Paris – PhosAgro CEO and head of the Russian Fertilizer Producers Association Andrey Guryev took part in a meeting of world chemistry leaders organised on the sidelines of the 47th World Chemistry Congress hosted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).
In addition to Guryev, the heads of other industry leaders also attended the plenary event – dedicated to the 100th anniversary of IUPAC’s founding – including Ilham Kadri (Solvay), Martin Brudermüller (BASF SE) and Thierry Le Hénaff (Arkema).
As a preamble to the discussion, the moderator, well-known science journalist Paul de Brem, noted that humanity is now facing the greatest challenges in its history. Climate change, environmental pollution, an energy crisis, threats to biodiversity, the depletion of natural resources and the growth of the global population to nearly 10 billion people by 2050 cast doubt on the sustainability of modern society’s current development model. With this in mind, the panel of chemical industry leaders were asked to discuss the industry’s contribution to achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
BASF SE’s Brudermüller spoke first, noting the important role of the SDGs in helping companies in the industry shift in the direction sustainable development in view of the problems they are facing: “The SDGs are a common denominator for all of us. They are a really great way to structure and prioritise what we do. The SDGs, in this respect, are also a very clear roadmap and guide for the chemical industry.”
Developing this thought, Arkema’s Le Hénaff agreed that there was cause for concern about the future of the planet, but he urged optimism, saying that the industry had solutions to these challenges. “As an industry, as a scientific community and also as company, but with the engagement of society as well we can do a lot of things.”
PhosAgro CEO Andrey Guryev illustrated this premise with specific examples of how his Company has helped achieve the SDGs. For example, as a supplier of essential crop nutrients to more than 100 countries, PhosAgro helps ensure global food security by challenging hunger (SDG No. 2). At the same time, PhosAgro’s environmentally friendly fertilizers do not harm the soil, which is especially important in view of the acute problem of soil degradation as a key obstacle to eliminating hunger – 52% of agricultural land suffers from moderate or severe degradation. Moreover, PhosAgro was the first Russian company selected by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to implement a global soil protection initiative.
As a producer of environmentally friendly fertilizers, PhosAgro contributes to the safety of cultivated food products for the health of consumers and, consequently, to ensuring healthy lifestyles and human well-being (SDG No. 3). The Company’s enterprises operate a zero-discharge production system, which means zero pollution of water resources (SDG No. 6); the system is aimed at maximising the use of by-products and the recycling of secondary raw materials (SDG No. 12).
As a result of constant investments in R&D, expanding production using the best available technologies and increasing production efficiency (RUB 150 billion over the past five years) with annual investments of RUB 2.5 billion in the development of education, medicine, sports, youth and social policies in the regions where the Company operates, PhosAgro is creating decent working conditions and contributing to economic growth (SDG No. 8), sustainable urban development (SDG No. 11) and the availability of quality education (SDG No. 4).
PhosAgro initiated and is implementing, along with UNESCO and IUPAC, the Green Chemistry for Life grant programme for young scientists in the field of chemistry, which encourages innovation (SDG No. 9) and contributes to building partnerships for sustainable development (SDG No. 17). Overall, PhosAgro contributes directly to the achievement of 10 of the UN’s 17 SDGs.
“Our Development Strategy to 2025, which PhosAgro’s Board of Directors adopted in March, states that a commitment to the principles of sustainable development is a fundamental element of our business. These principles are more than just words for us; they are an integral part and the foundation of our ongoing operations.
“Confirmation of this can be seen in the establishment of a PhosAgro Board of Directors Committee on Sustainable Development, which began work this year. It is headed by Irina Bokova, an independent member of the Board of Directors who previously held the post of Director-General of UNESCO and who has unique expertise in this area.
“The principles of sustainable development should be guiding principles not only for chemical companies; they should be universal guidelines for development in any industry. Every company should consider its activities through the prism of these principles and should put them at the centre of their medium- and long-term development strategies. We need to work together to achieve the SDGs now; in ten or even in five years, it will already be too late. This is our debt to the generations to come.
“The key to progress in achieving the majority of the SDGs is innovation. In celebrating IUPAC’s jubilee this year, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to all those present: 100 years is an incredible number. At the same time, however, PhosAgro is celebrating another centenary: our research institute for fertilizers and agrochemicals, NIUIF, which is the same age as IUPAC, is the oldest and only specialised institute of its kind in Russia. Today, NIUIF is the core of research and innovation within PhosAgro Group. We also cooperate closely with the Russian Academy of Sciences on the innovative development of fertilizer production.”
At the end of the discussion, the participants considered the situation concerning the achievement of gender equality (SDG No. 5). The only female participant on the panel, Solvay’s Kadri, stressed that, in general, companies in the industry still had a long way to go to achieve gender equality and a genuinely inclusive working environment.
“You can read many, many studies out there, showing that diversity and inclusion for any company is good for the bottom line”, she said, adding that her example is still not a well-established practice. “We need to encourage girls, women and men to follow STEM curriculums to achieve a balance in the workplace.”
Guryev stressed that PhosAgro strives for gender equality in all aspects of the Company’s operations where it is possible. In addition to Bokova, Natalia Pashkevich, the first vice-rector of the St. Petersburg Mining University, is also a member of the Company’s Board of Directors. Throughout the Company, 33% of all employees are women, which is a high figure for the industry.
Following the event, the heads of industry-leading companies, as well as Nobel laureates – Professors Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir James Fraser Stoddart, Bernard Feringa and Jean-Marie Lehn – presented awards to prominent women scientists involved in chemistry. Guryev handed a commemorative token from IUPAC to Professor Susan Bourne from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.