The Syensqo company, comprising the solutions, activities and markets represented in the article below, was spun off from Solvay group in December 2023.
Solvay plays its part in reversing nature loss and the preservation of biodiversity
May 22 is International Biodiversity Day, the first one since the historical agreement reached at COP15 in Montreal in December 2022, where 196 countries committed to taking action on nature by 2030 and beyond and move towards a ‘nature positive world’ where negative impact is replaced by regeneration. “The resulting ‘Global Biodiversity Framework’ (GBF) is the equivalent for biodiversity of the Paris Agreement for climate,” sums up Marie-Hélène Enrici, Head of Solvay’s Better Life & Sustainable Development Network. “This conference was crucial for the business world: it was the first time the industry had a place at a COP for biodiversity, because by now everyone has realized that this issue concerns everyone. For Solvay, it created a new impulse that reinforces our own commitments to preserve and restore biodiversity.”
Protecting biodiversity, site by site
In our 2020 One Planet roadmap, Solvay had defined a biodiversity goal with quantified objectives set on a global scale: reducing our impact across the value chain by 30% by 2030. “We’re on track to meet that target, but we’re now adding a local dimension in our journey to contribute to the GBF’s objectives,” explains Marie-Hélène.
How? After having used international databases to characterize the biodiversity around the Group’s 185 sites worldwide – including office buildings and research labs – Solvay is now using this information to develop a biodiversity roadmap template for all its sites: a detailed list of tasks and actions intended to decrease pressures on biodiversity, but also, going beyond that, to contribute to regenerative projects.
As a chemical company, our activities contribute to four of the five main pressures on biodiversity: greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, consumption of natural resources and changes in land occupation. These pressures are related to our portfolio in the Fashion, Energy, Transportation & Mobility, Food & Feed businesses, which represent 57% of our total sales.
“Our goal is for every Solvay site to have a detailed biodiversity roadmap by 2025, with progressive implementation and corresponding budget lines,” says Yanis Moulin, who is in charge of the deployment of the Group’s biodiversity strategy for its industrial sites. “It’s the concrete application of Solvay’s overall biodiversity strategy.”
Rather than a top-down list of actions to carry out, the roadmaps are being developed by the sites, by defining their vision and main objectives for the preservation of local ecosystems. A first step will be to collect information and build a local network including employees who may have some expertise on the subject. Then the activities are listed in the template, along with stakeholders, timeline and budget.
As part of our partnership with the Wildlife Habitat Council, a Nature Conservation Guide has recently been created to guide the sites in the identification of possible actions. “We are going to help the sites assess and implement the most efficient and relevant actions and identify the stakeholders and partners, such as NGOs and associations, to support them,” says Marie-Hélène. These actions can range from reducing emissions and water withdrawals to conserving wetlands and rehabilitating quarries, installing nesting houses, fostering pollination and increasing ground permeability in and around facilities. Additionally, all the efforts conducted as part of our Solvay One Planet environmental targets will support the preservation of biodiversity as well.
To get the ball rolling, 30 priority sites have been identified to start implementing the biodiversity roadmaps as soon as possible. Among these, two ‘pilot sites’ in particular have been the focus of Yanis’ work, both of them in France: the Soda Ash facilities in Dombasle and the Aroma Performance plant in St Fons, near Lyon.
“We are monitoring wetland fauna, planting a small forest and closely watching a family of eagle owls, a protected species, in and around the quarry in Dombasle,” explains Yanis. “In St Fons, it’s a completely different story: the site is in a densely built-up industrial area, but we will be creating hedges and ponds around it, working with an ecologist to figure out what’s feasible and most appropriate.” None of this could happen without support from nature conservation associations and the commitment of the management and HSE teams on both sites, namely Martine Gaudelet in Dombasle and Magalie Graullier-Surjus in St Fons.
We rely on biodiversity for all our activities, and we know that the cost of inaction is five times higher than the cost of restoring biodiversity.
Marie-Hélène Enrici, Head of Better Life & Sustainable Development Network, Solvay
Regenerating the health of entire ecosystems
Assessing the impact of human activities on biodiversity is much more complex than monitoring greenhouse gas emissions for example, and it requires a multidisciplinary approach. Not to mention the results are difficult to measure, as they are related to the overall health and functioning of entire ecosystems.
Nevertheless, the work has begun. Pioneer Solvay sites such as Paulinia in Brazil, certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council, Rosignano (Italy) or Oldbury (UK), where actions have been carried out to plant hedges and native trees and regenerate nature around dismantled units: telling examples of efficient actions in a highly industrial area.
“We have been measuring the impact of our products on biodiversity through the value chain for four years, and have already been able to decrease it by more than 25%”, explains Marie-Hélène. “Now we have to accelerate in order to be able to report our local impacts and dependencies as soon as 2024. We are also willing to work with our suppliers and customers to better identify the impacts of the use of our materials and products on biodiversity.”
The urgency is there: the impact of biodiversity decrease is already measurable in terms of direct financial loss in many sectors. “We rely on biodiversity for all our activities, whether for water, energy or raw materials, and studies show that the cost of inaction is five times higher than the cost of restoring biodiversity.”