Like many companies, chemical-maker Croda has a longstanding commitment to promoting sustainability both within the company itself and to the wider world. In 2020 it renewed its commitment to those aims, embedding them within its core purpose – “Smart Science to Improve Lives”.
This strategy includes three key pillars, as Croda commits to becoming:
- Climate Positive: Reaching net zero on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with an intermediate target based on a 1.5°C science-based target (SBT) by 2030
- Land Positive: With measures to increase agricultural land use efficiency, protect biodiversity and ensure food security
- People Positive: Using science to improve the wellbeing of Croda’s employees and people around the world
This case study will focus on the last of these, showcasing the steps Croda is taking to ensure fair pay and equal opportunities for its staff as well as contributing to the development of innovative products and charitable projects that are having a positive social impact on the world’s population.
Summarising Croda’s approach
A comprehensive governance structure is accountable for ensuring Croda delivers on all of its sustainability goals, including People Positive. This includes:
- Board of directors and executive committee: Assumes ultimate responsibility for ensuring that sustainability remains part of Croda’s strategy
- Sustainability committee: A subcommittee to the executive committee, this takes ownership of the delivery against Croda’s sustainability goals. This comprises members of the executive committee as well as senior leaders from across Croda, who are each assigned responsibility for delivering specific 2030 targets
- Expert resource: The group sustainability team and third-party partners work together on specific projects
Croda’s approach to delivering a positive social impact spans several important areas:
- Ensuring fair pay, by committing to pay all employees worldwide a living wage
- Promoting health and wellbeing, by contributing to the development of vaccines and supplying quality ingredients for sunscreen
- Achieving gender balance, by improving recruitment practices and providing development opportunities to ensure a 50:50 split between men and women in management roles by 2030
- Improving more lives, through volunteering and philanthropic giving
Ensuring fair pay
In 2018, Croda became accredited as a Living Wage employer in its home market the UK by the Living Wage Foundation, which calculates the minimum hourly pay a worker needs in order to have an acceptable standard of living. However, with the bulk of its workforce located overseas, the company wanted to go further to ensure all of its employees were paid enough to live off by the end of 2022.
To deliver on this objective, it has partnered with the Fair Wage Network, an international organization that has developed an independent and economically rigorous methodology to assess living wage levels across the world.
Croda has now completed the process of comparing its wage levels with the Fair Wage Network’s database and has made the necessary adjustments to bring wages across its global workforce in line with the Fair Wage Network’s guidance for each country.
Improving global health
Due to the nature of the chemicals Croda produces, it has the opportunity to directly drive improvements in social sustainability by providing key ingredients for the manufacturer of vital health products. This falls in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing.
Its targets in this area include:
- Contribute to the successful development and commercialisation of 25% of WHO-listed pipeline vaccines by 2030, with the intermediate aim of participating in 10 clinical phase three trials across 25% of WHO-listed vaccines by the end of 2024
- Protect at least 60 million people annually from potentially developing skin cancer from harmful UV rays, through the use of its sun care ingredients by 2030
Croda played a key role in the response to the 2020/21 coronavirus pandemic, working with pharmaceutical companies to help them develop vaccines. Its products include excipients, lipids and adjuvants, ingredients that help to ensure vaccines remain stable and are delivered safely and effectively to a patient’s immune system.
Developing the vaccines involved close collaboration with partners across the pharmaceutical supply chain, from the development stage through clinical trials and eventually scaling up of manufacturing. Croda’s role included sharing its scientific research into the effects of its ingredients, as well as gifting supplies of its adjuvants to vaccine development teams around the world.
The company continues to engage with researchers at pharmaceutical companies working on a number of other vaccines, including for HIV and malaria, as well as expanding manufacturing capacity as it drives towards its target.
Exposure to the sun’s UV rays is one of the leading causes of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which kills more than 60,000 people each year. Croda’s Beauty Effects business, which makes ingredients for hair, skin and suncare products, has set out a roadmap as it aims to reach its goal of helping 60m people annually protect themselves from skin cancer.
The roadmap includes:
- NGO/charity engagement: Working with third parties with specific expertise in this area
Disruptive technology transformation of Croda’s portfolio: Making use of new technology to drive even greater progress
- Inorganic expansion of Croda’s portfolio: Growth through acquisition
- Iterative development of Croda’s portfolio: Working to extend the reach of Croda’s technology and its application.
- Effective promotion of Croda’s portfolio and capabilities: Reaching out to a greater number of partners, customers and consumers.
Achieving gender balance
Croda has taken a number of steps to bolster inclusivity and ensure its workforce is more reflective of the society it serves.
These efforts are overseen by its new Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee, composed of 13 representatives from Croda’s five regions and three market sectors, which is responsible for providing guidance and management, and mobilising resources, to support delivery of the company’s D&I objectives.
The committee’s targets include reaching 50:50 gender parity in leadership roles by 2030, with an intermediate goal of having 80% of recruitment shortlists gender balanced by 2023.
While gender balance has been a key focus, the committee has also taken steps to promote ethnic diversity – especially in light of protests that spread across the world in summer of 2020.
It has pursued a number of initiatives, both in recruitment and internally, to reach its goals, including:
- A dedicated diversity and inclusion (D&I) intranet site, providing access to online resources, company policies and training opportunities
- Online unconscious bias training, which was taken by over 2,500 employees in 2020
- A series of podcasts recorded by members of the D&I committee and other Croda leaders to raise awareness about the importance of D&I to Croda
- Guest speakers including online masterclasses for the board and executive committee led by organisational psychologist John Amaechi OBE, on topics such as the nature of prejudice and institutional racism
- An overhauled flexible working policy, including remote work, flexible start and finish times and a “dress for your day” policy
Improving more lives
As well as improving the wellbeing of its customers and employees, Croda aims to have a positive affect on society through philanthropic giving. This takes the form of:
- Charitable donations
- The establishment of a Croda Foundation in 2020 that will fund charitable projects
Croda’s 1% Club initiative allows employees to take paid leave to spend time volunteering in their local communities, with a particular focus on STEM (science, technology engineering and maths) initiatives such as providing resources to schools and parents to support young people in taking up careers in this field.
In 2020, Croda mobilised to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic through its Acts of Kindness initiative, giving each of its largest manufacturing sites £10,000 to spend on supporting their local communities. This was spent on a range of items including PPE and hand sanitiser, food and care packages and tablet PCs for care homes.
Building on these efforts, The Croda Foundation, officially established in 2020 and formally launched in 2021, will be funded by but operate independently from Croda, with charitable status, a small team of dedicated staff and a goal of improving 1m lives by 2030.
The foundation will fund its first round of employee-nominated projects before the end of 2021, based on criteria that prioritise social impact and alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in the company’s local communities. In many cases, Croda will provide products, know-how and employee time (above and beyond the 1% club) to support these projects.
Results and next steps
Croda’s sustainability leaders and employees across the organization have made great strides in the area of social impact, putting it on a path towards achieving its 2030 goals.
Achievements to date have included:
- Providing the equivalent of 50m doses worth of excipients for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccination in 2020 alone
- The creation of a roadmap to deliver on its sun care ambitions by 2023
- A 19% increase in the number of women in leadership roles in 2020 and a 40% increase in the number of women in direct production roles since 2018
- The formal incorporation and full launch of the Croda Foundation
- The donation of almost 1,400 hours of employee volunteering time in 2020, 24% of which was spent on STEM activities
Its success in this area, along with its land and climate-focused sustainability efforts, led to Croda being ranked first in the Most Sustainable International Company rankings by Barron’s, a leading source of financial news for the American Stock Exchange. Based on 230 environmental, social and governance KPIs, Croda came out on top of the field out of the 1,000 largest listed companies in major economies outside the United States.
Advice for others
Croda shared some key learnings from its People Positive programme for driving social impact:
- Leadership from the top: Sustainability needs to be led from the top – if the person in charge isn’t on board then it makes it a lot more difficult to effect substantial change.
- Whole-company effort: At the same time, the whole company also needs to be actively encouraged and educated about the importance of social impact to ensure they buy in to the changes.