Scope of the report

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This 2021 edition is the seventh biannual sectoral sustainable development report of the Belgian chemical, life sciences and plastics industry. It analyses the activities of the chemical, plastics and life sciences industry in Belgium and illustrates how companies within the sector fulfil essenscia’s mission every day.

Whilst a lot of our member companies are global players operating in a global economy, this report focusses – especially through the selected indicators and the mentioned best practices examples – on the activities on the Belgian territory. That is the scope of the report.

For the indicators, this means we focus on the data available for the NACE codes 20 (manufacturing of chemicals and chemical products), 21 (manufacturing of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations) and 22 (manufacturing of rubber and plastic products). This does not perfectly match the essenscia members nor the large number of SMEs that constitute an important part of the sector and often are exempted from reporting obligations used for some of the indicators. However, we believe it gives an adequate description of the overall impact and performance of the sector.

Other elements of the report, in particular the four narratives on key societal challenges, also take into account, where relevant, elements at the European and global level. Indeed, challenges such as climate change or the transition to circular and sustainable plastics are not limited to Belgium, nor will the solutions be found or implemented purely on a national scale only. Often chemical and pharmaceutical companies are active in and outside Europe through parts of their supply chain and import or export activities. For those elements, it is relevant to broaden the scope of the report, especially in ‘setting the scene’ and describing the challenges.

To summarize, the scope of the report is the Belgian chemical, life sciences and plastics industry. Special attention is given to the EU/global dimension where relevant for coherence, or to guarantee balance between environmental objectives and the industry’s competitiveness within a global economy.

What’s new in the 2021 edition? 

In our search for continuous improvement, we examine in each edition elements of our sector sustainability report that can be further strengthened.

  • Based on GRI principles
  • Materiality analysis with stakeholders
  • Indicators based on independent data sources
  • Selection of indicators together with essenscia
  • experts, our members and stakeholders
  • NL, FR
  • ​Same set of indicators
  • Quotes by stakeholders
  • EN
  • First on-line edition with a hard copy summary brochure
  • Development of vision texts for each P (People, Planet, Prosperity)
  • Full report available in pdf
  • Examples from member companies and sector initiatives added
  • NL, FR, EN
  • Full version only on-line
  • Short animated video summary
  • Hard copy infographics
  • Short version pdfs available
  • Link with SDGs added
  • NL, FR, EN
  • Revised materiality analysis
  • Indicators adapted
  • Alignment with GRI standards
  • Hard copy brochure with infographics of key indicators
  • Improved animated video summary
  • Fully searchable on-line report
  • All indicators and examples related to relevant SDGs
  • EN
  • First time auditing for full GRI compliance
  • Publication of a comprehensive materiality matrix
  • New indicator added on Product Stewardship
  • Adding four narratives on highly material topics and key societal challenges
  • Improved stakeholder involvement
  • NL, FR, EN
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Overview of the key features of each of the previous six essenscia sustainability reports highlighting the changes.

This 7th sustainability report is entitled “Industry in Transition“. The essenscia sectoral sustainability report has always been a model within business federations due to its comprehensive set of indicators, transparent narratives, and numerous business examples. With the Green Deal in December 2019, a new era has begun where sustainability is at the heart of every EU policy initiative and with an accelerated, holistic approach to shaping new EU policies with sharp and ambitious 2030 and 2050 targets. For this 2021 edition, it is clear that, even though not all policy proposals have been translated into detailed legislation, our companies are not sitting back and waiting but are taking full action towards the intended and shared long-term goals. The many company examples and commitments do not lie: our industrial sector is in transition. The companies in our sector often do this together with other companies in the sector or from other sectors. So far, this is not always visible in the indicators: absolute greenhouse gas emissions and some environmental emissions show a rather stable trend in recent years. We are convinced that, in a few years’ time, there will be visible trend breaks in greenhouse gas emissions and environmental emissions towards the desired European ambitions of climate neutrality and a healthy planet[1]. The most important thing now, in accordance with the United Nations Decade of Action, is to – despite the uncertainty – take steps forward. For the 2021 edition, we to build on the strong, externally audited, 2019 sustainability report. This way, we maintain the essential building blocks of the sectoral sustainability report:

  • the indicators
  • the good practices
  • the material challenges

This year, based on the materiality survey of our external stakeholders and internal experts and companies, we chose to highlight the theme of safety, health and environment.

In the 2021 edition, we want to focus  on both the sector’s commitments on the transition path, and also on our expectations towards a supportive government, to make the transition successful . What is expected of our companies – from the European Green Deal and the accompanying policy plans – is, after all, a gigantic and rapid effort with accompanying investments, and this within a global and highly competitive and open economy based on multilateralism and international trade (and peace) agreements. How all these ambitions can be reconciled into a coherent and successful whole – without sacrificing prosperity and with affordable products and services for all – is something that all actors must strive to achieve for a realistic and achievable transition.

Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals

essenscia fully supports the challenging objectives set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. A separate section of the report clearly sets out how the chemical, plastics and life sciences industry is helping to achieve each and every one of these seventeen SDGs.

GRI compliance

essenscia has been following the GRI guidance on sustainability reporting since its first report in 2009. In 2019, to boost our credibility, we chose Deloitte to audit (based on ISAE 3000) our report according to the GRI Standards. A limited review was performed on a selection of 19 highly material quantitative socio-economic and environmental indicators.

[1]EU Action Plan: ‘Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil’ 05/2021: The zero pollution vision for 2050: a Healthy Planet for All; Air, water and soil pollution is reduced to levels no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems,  respecting the boundaries of our planet,  creating a toxic-free environment.