We have always pursued dialogue and openness with our suppliers, our customers, nonprofits, schools and other stakeholders. Through transparency, engagement and solidarity, our corporate giving addresses major challenges, from sustainability and access to education to clean water and support for communities in need. We spotlight a handful of representative initiatives.
Project Pragati creates a viable framework to assess the social, economic, agricultural and environmental performance of Indian growers of castor beans, the raw material we use to make our bio-based, high-performance polymers. It’s a win all around for farmers, processors, manufacturers, customers and the environment.
The Hindi word pragati means “progress.” And progress is the goal of the Gujarat farmers who grow castor beans. The region produces almost 70% of the global supply, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Flashback to 2016, when Arkema, BASF, Jayant Agro-Organics Ltd., a pioneer in castor oil-based chemicals in India, and Solidaridad, an international NGO, jointly sponsor the fledgling Project Pragati. Together they will cultivate a partnership with a thousand Indian farmers, creating the world’s first sustainable program to grow castor beans.
Erwoan Pezron, Global Group President, Technical Polymers at Arkema, remembers. “With Procurement, we looked at how we could help farmers achieve higher yields and incomes, while making castor beans a more sustainable source to ensure stable supply.” It’s a critical issue for Arkema, the world’s top consumer of castor oil, which is the feedstock for our high-performance, bio-based polymers. “Our Rilsan® polyamide 11 resins and Pebax® Rnew® elastomers are produced from plants and recyclable materials,” emphasizes Erwoan Pezron. “For a long time we promoted performance, without necessarily stressing this entirely unique, two-fold advantage. It’s a key asset for our customers, whether they’re carmakers or manufacturers of sports shoes and gear or consumer electronics.” Our sales in those markets are soaring, justifying a more than 50% increase in Arkema’s global production capacity. “Right from the outset, we knew that to sell this bio-based polymer’s performance and sustainability we had to take an interest in castor bean farming,” continues the president of the business unit. “It comes down to consistency, given that we want to make sustainable solutions a core focus of our innovation strategy.”
We launched Project Pragati with our partners three years ago. The stated goals are to boost farmers’ income through better crop yields, to improve working conditions and to protect the environment through reduced water consumption and better waste management. We have trained 2,700 farmers in best agricultural practices, and independent agencies have certified their more than 5,400 tons of production. Over 3,000 items of personal protective equipment (gloves and masks) and 3,000 pesticide storage boxes have been distributed.
The results have been so encouraging that the partners have decided to extend the program for three more years. “We estimate we’ll be able to certify another 4,000 farmers,” says Erwoan Pezron, who went out to see for himself on the front line. “The plants on Pragati parcels are more developed. We measured a 55% increase in crop yield over 2016, using less water and fertilizer.”
Project Pragati’s impact ripples far beyond the people directly involved in it. In late 2018, at its Center of Excellence in Landshut, Germany, BMW recognized 15 of its global suppliers for their outstanding achievements in five categories, including sustainability. The automaker highlighted Arkema’s bio-based polymers, used under the hood in BMW i3s and even in its key, stressing Project Pragati’s role in its decision. “BMW wanted to commend our polymers’ sustainability and recognize our responsible procurement process,” says a pleased Virginie Delcroix, Arkema’s Vice President, Sustainable Development. “They chose to single us out among their 3,000 suppliers. It shows that, besides our bio-based materials’ performance, a company like BMW sees the consistency of its partners’ CSR process as crucial. It’s a very gratifying form of recognition for Arkema and a strong signal for everyone who is working to achieve that goal.”