Group Chief Executive's Statement
This is our tenth year of sustainability reporting. Over this time, underpinned by strong governance, we have grown in knowledge and stature, and we are proud of the many remarkable achievements and successful sustainability initiatives that have come from all areas of our Business. This diversity is one of the most rewarding elements in our continuing sustainability story. Rather than being prescriptive, sustainability has become inherent in our thinking.
Our year-on-year improvement in many of the external sustainability measures, such as CDP and EcoVadis reflect the strong evolution of our sustainability programme. In our response to global mega trends we are driving consistent top and bottom line growth through product and process innovation, focusing on the future challenges and opportunities they are creating. This is delivering greater differentiation and further widening the gap between ourselves and our peers.
Sustainability growing in all business sectors
Together with innovation, quality and service, sustainability is now firmly established as a fourth metric in all of our consumer facing businesses. Personal care consumer goods companies have industry leading programmes with commitments to increase their sustainability credentials. As an industry leader, our role is to proactively contribute to these programmes, enabling our customers to meet or exceed consumers’ expectations. While some of our non-consumer facing market sectors may have different terms of reference for their sustainability programmes and goals, we are promoting what we consider to be best practice across the many different industries we serve. In 2016 we introduced the concept of ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ sustainability benefits, which help our customers across many industries make informed decisions about our products.
Acquisitions contributing sustainability
The 11 acquisitions we have made in my tenure as CEO all deliver tangible sustainability benefits in their respective market sectors. Our 2017 acquisition of Enza Biotech is a great example as it supports our development of next generation renewable surfactants. Using biotechnology to alter the chemical structure of naturally derived compounds that have superior functionality and compatibility, their environmentally friendly production process yields products that are 100% renewable and biodegradable.
Making a positive difference
Our uniquely different position relative to our predominantly petrochemical based peers is illustrated by our high consumption of renewable, sustainable raw materials. Most of these raw materials are plant based, and during plant growth photosynthesis occurs, a reaction that takes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. For some feedstocks this removal of atmospheric CO2 gives us a ‘carbon negative’ starting point for our processes.
Continuing our focus on carbon and taking responsibility in meeting the challenges of climate change, we recently commissioned our pioneering bio-ethylene oxide plant in North America. Here we are using bio-ethanol as feedstock to replace petrochemicals in the manufacture of ethylene oxide, enabling the manufacture of 100% bio-based surfactants.
Our 2017 Global Employee Culture Survey confirmed the shared values throughout our Business, a vital differentiator in our continued success. Investing in our people and the communities in which we operate is a key focus with over 107,000 recorded training hours during the year and 5,073 reported 1% Club volunteering hours, 50.0% of which was spent delivering educational programmes.
I would like to thank everyone across the Group for the contributions they make to sustainability every day.