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Leadership Reimagined: Andrea Brown Smatlan

How do we help solve the challenge of plastic waste and accelerate circular economy.

Leadership Reimagined

There are ways of thinking about sustainability and working on sustainability in all kinds of jobs, says Andrea Brown Smatlan, group head of sustainability at LyondellBasell.

“One of the key messages that I have for other employees in my company, and I imagine that this is the same in many companies in our industry, is that at a certain point we want everybody to work on sustainability.”

Andrea reframes sustainability as really about balance, about fairness, about environmental topics and ultimately about people. “It certainly needs to include not only environmental but also social and governance topics. So it's really about sort of a fair and just transition to sustainable world”, she says.

And that became obvious during the pandemic.

“COVID was an extreme shock. It was a shock to supply chains, to our working life, our social life, our family life. The idea that the next future shock would be something like climate change has woken up a lot of people to the fact that we're not as prepared as we should be on many levels.”

Understanding and articulating the role of the industry in sustainability is very important, Brown points out.

“If you think about something like the UN Sustainable Development Goals, this kind of global set of goals for 2030 that will not be able to happen without the chemical industry – it actually won't be able to happen even without something like plastics. Actions are extremely important. Showing progress, making commitments, disclosing what you're doing as a company, those are all very, very important.”

There will be more and more demand for more sustainable products, more transparency among companies and their supply chains, Andrea claims. “Just look at things like sustainable fashion. Over the last 12-14 months it has shifted quite significantly in importance.”

What about misconceptions related to sustainability?

“The obvious one for our industry is that all plastic is bad. It’s a sustainability topic that has evolved much faster than the one on climate. Communicating the sustainability benefits of plastics, how they help avoid food waste, lightweighting of cars and mobility is really important, as are our own efforts on collaboratively helping to address plastic waste.”

Many questions remain to be answered, and credibly communicated, according to Brown.

“How do we help solve the challenge of plastic waste, how do we help to accelerate a circular economy where plastic is not viewed as a waste but is viewed as a valuable resource? And how do we show that we're actually contributing to those topics in a meaningful way?”

Watch the conversation between Andrea Brown Smatlan and Marielle Veraa below.