“We cannot be successful nor can we call ourselves successful in a society that fails,” says Feike Sijbesma, CEO of Royal DSM.
The global science-based company — active in health, nutrition and materials and employing 25,000 people in 50 countries — reinvented itself to help address some of the major challenges the world is facing by applying its core science-based competencies, profitably. DSM asked:
How can purpose profit the world — and business?
DSM decided to prove that commercial success and doing good for the world can go hand in hand.
To do this, they launched Brighter Living Solutions, a series of innovative products that have a measurably better impact on the planet and its people than equivalent mainstream solutions. Brighter Living Solutions now make up nearly two-thirds of the firm’s sales, and products include anti-reflective coatings for solar energy modules, ingredients for food and beverages that help reduce sugar and salt levels, ingredients to enable waterborne paint and even technology for 100% recyclable carpets. The Brighter Living Solutions line reflects DSM’s core purpose: to create brighter lives for people today and generations to come.
“I wanted to link our purpose and what we want to contribute to society to where our competences are — what we are good at,” Sijbesma says.
Geraldine Matchett, DSM’s Chief Financial Officer, says that the company is seeing a shift in how its investors understand and value DSM’s transformation. “Mainstream investors are increasingly starting to recognize that companies with a strong sense of purpose also tend to have quality growth and better risk management,” she says.
Collaborating to innovate
Sijbesma is convinced that no company can address big societal challenges alone; that’s why DSM is collaborating with other organizations to maximize the impact.
For example, DSM partnered with POET, the world’s largest biofuels producer, to create biofuels from corn crop residue — a renewable alternative to fossil fuels. It also partners with the World Food Programme helping to improve the nutrition of over 30 million people globally. And recently DSM teamed up with Evonik to develop algal oil that will offer a sustainable non-fish alternative for salmon farming.
Rob van Leen, DSM’s Chief Innovation Officer, says new solutions were made possible only by bringing together the knowledge of different partners who are all leaders in their field. “We are always looking out for companies or people that are doing something which complements our own expertise,” he says. “‘Proudly found elsewhere’ is one of our key ways of innovating. We want our people to be proud if they find somebody that they can team up with to develop a solution that supports our purpose.”