Nippon Shokubai produces chemicals, catalysts and synthetic resins that are used in a wide range of applications, from batteries, automotive parts and displays to detergents, textiles, food and medical products. Its super-absorbent polymers are used in powder form for diapers, sanitary napkins and industrial products, while its ultra-weather resistant resin serves as a protective coating for metals and architectural materials.
With such a range of products and applications in its portfolio, the company has a large footprint, which in turn means a huge opportunity to develop new innovations to reduce the environmental impact of a wide range of sectors. “We have introduced Green Deal technologies, such as an innovative lithium-ion battery electrolyte salt that powers electric vehicles,” said Tomiyuki Sawada, president of European operations at Nippon Shokubai.
“We have environmental catalysts that can operate without auxiliary fuel and can replace the conventional incineration method, resulting in less CO2 emissions. Then there is a separator for alkaline electrolysis of water to produce green hydrogen.
Such innovations are part of the company’s TechnoAmenity vision, which aims to use proprietary technologies to bring “ease and comfort to people and society.” They also align with the company’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
I believe diversity leadership and management, which listens to people’s opinions and allows for discussions with employees to support their ideas, is now even more important.
Last year, Nippon Shokubai established a green innovation department, tasked with achieving the 2050 goal while strengthening strategies and functions for creating environmentally friendly businesses. The department achieves this in a number of ways, including developing methods for using biomass to make the raw materials for its core products, such as acrylic acid and ethylene oxide. He is also responsible for developing CO2 capture and conversion technology and finding greener ways to develop and use ammonia.
“We have already implemented recycling technology for super-absorbent polymers in paper diapers,” Tomiyuki reveals. “At the same time, we have obtained biomass certification for our superabsorbent polymers from the International Sustainability Carbon Certification organization, and we are preparing to provide it in response to customer requests.
Born in Japan and now based in Antwerp, Tomiyuki has adapted his leadership style to the local culture since taking office in February 2020. “We have noticed that strategies and tactical planning based on Japanese common sense are not always adapted to business development in Europe,” he shares.
Tomiyuki is naturally drawn to a top-down leadership style, which he says has been crucial for him throughout the pandemic in dealing with “the chaotic situation under my feet.” But he also recognizes the benefits and importance of servant leadership.
“I believe diversity leadership and management, which listens to people’s opinions and allows for discussions with employees to support their ideas, is now even more important, along with top-down management,” he says.
As it should be
Tomiyuki aims to utilize both leadership styles as he leads Nippon Shokubai Europe through a transformation of its business portfolio to drive growth. A pillar of this will be the expansion of the company’s chemical solutions business, which is newer than the traditional superabsorbent polymer business.
Another will be to further develop and strengthen its basic materials business by reducing costs, increasing productivity and ensuring that the supply of these products is flexible and adaptable to customer demands.
How we can quickly transform and innovate from the conventional business model, and how we can overcome challenges, is kind of an obsession for me.
At the same time, Tomiyuki will drive digital transformation across all departments. “How we can quickly transform and innovate from the conventional business model, and how we can meet challenges, is something of an obsession for me, as well as how we can align these changes in a rapidly changing global environment” , he explains.
“I am inspired by the idea of making Nippon Shokubai Europe a company that can withstand change. I firmly believe that the biggest goal is our people, to be able to meet these challenges, share a common sense of accomplishment and be motivated while working together.
To help build this resilience, Tomiyuki believes his key role is to act as a unifying presence within the company. “I introduced short and direct sentences, like creeds,” he says. “They are: ‘to become one team’, ‘one for all and all for one purpose’ and ‘not as it is, but as it should be’. Everyone must be aware of becoming ‘one’ for meet these challenges.
Proudly supported by: