After a nice cup of coffee, the participants were welcomed by host Christin Skiera, who set the mood with the words: “Sustainability is a broad field”. Cluster spokesperson Jürgen Fuchs of BASF Schwarzheide GmbH immediately confirmed her statement in his welcoming speech. He drew attention to the endeavours essential for using energy and resources sustainably. His conclusion was that the industry in particular has already undertaken worthy endeavours to address these topics, but “We have to keep working on it”.
Berthold Welling of the chemical industry association Verband der Chemischen Industrie talked about real-life implications. Together with the Industrial Union for Mining, Chemistry, Energy (Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie, IG BCE) and the German Federation of Chemical Employers’ Associations (Bundesarbeitgeberverband Chemie, BAVC) the chemical industry association created the Initiative “Chemistry3”,which aims to establish sustainability as a guideline in the chemical industry. According to Welling, the difficulty here is to equally address the three components of true sustainability, namely the economic, the ecological and the social. Conflicting interests were inevitable in this regard. Furthermore, small and medium-sized businesses often found it particularly difficult to allocate resources to the topic of sustainability while simultaneously conducting their day-to-day business. The initiative therefore focused on concrete programmes, checklists and assistance in order to achieve its objectives.
Wolfgang Falter of Deloitte Germany looked to the future. “Who will be the new Chemazon?” he asked, alluding to the digital distribution giant from the USA. Digitalisation has brought a lot of changes to the chemical industry: now it is mainly the customer who initiates the first contact. Many important players are already adjusting to this altered situation. Hitherto unknown competition in the form of start-ups and logistics companies, which are increasingly discovering online trading as well, add to these changed conditions. The market is therefore becoming more convoluted and diverse, says Falter. Simultaneously it offers chemical businesses opportunities as long as they use the new sales channels with their consumers’ benefit in mind and keep an eye on the peculiarities of the various markets.
It was a special honour to receive a warm welcome from the new Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy of Brandenburg, Prof. Jörg Steinbach (Social Democratic Party). As the former President of the Technical University of Berlin and President of the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, he knows the industry inside out. Steinbach paid tribute to the efforts of the businesses that were represented at the event and called on them to not shy away from the limelight because “a lot has been done in the last 20 years!”
In order to sufficiently honour these efforts, the Cluster’s Sustainability Award was handed out, for the first time ever, to two companies. ESE GmbH, based in Neuruppin, manufactures high-quality waste containers, which contain 80% recycled plastic. In this way, ESE makes the consumption of resources and energy more efficient. The LXP Group received an award for its innovative process of obtaining raw materials (such as polylactic acid) from biomass—this production process will soon be tested in a pilot plant on a larger scale. Economic Development Agency Brandenburg’s campaign “Sustainable Today” was also presented at the event. The initiative highlights this and other innovative solutions from the fields of biopolymers, lightweight design and plastics recycling and creates a network consisting of the important players in these fields.
Ben Lodig of Vestas Blades Germany won the award for “Best Trainee in Plastics Processing”, which is given by the plastics association Kunststoff-Verbund Brandenburg Berlin. Lodig won due to his high motivation; he completed his training a year earlier than his fellow trainees.
After the lunch break, which was used for a mutual exchange of ideas and animated discussions about the earlier presentations, the afternoon was dedicated to the further development of the Cluster’s Master Plan. The experiences and wishes of the participants were interactively included in the discussion. The efforts of the businesses and research institutes to engage more actively in exchanges of ideas and networking activities took centre stage; these are supposed to take place within the state and with competitors at the national and international level in order to initiate joint collaborations and carry out projects. But the sector is also concerned about other issues, such as improving the business location, the shortage of skilled employees and political conditions. In 2019, a revised edition of the Master Plan is to summarise the sectors’ potential and goals and provide the Cluster with a sustainable perspective.
The tours of the laboratories at the neighbouring Technical University of Applied Sciences Wildau were more practice-oriented and concluded the intense interactions at this event of the plastics and chemistry sector.