Royal DSM

Royal DSM has a RE100 goal to purchase 100% renewable electricity, with an interim goal that 50% of purchased electricity will be from renewable sources by 2025. Here, Sim van der Linde, the Project Director leading DSM’s renewable energy sourcing strategy, and Paulette van Ommen, Sustainability Manager, tell us more about the company’s journey to be ‘100% renewable’.

What are your motivations for becoming ‘100% renewable’?

Paulette:  We believe that effectively tackling climate change is both a responsibility and a business opportunity. At DSM, climate change is high on our agenda: both in our running business and our innovation/R&D community. For example, our anti-reflective coatings increase the yield of solar panels. Next to developing and selling solutions that help enable a low-carbon economy, we feel a responsibility to reduce our own carbon footprint. Saving energy and increasing our sourcing of renewable energy are the two key priorities to realize that.

Why do you think RE100 is a good initiative to join?

Sim: RE100 provides a valuable platform for the world’s leading companies to benefit from peer learning and capacity building when it comes to renewable power, not just in Europe, but also through its network abroad. DSM is a global company: we have operations in every continent. We plan to build long-term partnerships with leading suppliers of renewable energy. Engaging in such partnerships requires skills to socially innovate and organize differently, and is still new for us. I expect that the RE100 community has the potential to jointly go through a steep learning curve which will drive the increased use of renewables.

What process did you go through to decide on your 100% goal?

Paulette: Colleagues across DSM had already been working on the development of a renewable energy strategy for a longer period of time: a so-called RE movement. We had not yet found a strong platform where companies share their learnings and aggregate their voice in support of renewable energy. The intermediate target the existing project already had in mind (50% renewable electricity by 2025) turned out to be in line with the ambition levels of other RE100 companies. After internal alignment on the initiative we proposed it to the Managing Board, which approved it soon after.

What are your achievements so far, and what opportunities and challenges have you encountered?

Sim: So far DSM has targeted energy efficiency; we have made significant steps to reduce our consumption and will continue to do so. We are in an early stage with the use of renewable energy and are developing the first partnerships with third parties as well as mapping out the opportunities to expand this. We also have smaller projects in India (Pune), the US (Belvedere, NJ) and the Netherlands (Geleen), where we generate some solar energy on our sites. 

What plans are there for increasing your use of renewable electricity, and what do you expect the benefits to be?

Sim: Our plan is to secure affordable long-term strategic partnerships. The benefit of this is that together we can develop economic options for using renewable energy, stimulate the supply thereof, and pursue innovative concepts for energy and stakeholder engagement.

Why do you think it is important for companies to play a role in accelerating demand for renewable electricity?

Paulette: Currently, the cost of coal-fired power stations is still cheaper than clean electricity. To alter this, a meaningful carbon price will have to emerge. This is why our CEO Feike Sijbesma is part of the World Bank-IMF Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, and why we have joined the UN Carbon Pricing Champions. As the costs of climate change (such as droughts and air pollution) are becoming more apparent, a global patchwork of carbon pricing is already emerging.

Meanwhile, companies increasingly feel an immediate responsibility and sense of urgency to work together to increase the supply and demand of renewable energy on the grid. RE100 provides the right platform to do just that. If matched with higher public and private spending on research, development and demonstration of renewable energy and energy storage, the transition to the (bio-) renewable age, as we call it, might in fact really take off.

Last updated: September 2015