In 2016, Solvay passed a new milestone in its transformation into a more resilient, more sustainable, and more innovative multi-specialty Group with high added value.
We finalized the divestment of our chlorovinyls activities, initiated in 2013, with withdrawals from Indupa in Latin America and from Vinythai in South-East Asia. We also entered into an agreement to sell the acetate tow production activities of Acetow. On each occasion, we were committed to divesting under the best possible conditions, and in particular to safeguarding the future of the operations we were selling.
Furthermore, in 2016 we completed the integration of the Cytec activities in record time, generating a far higher level of synergies than we anticipated. Consequently, the Group is now among the world’s leading suppliers of advanced materials to the aerospace industry.
Transforming our portfolio
The metamorphosis of our client portfolio illustrates the magnitude of our transformation. Ten years ago, our major clients were big glass manufacturers. Today, we continue to lead in our traditional fields of activity, something of which we are extremely proud. But our current top clients are the giants of the aerospace industry or of the world of smart devices, for whom we are a strategic partner in the development of the innovative solutions that are essential for the success of their flagship projects.
In 2016, Solvay’s results once again showed solid growth. To a considerable extent, our strong performance was due to our operational excellence programs, to the rapid realization of synergies from our acquisitions, and to a sustained price dynamic. This has allowed us to strengthen our financial solidity and to involve our shareholders in our strong performance through a continuing increase in our dividend, in response to the confidence they showed us by subscribing to a historic rights issue.
Joint steering of economic and sustainable development objectives
In parallel, this Annual Report has become a more integrated report, aimed at showing our commitment to jointly controlling our economic performance and our sustainable development results. We have defined the domains in which we want to progress and have set ten-year objectives for measuring that progress.
Today, these objectives form an integral part of our ambition to create value. For example, in 2016 we reduced the carbon intensity of our operations significantly – by 19% – thanks to the transformation of our portfolio. At the same time, the Group’s employee engagement rate is progressing. On the other hand, we have failed to make progress with respect to safety, although our performance is among the best in the chemical sector. As a result, we are boosting our efforts in this field.
To ensure that our sustainable development permeates the entire organization, the short-term compensation policy includes a sustainable component for all of the Group’s employees. The long-term compensation of management goes even further, integrating a carbon intensity reduction target taking effect as of 2017. The Board of Directors regularly evaluates our progress, which bolsters our approach to sustainable development and ensures its coherence.
2017 objective: Growth
Thanks to the transformation of the portfolio and to the investments in personnel that the Group has made in recent years, 2017 should be a year of growth, especially in terms of volume growth in our Advanced Materials and Advanced Formulations segments.
We are operating in an uncertain geopolitical climate. But the diversity of our fields of activity, our positions of leadership in innovative activities, our well-balanced global presence, and our uninterrupted efforts in the pursuit of excellence are the guarantees of the continuity of the Group and of its growth model.
It is with confidence that we are advancing towards our target of building a solid and innovative Group that is capable of creating value for its shareholders and for every one of its stakeholders.