agents that allow our t-shirts to stay fresh, the high-performance dyes that make our swimming suit’s bright colors long-lasting, the water repellent agents on our raincoat, the flame retardant additives that make our curtains safer, the finishes that protect our sofa from stain and spills, the brightening agents that make our paper whiter, and the emulsion used in the paint you use to refresh your living room smooth and easy to use.

IS: What’s the company’s take on chemical industry & market evolution and what can be expected in the forthcoming years?

Team Archroma: There has been major growing global awareness rising on sustainability among consumers to NGOs to authorities, and this will accelerate and increase proportionately. In the last two years, particularly in China, the government has been taking stern action against environmental pollution and has suspended many chemical factories’ operations. In the long run, these regulatory changes and actions will ensure that the industry is taking a better and more sustainable direction.

This also means that there will not be much room for those who are not contributing to maintaining processes sustainably. Regardless it is India, China, Europe, North America, or South Asia, the chemical industry has a critical role to play with its position in the value chain for a sustainable process, which is also driving more economic sustainability.

IS: What are the benefits gained by your clients/users from your products/solutions/services?

Team Archroma: Archroma’s goal is to support its industries by constantly developing innovations and solutions aimed to serve manufacturers with optimized productivity and value creation in their markets.

Archroma’s innovations are built around finding solutions that help them use less natural resources, be it water, energy, or other material consumptions, and as a consequence make products less expensive to produce while imparting the same quality.

IS: Tell us about the CEO and her industry experience.

Team Archroma: Heike van de Kerkhof has been appointed as CEO of Archroma, effective January 6, 2020. Prior to joining Archroma, Ms. van de Kerkhof held leadership positions at Castrol, DuPont and The Chemours Company in a career spanning almost thirty years.

IS: In what ways does your organization contribute towards the Corporate Social Responsibility cause?

Team Archroma: In manufacturing specialty chemicals, sustainability has always been embedded into Archroma’s global organization, not only in terms of own manufacturing footprint but also in bringing to the market technologies that allow positive impacts for its customers and the final consumers. Archroma actively engages with its relevant stakeholders to support and progress initiatives that are bringing concrete and ambitious solutions and innovations in the area of transparency and traceability in supply networks. For instance, the company has been actively engaged in ensuring its portfolio is REACH ready, and the company is a member of the ZDHC roadmap to zero hazardous chemicals.

Archroma also understands the impact that it has towards its supply networks, and regularly engage to improve their sustainability performance and make them an integral part of reporting and value chain approach.

Archroma is also an active member of the local communities in which it operates and regularly initiates programs that enrich the lives of those who depend upon it, such as its partnership with WWF in Pakistan or investments in training programs across the organizations.

Last but not least, Archroma puts safety first for its employees, visitors and communities, conducting programs on safety awareness and training.

Considering the necessity of adapting to the volatile technological disruptions and/or development of cutting-edge solutions, how does your company sustain its competency in the Chemicals market?

Team Archroma: Archroma has established itself as a leader in sustainable chemistry based on its strong technology-driven product portfolio and investment into R&D leading to a continuous flow of ground-breaking innovations.

Archroma’s innovations and systems have gained global traction thanks to the visionary practice of major brands like Patagonia or G-Star, which adopted Archroma’s water-saving Advanced Denim dyeing technology, EarthColors® dyes based on non-edible biomass raw materials, and, most recently, the company’s synthetic pre-reduced liquid Denisol® Pure Indigo that allows creating authentic blue denim without aniline, a substance under scrutiny as potentially harmful to workers in denim factories, and to aquatic life.

IS: What obstacles and limitation do your organization face while growing, sustaining or retaining its clientele?

Team Archroma: Manufacturers in almost all industry have been entertaining the myth that sustainability comes at the expense of cost-efficiency.

Archroma has therefore opted for a system-based approach to addressing its customers’ needs, requirements and challenges, along with the principles of The Archroma Way: Safe, efficient, enhanced. Each system combines carefully selected technologies and innovations, aiming to optimize productivity, reduce resource usage, create value – or all of the above.

The resource and cost savings achievable in each system are quantified using Archroma’s ONE WAY process simulator, and that alone is probably the most efficient tool against the myth that sustainability is expensive.

For instance, ‘DEEP DIVE’, a system developed for highly efficient coloration with less water, is based on a recent innovation, a range of reactive dyes for high build-up called Drimaren® Ultimate HD dyes. The system can bring resource savings, among which water saving of nearly 29%, which in turn can translate into cost savings of 7% in the production process.

IS: Could you list out the most growth-deteriorating challenges for your organization till date?

Team Archroma: The past year has been challenging for several of the markets where Archroma operates. The company, however, has an agile and reactive culture focused on accountability for performance that encourages all its organization and people to quickly adapt to changing market conditions. Archroma’s last Financial Year (October 2018 to September 2019) has been very good in terms of profitability, placing the business in a strong position to capitalize on its significant momentum moving forward.

IS: What does the future hold for your organization in terms of internal as well as holistic development?

Team Archroma: Archroma has managed the tour-de-force to become a go-to partner for its customers worldwide, and is on a strong path thanks to is focus on developing innovations and systems aimed at helping brands and manufacturers optimize productivity and create value in their markets.

IS: Tell us about some Awards or Recognition the company has received over the years?

Team Archroma: Archroma has continuously earned awards over the years, such as the 2017 OutDoor Industry Award 2017, Gold winner within the Sustainable Innovations category, for its EarthColors(R) technology, or the 2014 Global Water Summit commendation for its Sustainable Effluent Treatment Facility in Pakistan.

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