10 February 2021 – Herman Motmans, Sr. Director of Product Management, Dow Polyurethanes, was elected as President of ISOPA by the General Assembly on 8 December 2020. To learn more about what is on the horizon, Mr. Motmans kindly took some time to answer a few questions about himself and the priorities for his Presidency.
At ISOPA, we are looking forward to working with Mr. Motmans at such a pivotal time for the future of our industry. You can find the full statement of the election here.
Interview with ISOPA President, Herman Motmans, Sr. Director of Product Management, Dow Polyurethanes
- Why did you decide to run for the ISOPA presidency?
I decided to run because it is a unique opportunity to help contribute to the future of our Polyurethanes industry at an important time. There is a lot of change in Europe and a strong forward going momentum for our sector.
As part of the REACH Restriction for diisocyanates, we are working hard to roll out a European wide training program for all industrial and professional users of diisocyanates to enhance occupational health and safety. This is a very exciting and challenging undertaking as it touches a wide range of industries and applications and a very large number of users.
Also the ambitious agenda of the European Green Deal will present new challenges and opportunities for the polyurethanes value-chain.
I am looking forward to work closely with Jörg Palmersheim, Secretary General of ISOPA, the ISOPA members and with our stakeholders across the value chain to promote and grow the use of Polyurethanes and to make a contribution to a more sustainable future.
- What is your top priority during your presidency?
It is very important for me to double down on one of the ‘blue-chip’ areas for ISOPA: Product Stewardship. We are an industry with a long-standing commitment to the highest standards of health and safety. Now we have another opportunity to work with our stakeholders to set an example for the industries around us as we work to roll-out a comprehensive occupational health and safety training program in the EU as part of the REACH Restriction. It is a project I am very proud to be a part of. The health and safety of workers must always come first.
Next, I look forward to working with everyone at ISOPA to ensure the European Green Deal is leveraged as an opportunity for our industry. ISOPA prides itself on its commitment to solutions that are environmentally responsible, progressive and inclusive. Our priority over the coming years is putting these goals into tangible action with results that have a positive impact on our members and the world around us.
- What are the opportunities and challenges for the diisocyanates industry in the context of the European Green Deal?
The transition to a carbon-neutral economy under the European Green Deal is a goal that can only be achieved if there is close collaboration across the entire industry. We’re ready to play our part and provide the solutions to deliver on the commitments.
We can provide the building blocks which are needed to launch the EU renovation wave and to transition towards a more sustainable future. Diisocyanates and polyols are used to produce polyurethane insulation materials which play an important role in improving the energy efficiency of buildings. The European Commission aims to double the annual energy renovation rate of residential and non-residential buildings by 2030. This is a huge opportunity for our industry.
Beyond adding value to buildings and construction, polyurethanes provide sustainability benefits in many other areas. These range from reducing energy use and food waste in the cold food chain to enabling light-weight and durable automotive parts which help maximize fuel-efficiency and reduce waste. There are many ways the polyurethanes industry can support the Green Deal, and ISOPA recently relaunched the website polyurethanes.org to tell our sustainability story.
Simultaneously there will be some challenges for our industry under the Green Deal. This includes new requirements on decarbonisation and likely changes under the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability that could impact our industry. It is key for our sector that these new requirements ensure we can provide the solutions to achieving the Green Deal targets and make the right investments.
Close collaboration and connectivity of ISOPA with the downstream associations and with CEFIC, the European Chemical Industry Council, will be more important than ever to address the challenges and opportunities the Green Deal will bring.
- How can the EU ensure the future competitiveness of its chemicals industry as a strategic sector?
The EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability is clear: the EU must strengthen its strategic autonomy in chemicals and build resilient value chains. This is impossible without a competitive EU Chemicals Industry.
At the same time, the Green Deal target is to become carbon neutral. So even while our products help achieve significant CO2 emissions reduction, we also need to reduce emissions. That will require large investments in industrial upgrading of European chemical industry sites. But it has been a challenge for the EU to attract industry investment in the past: In the 10 years between 2008 and 2018, global chemical industry investment grew 6% per year on average. In Europe, we saw only 1% growth. Investments in the US doubled in that time, and almost tripled in China.
The key to overcoming this challenge will be enhancing the EU’s attractiveness as an investment location. As companies, we must consider the case for investment in comparison to alternatives globally: we can only justify investment in Europe if the investment case is preferable – in other words, the business proposition has to be competitive.
The €750 billion Next Generation EU recovery plan provides for EU Member States to invest in the competitiveness of a sustainable EU industry, including in the chemical sector. We really need enough public funding support to be available.
The EU Chemicals Strategy should also support the investments by reinforcing the solid foundation already built via better implementation and enforcement of REACH and other rules on chemicals.
Ultimately, the EU Chemicals Strategy should recognize the essential role of chemicals to deliver climate neutrality and circular economy ambitions, ensure an integrated policy approach and integrate multiple facets of chemicals management including safety, circularity, resource efficiency, environmental footprint, science and innovation.
- Any final comments?
Our work is cut out for us, but I am encouraged by the great strides we have made to keep our industry competitive and, as an industry, to be a key player in EU’s growth story. I am excited at the opportunity to work closely with other ISOPA members to make a key contribution to the EU’s agenda for building a sustainable future.