essenscia is the sectoral federation for the chemical, plastics and life sciences industry (pharmaceuticals and biotechnology) in Belgium. The sector is one of the most important branches of industry in Belgium, and a driving force of its economy.
With a turnover of 60.8 billion euros, a positive trade balance of 27 billion euros and representing one third of the total Belgian export, the sector is a significant contributor to Belgium’s welfare.
With more than 95.500 direct jobs and the creation of 7.300 extra jobs in the past seven years, the sector is one of the biggest industrial employers in Belgium, accounting for 1/5th of total employment in the manufacturing industry.
With 5.6 billion euros invested in Research & Development in 2020, the sector is by far the biggest private investor in innovation in Belgium. This is mainly driven by the pharmaceutical industry.
The sector keeps attracting strategic investments in the chemical, plastics and life sciences industry in Belgium, on average more than 2 billion euros per year. This strengthens the leading position of the sector extending its worldwide impact.
essenscia represents about 720 companies which together account for more than 95% of the sector’s total turnover in Belgium. These member companies cover a wide range of activities ranging from chemical and (bio)pharmaceutical products to paints, varnishes, glues, cosmetics, detergents, industrial gases, lubricants and plastics to products for agriculture, construction and many other sectors.
Belgium is the world champion in chemicals and plastics on a sales per capita basis and our country is one of the innovation leaders in Europe in terms of clinical trials and the development of new medicines, whereas Belgium’s biotechnology has a worldwide reputation. Therefore, it is no surprise that many renowned chemical and (bio)pharmaceutical companies have important production sites and R&D centres in our country.
This unique concentration of knowledge and expertise creates a great deal of prosperity and well-being. The chemical and life sciences industry is not only very important for our economy, above all its added value for society is substantial by delivering innovations that improve everyone’s quality of life.
As a sector federation and a non-profit organisation, the mission of essenscia is to bring the best possible service to our member companies, while operating within a wider, societal context. This is reflected in our mission statement:
Our member companies contribute to our functional budget through their annual fee, calculated based on their added value. As we are fully financed by our members, we are not dependent on additional funding.
Our values and ways of working describe how we fulfil our mission on a daily basis.
About 50 experts work at essenscia, whereby generic topics are dealt with by experts on a regional or federal level, and end-product related topics are covered by experts in various product groups such as essenscia PolyMatters (plastic materials and polymers), BATO (tank storage), Phytofar (phytopharmaceuticals), Detic (cosmetics and detergents), IVP (paints and inks), Belfertil (mineral fertilizers) and LAB (lubricants).
The ambition of essenscia is – in accordance with its mission statement and values – to accompany our members in the best possible manner, so the sector can continue to deliver its contribution to society’s welfare, whilst operating within the framework of sustainable development as expressed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal.
Already in 2009, essenscia developed – as the first sector federation in Europe – a sectoral sustainable development report to communicate to society at large about our engagement, the sector’s contribution to sustainable development and its performances on key indicators in the three pillars of sustainability: People, Planet and Prosperity. This contributes to transparent communication about our sustainability performance as a sector and to the corporate branding of the sector to inform potential partners, ranging from investors to future employees, of the sense and value to engage with the chemical and life sciences sector in Belgium.
With the European Commission’s Green Deal published in December 2019, sustainability as a central challenge is placed at the heart of all European policy work. This is also making itself felt in essenscia services with an adapted and growing offer of e.g. training and services to members regarding the transition challenges.
With changing global equilibria, take, for instance the reduction in share of EU chemical production in the global chemical turnover1, it is of utmost importance to work on a clear long-term industrial vision in Europe and Belgium to achieve strategic autonomy in production capacity and raw materials, and to consolidate a strong EU and Belgian frontrunner position on subjects such as circular economy, a carbon smart society and sustainable development on the world stage. That frontrunner position need to be balanced in a smart manner with the importance of keeping the Belgian and EU industry competitive in a global and open economy so it can continue to contribute to make a healthy economic contribution to the welfare of society. In particular, we must ensure that a complex balance is struck between the economic ‘engine’ for prosperity, jobs and innovation capacity and the ambitious sustainability goals. Because in any scenario, a healthy entrepreneurial and production landscape is an essential condition for prosperity.
The decision making body of essenscia is the Governing Body (this is the only formal board of the organisation). The current president is Hans Casier, CEO of INEOS Phenol and INEOS Nitriles. The member companies that are the largest contributors (contributions through annual fees are based on added value), are designated members of the Governing Body. There are also Regional Councils for the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels regions and SME members. The presidents of the Regional Councils have a representative in the essenscia Governing Body. The president of the Governing Body is elected within and by the members of the body for a period of three years with a possibility of one re-election, bringing the total maximum presidency period up to six years. The composition of the Governing Body can be consulted on the essenscia website. The essenscia Governing Body validates the different steps in the elaboration of the sustainability report.
Members of essenscia can participate in more than 20 working groups, commissions and committees piloted by essenscia experts and chaired by a representative of a member company. They are organised per subject matter and (where relevant) per competence level (regional or federal). For the elaboration of the 2021 sustainability report the essenscia working groups on sustainable development and communication were actively involved.
A small internal working group composed of Yves Verschueren (Managing Director of essenscia), Saskia Walraedt (Director essenscia PolyMatters and former Senior Advisor Sustainable Development), Gert Verreth (Director Communication and Public Affairs), Nathalie De Vadder (Data Manager), Sofie Bracke (Advisor Circular Economy and Sustainable Development) and Anneleen Bettens (Advisor Social Policy) took charge of the follow-up of the global report elaboration process.
All essenscia experts gave input on their expertise domains and called upon member experts for input and feedback.
In addition, the sustainability report was regularly discussed in the essenscia executive committee with the essenscia management team.
 The demand for chemicals is expected to double by 2030. In turn, the EU’s share of global chemical industry turnover fell from 32% in 1995 to 15% in 2015; it is expected to reach 12% in 2030. China’s share is expected to rise from 37% in 2017 to 50% in 2030. Source: UNEP Global Chemicals Outlook II, April 2019.