Sustainable Development Goals – Goal 17 (logo)

Solvay’s strategic objective:



of employees involved in societal action

The Group aims to strengthen this commitment by facilitating employee involvement in projects that serve society and by offering Solvay’s expertise to regions where the Group operates. Societal actions are how we create shared social value. Today, value creation is a collaborative effort both within the company and between the company and our stakeholders, whether they be customers, investors, suppliers, communities, or the planet as a whole.

Solvay dedicates time and financial resources both locally and globally to help improve people’s living environment through:

  • scientific solutions;
  • education and youth employment;
  • environmental actions and solidarity at the local level.
Budget for societal actions

In € million





€ 7.38 million split into € 1.98 million for local societal actions done by sites, € 0.85 million for the Ernest Solvay Fund, and € 4.55 million for Solar Impulse.

Solvay Group donations, sponsorships and own projects





From local involvement ...

Employees are involved in diverse projects worldwide that provide direct and indirect added value for the local economy and employment, while also supporting local associations and initiatives.

In % of headcount





Legend: Number of employees that participated at least in one societal action in 2016 (even if they are no long present at the company on 31/12/2016) divided by the headcount on 31/12/2016.

Employees involved in local societal actions





The increase in engagement at local level is on track with the objective for 2025. Note that 2016 was the first year of launching the Societal Actions guidelines and that Cytec legacy plants have not been included in that measurement. 

Preliminary work with our auditors has shown that the measurement of the percentage of people involved in societal actions needs to be more accurate. Further work is required on reporting process and standards.

Examples of local societal actions in France for “Education and youth employment”

  • "C Génial": this foundation for scientific and technical culture aims to educate teachers about the technical activities of private sector companies, lend a sense of purpose to the teaching of science at middle and high school levels by using industrial applications to bring the subject to life, and give teachers a better idea of the kinds of scientific and technical careers the future holds in the private sector. In 2016, around 15 Solvay employees at four sites hosted several teachers.
  • "Institut Télémaque": this association promotes equality of opportunity starting in middle school by pairing deserving, motivated young students from underprivileged households with co-mentors from their school and the Group. In 2016, 18 employees from two Solvay sites signed up as mentors.
  • "Nos quartiers ont du talent": the goal of this association, whose name means “There’s talent in the neighborhood”, is to accelerate the entry of ambitious, deserving young people into professional life and ensure equal access to promising, skilled jobs. Since it was launched, the association has been working to help graduates under the age of 30 with at least three years of post-secondary education to access the job market. The program focuses on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, some of whom were raised in low-income housing. In 2016, 15 Solvay employees at two sites signed up to mentor these young people.
  • "Elles Bougent: aimed at promoting gender diversity in the Group’s professions, "Elles Bougent" (“Women on the Move”) raises the profile of female engineers and technicians by arranging meetings between Group professionals and middle school, high school, and college students. These events are typically forums organized around topics such as “women in careers”, “the science of engineering”, or “technological innovation challenges”. In 2016, 48 Solvay employees answered young women’s questions either in person or through a regional mentor.

... to a global commitment

The most visible Group initiatives are its involvement in Solar Impulse, the Solvay Prize for the Future of Chemistry, and the Solvay International Institutes for Physics and Chemistry.

The Group aims to connect its philanthropic efforts with the Group’s areas of expertise and support causes where its products or activities can deliver added value.

In 1923, Solvay created the Ernest Solvay Fund to honor the founder of the Company, who died the year before. Today, the majority of Solvay’s corporate philanthropy goes through the Ernest Solvay Fund. This Fund is managed by the independent King Baudouin Foundation.

Solvay concentrates its philanthropic and funding efforts at corporate level on science promotion, education, youth employment, and in some circumstances, support to humanitarian initiatives in reaction to certain disasters and/or where our products or services are of particular value.

Examples of Group science promotion projects

Inspiring the chemists of the future

The Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize rewards a major scientific discovery that could shape tomorrow’s chemistry and aid human progress. The prize perpetuates the strong support for scientific research given by Ernest Solvay. It is intended to endorse basic research and underline the essential role of chemistry, both as a science and an industry, in helping to solve some of the most pressing issues the world is facing. The €300,000 prize is awarded every two years.

In 2015, the Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize was given to Professor Ben Feringa. Professor Feringa’s work on unidirectional molecular motors has opened up a new field of research which, for example, paves the way for the development of new therapeutic and technological applications. Within the next 20 to 30 years, his research is likely to lead to the introduction of nanorobots – microscopic robots that can accurately target specific molecules during therapeutic treatment. It may also enable a new generation of scientists to design artificial muscles or further optimize the storage of information on a molecular scale. For his work and his career, Ben Feringa was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The next Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize will be awarded in 2017.

The International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry

Following the legendary 1911 Conseil Solvay on “Radiation and the Quanta” chaired by Nobel Laureate Hendrik Lorentz, the International Solvay Institute for Physics was founded by Ernest Solvay in 1912. The International Solvay Institute for Chemistry was founded a year later, in 1913. The two Institutes merged in 1970 as the International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, founded by Ernest Solvay.

The mission of the Solvay Institutes is to support and develop curiosity-driven research in physics, chemistry, and associated fields with the purpose of “enlarging and deepening the understanding of natural phenomena”.

The central activity of the Institutes is the periodic organization of the celebrated Solvay Conferences on Physics and Chemistry (“Conseils de Physique Solvay” and “Conseils de Chimie Solvay”). This support for fundamental science is complemented by the organization of open workshops on specific selected topics, international chairs, colloquia, and an international doctoral school.

In addition to these activities, the Solvay Institutes promote the popularization of science through the organization of the annual Solvay public lectures devoted to today’s big scientific challenges.

Examples of Group science educational projects

  • The creation at the University of Strasbourg of “bourses de doctorat d’excellence en chimie”, which support candidates from Imperial College of London, University of Cambridge, and Saint Andrews University.
  • The annual grant to the Queen Elisabeth Medical Foundation (QEMF), which encourages laboratory research and contact between researchers and clinical practitioners, with a particular focus on neurosciences. The QEMF supports 17 university teams throughout Belgium.
  • The International IUPAC/Solvay Award for Young Chemists, which will reward five young chemists and researchers from top universities all over the world.
  • The “Solvay Awards”, which have been recognizing excellent masters and doctors from two major universities in Belgium for more than 20 years.
  • From 2014, Solvay supports VOCATIO scholarships, which are granted to talented young people to enable them to achieve or start pursuing their dream.
  • The creation of the research chair "Chimie et Auto assemblage" at the University of Bordeaux.

Solar Impulse: Solvay, a game-changer in clean technologies to make the impossible possible!

In July 2016, Solar Impulse completed its round-the-world tour that started in March 2015, after covering more than 40,000 km powered exclusively by solar energy, flying over two oceans, breaking eight world records.

Since 2003, our dedicated teams of scientists, engineers, visionaries, and innovators have collaborated closely with like-minded individuals from Solar Impulse and leading technological partners, with the aim of sweeping convention aside. Instead we developed clean-sheet solutions to dramatically improve the energy chain and to enhance the structure and reduce the weight of the solar-powered aircraft, crucial elements that have helped to make this historic flight a success. More than 6000 parts in the Solar Impulse 2 are made out of our high-end thermoplastics and thermoset composites that make the aircraft lighter, along with energy-efficient technologies such as lubricants and battery components based on fluorine and lithium chemistry.

The idea conceived by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg designing, building, and flying a zero-emission aircraft around the world was totally in line with Solvay's unwavering commitment to developing transformative clean technologies that ease dependency on carbon-emitting fossil fuels. A way of demonstrating chemistry’s ability to "make the impossible possible" – an opportunity that Solvay could not miss!