Frank Grunert | “Polyurethane’s contribution to growth in Europe”

In the new European institutional landscape, with kick-starting growth having emerged as a top priority for policy-makers, Frank Grunert, the President of ISOPA, explains how the polyurethane industry will contribute to re-launching Europe’s competitiveness. With more than 30 years of experience in the polyurethane industry, including in Asia Pacific and China, he shares with us key insights on the polyurethanes’ industry contribution to job creation and the economy and his vision for continued future cooperation between the industry and regulators.

Frank Grunert, ISOPA President

Mr. Grunert, what are the polyurethanes sector’s major socio-economic contributions?

According to ISOPA’s April 2014 socio-economic report, polyurethanes involve close to 240,000 companies in Europe and sustain the jobs of over 1 million Europeans, from the production of the polyurethane components, diisocyanates and polyols, to the manufacturing of products in a wide variety of sectors such as insulation, automotive or footwear.

In some sectors in particular, the impact of polyurethanes cannot be overlooked. This is especially true for the housing sector, where polyurethanes materials are being used from insulation to refrigeration and furniture. Beyond efficiency and performance, the key features of polyurethane-based solutions also lie in their ability to protect our planet’s natural resources through enhancing durability and recycling options.

Why is polyurethane a key sector for European economic recovery?

 As the European Commission’s Energy Union project begins to take form, energy efficiency in buildings emerges as one of the key areas for action. Similarly, in its own-initiative report the European Parliament has stressed the importance to promote energy efficiency by calling for the revision of the provisions on European Energy Efficiency and Energy Performance of Buildings Directives.

As we have noted before, buildings refurbishment and renovation, notably through improved insulation, can play an important role in meeting Europe’s energy and socio-economic objectives. In developing the right regulations targeting holistically on issues such as insulation requirements, policy-makers can ensure the creation of new jobs linked both directly and indirectly with the construction sector’s growth. In turn, the polyurethane sector will be positively impacted as many of polyurethanes applications are used in construction, especially in insulation.

You mentioned polyurethane involves close to 240,000 companies in Europe. How important are small and medium enterprises?

 Out of the 240,000 European companies that are involved in the process of manufacturing, transforming and using polyurethane, 85% are SMEs. All in all, it is thanks to polyurethane’s versatility and multiple applications that these SMEs materialise their innovative ideas and create new jobs.

Why is sustainability a key component of economic growth?

Going forward, preserving the Earth’s natural resources will be one pre-requisite for sustaining long-term economic growth. Investing in polyurethane solutions will not only provide additional employment opportunities for European but will also help to ensure that our national resources are preserved for future generations.

Polyurethane solutions are not only long lasting but they also provide for variousrecovery options at the end of their life-cycle. Depending on the type of polyurethane the industry has developed different ways of recycling.

By aligning itself to Europe’s commitment to a circular economy, the polyurethane industry throughout its value chains favours the growth of innovative sectors, while ensuring the conservation of both financial and natural resources through the durability of its products.

How has the polyurethanes industry aligned with Europe’s new priorities?

ISOPA fully supports the strong commitment of the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker to job creation and growth policies. Reinvigorating Europe’s industry through greater investment and targeted supportive regulatory framework will be central to Europe’s competitiveness. That is especially the case for an industry such as polyurethanes that affects multiple sectors and already employs over 1 million Europeans throughout its value chains.

Furthermore, revised policies e.g. for more energy efficiency would support a strengthened industrial base. Given the broad applications of polyurethane materials, such as cold chain or transportation, it is of paramount importance to engage in a dialogue and align the industry with policy-makers’ expectations of European industrial policy across all member states.

Last but not least, as energy policy is being recalibrated it is important new policies account for both environmental and economic performance. By working together with the industry European policy-makers could support initiatives that ensure efficiency and sustainable development. For example, polyurethane is one of the most resource-efficient materials – it uses less than 0.1% of oil consumed worldwide and saves up to 100 times more. An ambitious energy efficiency policy would be beneficial both to consumers, decision-makers and producers.

Today’s innovation is the solution to tomorrow’s challenges. ISOPA and its member companies can show you the way.

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