Interview with Heike van de Kerkhof, Archroma...
Interview with Heike van de Kerkhof, Archroma

The way to a sustainable world

Heike van de Kerkhof, CEO (Source: Archroma)
Heike van de Kerkhof, CEO (Source: Archroma)

At the beginning of 2020, Heike van de Kerkhof was appointed as Archroma's new CEO. Since then, she has led the company on its journey to make the industry more sustainable, both economically and environmentally. We spoke to her about Archroma’s way to a sustainable world.

You recently presented the new sustainability report entitled “The Archroma way to a sustainable world”. What does that mean specifically?
Archroma has a very long history of driving sustainability in the textile industry.
Our very first offering of sustainable solutions dates back to the 1990s when we introduced our “3R” concept with products helping to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle at all stages of the product life cycle. Since then, we have led many trailblazing initiatives in our industry.

The Archroma Way is articulated around 3 elements: safety, efficiency and enhanced value. We examine how we influence these 3 elements both from an internal and external perspective; what we do and how we do it, and how we impact and enable third parties.

"Safe" is about products that are safe to use, safe to release and also safe to wear. "Efficient" is about innovative application processes that minimize resources and maximize productivity. "Enhanced" is about adding effects, functionalities, aesthetics and sustainable differentiation to bring additional value to the final user.

Today we are a recognized leader in sustainable innovations and system solutions for manufacturers, brands and retailers.

What has changed at Archroma since 2018, the publication of the first sustainability report? What are the further sustainability goals until 2030?
We released our very first report in 2018, covering our financial year 2017. In that short period of time, we have made significant progress: First, about our sustainability report itself. Since FY2019, our report is prepared in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards. And for the first time this year, we conducted a survey to identify and prioritize the most critical topics for our internal and external stakeholders.

Second, we have set our mid-term sustainability objectives for 2023, in areas such as water, energy and carbon footprint, as well as procurement, product safety and diversity and inclusion.

Third, we initiated activities to promote sustainable sourcing. For instance we have our CSR performance evaluated by EcoVadis, who awarded us their gold rating, and we work with leading organizations such as the Together for Sustainability group (TfS), or the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) in China.

And finally, as part of “The Archroma Way to a Sustainable World” approach, we started to change the way we promote our products, by highlighting how they can be combined to maximize their benefits in terms of safety and resource efficiency – thus more actively promoting our most sustainable solution systems.

What could a sustainable textile industry look like in future?
We can see a few trends emerging in the industry, under the influence of consumers, as well as authorities in the EU, in the USA and in China, to name just a few.

Consumers increasingly look at how and where their clothes and textile articles are made, and the corona pandemic has reinforced this trend.

We also see some of the higher value textile production re-localizing closer to their end markets, whilst at the same time, textile production in developing countries continues to improve in terms of safety and ecological standards, as regulatory and eco-certification standards are a necessity for export markets.

What role does industry play here, and what is the role of the consumer?
Brands have integrated this evolution, and are looking at innovations that give them a competitive edge. We can see that with the growing success of our solutions systems such as Love Nature x Earthcolors based on our EarthColors dyes, or Pure Indigo Icon based on our aniline-free Diresul Pure Indigo.

We all need to do more to address the amount of water and energy that is still over-used in the supply chain. That is why Archroma has developed a number of systems that are helping our customers to reduce the use of resources in their own production.

It will be a collective effort, and there is much to do, but at the same time I am very optimistic when I see the huge progress made in especially the past few years.

Consumers finally recognize the climate crisis as a reality, and I am convinced that this will dramatically accelerate the pace of change.

Diversity, inclusion and talent management – these terms are also mentioned in the current sustainability report. Can you please explain what this means for Archroma?
This is so critical! Our leaders at Archroma understand that we serve diverse markets, and that diversity needs to be reflected internally if we want to be relevant for our customers.

At the same time, we need to make our industry more attractive to all talents, and we can do that by communicating our passion for sustainable innovations and our collaboration with eco-advanced brands such as Patagonia, G-star, and Esprit.

We also need to focus on building and nurturing a global network of diverse talent in our industry, and invest time in mentoring and coaching to allow satisfying sustainable development and growth for all.

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