Chemical company transforms

Dutch chemical company DSM–a corporation specialising in solutions for the health, nutrition, and bioscience industries–has been one of the companies driving the sustainability agenda in the chemical industry. DSM has developed new chemicals that are safer, more sustainable, and supported by transparent production. NGO ChemSec’s corporate benchmarking tool, ChemScore, has even ranked them as one of the best performers in their industry.

Their business transformation has included:

  • Kickstarting efforts to replace fossil feedstock with feedstock produced from recycled waste plastics and 100% bio-based hydrocarbons
  • Developing recycling solutions for bio-based materials
  • Phasing out hazardous chemicals from resins and coatings by 2025
  • Developing other sustainable innovations


Their efforts have also been great for business—since embarking on their sustainable transformation, DSM has seen their stocks take off and their long-term economic success secured through strategies that position them beyond the frontiers of the regulatory landscape. DSM’s CEO, Feike Sijbesma, has helped lead DSM towards its purpose-driven future, linking what the world needs to what DSM is best at.

In his time as CEO between 2007 and 2020–a period when the company strongly established its purpose-driven mantra–DSM’s stock rose by 61%. What’s key to DSM’s story is that this level of transformation and success is nothing new to them–throughout their history, DSM has gone down new paths to remain relevant and profitable.

Starting as a coal mining company in 1902, DSM diversified to start producing chemicals by 1973 when their last mine closed down. Now, it’s the sustainability revolution that’s redefining their core business model. In the Anthropocene, catalysing the ability of large companies to move with agility and innovate for sustainability can lead to solutions for the planetary boundaries, including chemical pollution and the release of novel entities.

However, DSM and other large companies can still improve. Sustainability initiatives to reduce chemical pollution and the release of novel entities should be holistically implemented through all business segments while expanding to include all substances of high concern. This will align all business operations with the planetary boundaries, strengthening the resiliency of value chains.

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