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Making Circularity Innovations a Reality for Specialty Chemicals: Exclusive Interview with Omya

SpecialChem – Feb 14, 2023

TAGS:  Sustainability / Natural Coatings    

An Interview with Thomas Stährfeldt, Head of Environment at Omya

As the specialty chemicals industry faces increased pressure from customers, regulators, and the public to reduce the impact on the environment, suppliers have become far more active in various facets of sustainability.

From being resource efficient such as saving energy and water, to using biodegradable and renewable alternatives, suppliers have rather switched to a more holistic approach which seems to work for those who diligently stick to their plans.

Omya Purpose Statement

Omya is a leading global producer of industrial minerals, mainly fillers and pigments derived from calcium carbonate and dolomite, and a worldwide distributor of chemical products. Their natural minerals provide efficient, low cost and low-carbon options for customers around the world. They also provide environmental solutions to productivity challenges that don't impact the environment.

We talked to Thomas Stährfeldt Head of Environment at Omya who shares the company’s vision of reaching sustainability goals by 2050 with their systematic operations and innovations. Let’s see what Thomas has to say…

#1. Why is the Environmental Roadmap important for Omya?

Omya Sustainable Products The Environmental Roadmap is an important part of the Sustainability strategy at Omya.

2022 saw the UN biodiversity conference in Canada and the UN conference on climate change in Egypt which both showed the urgency to take environmental action.

At Omya, handling natural resources with great care and reducing energy consumption – thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions – has always been part of our DNA! Therefore, there are lots of very good examples where Omya has proactively taken action to make this planet a better place.

Now we are taking a step further and setting new environmental benchmarks with our operations and innovations. We set ambitious targets that will bring us to be climate neutral by 2050. The targets and milestones, supported by initiatives, are our roadmap.

These initiatives on Environment, together with the ones for Social and Governance (ESG) within Sustainability, deliver the qualified input for our 'Sustainability Reporting'.

#2. What are the main two pillars of the Omya Environmental Roadmap?

The biggest priority here is our work on climate change. We are heavily driving the decarbonization of our energy consumption with the aim to reduce our CO2 footprint towards net zero. In line with the Paris agreement from 2015, we are committed to reaching this goal by 2050. We are changing many process steps from fossil fuels to green electricity and investing in new energy-saving milling, drying, and transport machinery.

We are also switching to renewable energy. Just recently we signed a long-term contract for electricity from renewable sources in Norway. At the same time, we are operating an increasing number of photovoltaic units at our plants and have defined a clear target to halve our 2019-base CO2 emissions by 2030.

Omya_BE Harmignies_Photovoltaic Installation
Photovoltaic unit in Harmignies, Omya Belgium

Second, we are tackling the challenge to upgrade our management of natural resources such as water, air, and stone. For example, this pillar deals with freshwater usage, the release of effluent water, biodiversity, and others. In short, it is about operational efficiency.

#3. Do you work on the environmental impact Omya products provide to customer applications?

Indeed, the positive contribution to customer applications represents the third pillar of our environmental roadmap. Derived from the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), we are concentrating on sustainable innovations for circular economy solutions. Just to give you three examples:

Omya products for building and construction
  • Our Omyasphere light-weighting product portfolio has the primary function to reduce the weight of the final product. It offers better health and safety for people handling the product and it enhances thermal insulation properties leading to energy savings in cooling and heating.
  • Second, Omyacycle, our new product line for the building and construction industry is derived from upgraded industrial reclaimed – thus circular – material from the construction industry. It is converted into high-quality minerals which increase the recycled content in paints & coatings, adhesives & sealants, mortar, and concrete recipes.
  • A third example is a concept aimed at decorative paint formulations with low carbon footprint and cost while key paint properties are maintained or even enhanced. With ChameleoBoost™, Omya offers a broad range of functional fillers to achieve the best savings/performance combination. With the support of Omya's High Throughput Experimentation (HTE), such paint formulation optimizations can significantly accelerate decarbonization.

Under this perspective, our circularity innovations support the path to a more sustainable future. These initiatives will accelerate the necessary mindset shift and ensure that products with a high positive environmental value contribute to our future.


Thomas_Staehrfeldt_picture-cropped About Thomas Stährfeldt

Thomas Stährfeldt is Head of Environment at Omya since 2022. He joined Omya in 2015, as Vice President for Research & Development from 2016 until 2022. He holds a Ph.D.  in organometallic chemistry, a bachelor’s degree in economics, an associate scientist degree in biotechnology, and a PMP project management degree. Before joining Omya, he had various leadership positions at Hoechst, Clariant, CIBA, and BASF.

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