Interview with ISOPA’s President Mike Fowles – “While challenges will continue to emerge, hard work and positive spirit can turn difficulty into opportunity”

After serving as Vice-President for two years, Mike Fowles was appointed ISOPA President last December. With 30 years of international experience at Huntsman in MDI product development, project and asset management, as well as leading the Global Supply Chain team, Mike is ready to lead ISOPA into a new era of opportunity.

What is your vision for ISOPA?

I strongly believe in the Polyurethanes industry and the benefits it brings to society. As ISOPA is the voice of European diisocyanates and polyols manufacturers, it is important to continue engaging proactively and positively in order to harness opportunities and respond to today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. With policy makers especially, we ought to remain a committed and constructive partner both at European and national level. Going forward, improving Responsible Care programmes to provide sustainable solutions will be an imperative to ensure that our products are handled safely.

What do you think ISOPA’s first priority should be going forward?

Creating a sustainable future has been ISOPA’s commitment since its creation in 1987. For ISOPA member companies and the entire polyurethanes value chain it is paramount to foster interaction with society and stakeholders on the benefits of polyurethanes and our industry safety culture. The “Product Stewardship for a Sustainable Future” initiative is an excellent example of cooperation our sector is capable of in order to ensure safety standards are implemented at the highest level.

What do you feel the role of an association should be in Brussels?

Associations are an integral part of the democratic apparatus in Brussels; they give voice to companies and thousands of employees from across Europe. This is the reason why forward-looking associations should regularly interact with the European institutions; it is important to explain our products’ applications, promote their added value for European manufacturing, and emphasise the contribution of polyurethanes to our society’s needs.

What do you think is the future for diisocyanates in Europe?

As the building block of a very exciting material – polyurethanes – the future for diisocyanates in Europe can be nothing but bright. We have a chemistry that enables a unique combination of properties and has proven to be a suitable response to a number of global challenges. In transport, construction and appliances, polyurethanes are the energy efficient solutions. With Europe focusing on a sustainable future, diisocyanates have a critical role to play.

Which policy areas will you be closely following in the next year?

Besides our product stewardship initiatives, all eyes will be on the circular economy package as well as the energy efficiency initiatives to be presented in the autumn. As the regulatory process advances we will be working closely with downstream associations in order to proactively communicate with all stakeholders on these important issues.

What do you think the EU should do to improve its competitive advantages at global level?

As an energy-intensive industry competing at global level, we need reliable supplies of competitively priced energy; Global demand for chemical products is set to grow and our European economy can participate in this growth with carbon efficient manufacturing. The European polyurethanes industry can play a key role in providing the technological advances and innovative solutions that will enable the European Union to fulfil its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions and move towards a low-carbon economy. But if it is to do so, it must be allowed to innovate and grow, enabling it to be competitive vis-à-vis other regions of the world.

On chemical policy, which issues do you think should be addressed during the review of REACH in 2017?

Recognising the complexity of implementation by the individual member states is key to find solution on harmonisation. While REACH has brought some clarity and structure, enforcing REACH across 28 Member States, while understanding the costs for manufacturers, is no simple task and needs to be simplified and effective.

In your 30-year career, what has been your proudest achievement?

From the building of new chemical units in Europe, to helping establish a brand new Supply Chain capability in China, I have been lucky to experience many proud moments in the past 30 years. Challenges will continue to emerge both in my Company career and ISOPA, yet even in those moments clarity of vision, hard work and positivity will help turn difficulty into opportunity – this is how great moments are created; and I am confident many more will come with ISOPA.