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Letter from the Management Board
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2021, the ALTANA Group achieved its strongest sales growth of the past ten years despite considerable turbulence in the market environment, thus emphatically continuing on its profitable growth course. At the same time, we succeeded in setting new standards in innovation, sustainability, and digitalization.
In several respects, 2021 was a year in which the people at ALTANA and the company as a whole faced substantial challenges.
First and foremost, we succeeded in protecting the health and safety of all our employees worldwide. Together, we managed to prevent the coronavirus from spreading significantly at our sites. While many colleagues continued to work mainly from home in 2021 for the protection of all, the teams in the laboratories, production, and logistics in particular ensured that on-site operations could go on. Almost all of our worldwide sites ran at full capacity to cope with the high demand. In the year under review, occupational safety was particularly important due to the high workload. But even in this situation, we succeeded in maintaining a low level of occupational accidents at our sites. As a result, we achieved our ambitious safety targets once again.
The fact that we remained the reliable partner in 2021 that our customers have valued for decades, especially in times of high uncertainty, was not a matter of course. The upswing that had begun at the end of 2020 picked up considerably in the course of the first quarter. At the same time, raw material and logistics bottlenecks came to a head worldwide, leading to enormous price increases that we had to counter. Overall, in 2021 we not only achieved historically high capacity utilization and record sales in almost all areas, but also ensured that our profitability remained within the long-term target range despite a sharp rise in material costs.
Notwithstanding the record output in production, we achieved important milestones on our way to climate neutrality by 2025, in line with the UN Global Compact initiative for responsible and sustainable corporate management. For example, five sites each had greenhouse gas emissions of less than 10 tons of CO2 equivalents in the 2021 fiscal year. When this report was published, the production sites of ACTEGA in Brazil and ECKART in China were already completely CO2 free. In addition, we consistently further improved our carbon footprint at our home site in Wesel. For instance, BYK was able to increase its heat generation efficiency from 85 to 95 percent and reduce the associated greenhouse gas emissions by around 400 tons of CO2 equivalents per year.
In Wesel, we opened up a new dimension for customer-specific product development and thus for further sustainable growth in April with the commissioning of a high-throughput screening facility – a digital high-performance laboratory that is unique in the specialty chemicals industry. The facility, which uses state-of-the-art digitization technologies, is the largest of its kind in the world and doubles BYK’s application technology capacity. In product development, too, we set new standards in important future markets in 2021. At Formnext, the world’s leading international exhibition for additive manufacturing, the cross-divisional technology platform Cubic Ink presented innovative printing materials that have the potential to revolutionize industrial 3D inkjet printing.
In the year under review, the individual divisions also pushed forward innovations that can change entire markets. In June, ACTEGA launched Signite, a new technology that can halve waste from consumer goods label production. ECKART received the ALTANA Innovation Award for the development of metallic effect pigments that open up new perspectives for ecologically compatible automotive coatings. BYK presented the first certified additive for wind turbines, which significantly increases the strength of the material and thus the load-bearing capacity of the rotor blade. ELANTAS applied for a patent for a groundbreaking process using special dyes that for the first time makes it possible to indicate the state of wear of electric motors and thus prevent unnecessary motor replacements.
In the 2021 fiscal year, we secured substantial funding for further green research projects. In June, for example, the European Investment Bank (EIB) recognized our climate protection efforts in line with the EU’s Green Deal and provided us with a 200 million euro credit line. And we received a further credit line with a sustainability component of 250 million euros from an international consortium of banks.
We also acquired and integrated additional businesses in key areas in the reporting year. In February, ECKART completed the acquisition of the TLS business with metal powders for 3D printing. In May, ACTEGA acquired Henkel’s closure materials business, strengthening its portfolio of PVC-free solutions in this area.
Our financial prowess enables us to make substantial investments and acquisitions even in exceptional years such as 2021. But it is the people who make up ALTANA that are decisive for our long-term success and our contribution to the sustainable development of society. It is they who, with their personal commitment and dedication, develop the company further and drive forward the many initiatives in our Group that contribute to the urgently needed limiting of global warming. Sustainability therefore has many faces at ALTANA in every respect. In the magazine section of this report, you can find out how holistically we view the path to climate neutrality and which measures and people are behind it.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to our employees for their extraordinarily high level of commitment and their personal contribution in the equally turbulent and successful year 2021. Our thanks also go to our customers and business partners as well as to the members of the Supervisory Board for their constructive support and their trust in ALTANA’s work.
Dr. Christoph Schlünken