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Sustainability Management

Borealis' Approach to Sustainability

To foster true sustainability throughout its business, Borealis takes responsible and fact-based decisions, balancing their contribution to the so-called 3Ps: People, Planet and Profit. Improving its sustainability performance will enable the Group to make a sustainable difference to the progress of society, while also being more efficient, reducing costs and mitigating long-term business risks.

Embedding sustainability in the business is therefore a key success factor for Borealis and a priority for the Executive Board. The Sustainability Advisory Team (SAT), comprising of senior management from key functions across the organisation, meets bi-monthly to assess and guide sustainability projects and activities, prior to gaining approval from the Executive Board when necessary. In 2019, nine sustainability flagship projects were executed, as major contributors to Borealis’ sustainability journey.

As part of embedding sustainability capabilities in the business, Borealis engages senior and mid-level managers from across the organisation in a bespoke Business Sustainability course, led by the IMD Business School. Since 2016, 72 managers have been successfully certified, including 16 in 2019. Through this course, Borealis supports continuous learning across the organisation to enhance and deepen their understanding of important sustainability issues and projects including the circular economy, materiality identification, marine littering, micro plastics and design for recycling. Interactive webcasts on current and emerging sustainability issues are held with a network of employees throughout the year, providing an effective tool for embedding sustainability in the functions.

During the year, Borealis continued to increase awareness of sustainability issues across the Group. It enhanced its Sustainability Access Point, a portal on the Group intranet, providing employees with direct access to information on sustainability topics and Borealis’ position on current and emerging issues.

Sustainability Strategy

In order to shape the Sustainability Strategy and contribute to the Group Strategy review, in 2019 Borealis carried out a Stakeholder Sustainability Materiality Assessment to identify current and evolving stakeholder concerns and priorities, thereby updating its 2013 assessment.

The assessment confirmed that Borealis’ sustainability strategic framework remains relevant and that the Group is on the right path. Borealis’ focus on the Circular Economy and Climate Change are as relevant today as they were before and the Group will further strengthen its efforts in these areas. As stated in the Sustainability Strategy, Health & Safety considers both operational aspects and product sustainability aspects, which likewise remain of utmost importance. A new Sustainability Strategic Framework has been developed based on the Sustainability Materiality Assessment and will be launched in January 2020.

In 2019, the Executive Board decided that a sustainability key performance indicator would be added to its Group Performance Scorecard from 2020, reinforcing the importance of sustainability performance to the successful development and growth of the organisation.

Borealis' Strategic Sustainability Framework

Sustainability Materiality Assessment

The Sustainability Materiality Assessment carried out in 2019 assessed 17 aspects, according to their importance to Borealis’ stakeholders and their impact on the Group, society and the environment. The process was supported by an external consultancy.

The first step was to identify the stakeholder groups relevant to Borealis, which included customers, brand owners, suppliers, academics, non-governmental organisations, investors, representatives of local communities, regulatory authorities and the media. Next, desk research used big data algorithms to identify the most highlighted sustainability aspects related to the industry. An initial assessment was then performed of the relative importance of these aspects to the Group’s stakeholders. The next step was internal engagement with a variety of functions and levels within Borealis. They indicated the importance of the highlighted aspects to their own function, in an iterative fashion.

In addition, Borealis’ impact on society and the environment was analysed, given those same highlighted aspects. Through this process, Borealis determined the material aspects for its business.

As a result of the assessment, Borealis developed a Sustainability Materiality Matrix, based on four levels of response:

  • Focus: core issues for Borealis
  • Monitor: important sustainability issues to monitor
  • Local: issues that are to be managed on a local level
  • License to operate: issues that are considered necessary for the Group

The following four topics were identified as the most important to Borealis and its stakeholders and are defined as “Core focus areas for acceleration”.

  1. Climate Change: this aspect is one of the must-win battles in Borealis’ current sustainability framework and is the most highly rated topic in terms of its impact on Borealis and importance to all stakeholders.
  2. Circular Economy: this aspect is one of the main drivers of sustainability in the plastics and chemicals industry. It provides Borealis with opportunities to differentiate itself from other companies in the industry.
  3. Plastic Waste & Management: this aspect is of utmost importance for Borealis, at both corporate and operational level. Proactive engagement by Borealis reaffirms its commitment to zero plastics leakage.
  4. Product Sustainability: this aspect is a key driver for developing and improving Borealis’ products to minimise stress on the environment and protect public health.

In addition to the four core focus areas for acceleration, four topics have been designated as “monitor elements”. Those are important sustainability topics for Borealis, which the Group must monitor and continuously improve:

  1. Sustainable Sourcing: this aspect is important to ensure responsible sourcing and refers to the initial stages of product development, namely raw material sourcing.
  2. Innovation Management: this aspect provides Borealis with opportunities to further differentiate itself from its industry peers, in respect of technological capabilities and research and development investments that lead to innovative and sustainable solutions for both products and processes.
  3. Product Stewardship: this aspect is important for Borealis to ensure the environmental and social impacts of its products, predominantly based on life cycle assessments and the precautionary principle.
  4. Digital Transformation: this aspect is an emerging topic and closely linked to IT and data security.

Air quality and water management were identified as local issues which require attention at an operational level, in conjunction with local authorities, laws and regulations.

In addition, the following topics are categorised under “License to operate” and are integrated into Borealis’ corporate culture and processes:

  • Health & Safety
  • Energy Management
  • Ethics
  • Diversity & Equal Opportunities
  • Human Capital Development
  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Emergency Governance

Sustainability Flagship Projects

In 2019, the SAT focused on a list of nine initiatives called the Sustainability Flagship Projects. These are initiatives that affect the whole Group and had clear milestones for 2019. This provides visibility for Borealis’ top management of real and winning sustainability initiatives. With that approach, the business units integrate sustainability into their own strategies.

The Sustainability Flagship highlights of the year were:

Going forward, a thorough review of the Sustainability Flagship Projects will be carried out at each year end. Incomplete and new Flagship Projects will be identified and their progress monitored, with reviews by the SAT.

Portfolio Sustainability Compass

In 2018, Borealis established a method to do portfolio sustainability assessments, which we called the Portfolio Sustainability Compass, to identify how the Group’s product portfolio contributes to a sustainable society. Borealis based its approach on the WBCSD chemical industry methodology for portfolio sustainability assessments.

In 2019, the Group extended the Portfolio Sustainability Compass from 10% of its products to 80%. Products are grouped into three segments, based on clearly identified sustainability criteria.

  • Trailblazers are at the forefront of sustainability, providing a meaningful and enduring contribution to society. Examples include the Group’s top technology products within the automotive and energy sector, which are making cars lightweight and safe, enabling renewable energy to be transported with minimum loss and allowing electric vehicles to become a mass reality.
  • Pacemakers are the standards, with benefits commonly known to society. These include components of appliances and furniture and hygienic fibres.
  • Drifted are products that are only compliant and will be challenged by any sustainability trend. These include films used in unnecessary packaging and other solutions that overburden the waste system.

In addition to assessing the existing portfolio, the assessment tool is used to differentiate the innovation pipeline and new projects with high sustainability factors. The Portfolio Sustainability Compass is therefore a key instrument in developing solutions that deliver sustainable benefits to society.

Sustainability Ratings

In 2014, Borealis voluntarily began annual assessments according to the systematic Ecovadis Standard, as it is one of the most accepted standards to assess sustainability of a company. In 2019, Borealis was awarded its third consecutive Gold Status for its Ecovadis Scorecard, placing the Group in the top 1% of all industry peers who participated during the year.

Responsible Sourcing

Borealis is part of the Together for Sustainability initiative, which aims to improve the sustainability standards of the supply chain of chemical companies. Moreover, Borealis’ Code of Business Conduct for Suppliers prohibits discrimination and requires suppliers to apply appropriate work hours and wages for their employees. It also states that no forced and compulsory labour, no harassment and abuse of labour, and no child labour should exist in our vendors’ activities.


In 2019, Borealis made significant strides in its sustainability journey. In 2020, it will continue to reinforce its commitment to supporting the sustainable development of the Group and the industry. In addition to the ongoing initiatives that enhance our focus on sustainability, Borealis will notably:

  • launch an updated Sustainability Strategy and Strategic Framework that is in line with the Group’s newly-defined strategic purpose and recently assessed Sustainability Materiality Matrix;
  • describe Borealis’ sustainability ambitions
  • prioritise several Sustainability Flagship Projects that contribute to Borealis’ delivery of the Circular Economy, Health & Safety, and Energy & Climate as well as the Group’s growth ambitions;
  • introduce a Group Key Performance Indicator for Sustainability in the Group Scorecard and improve sustainability performance management overall;
  • augment Borealis’ contribution to specific United Nations SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals);
  • reinforce the industry’s advocacy through the public affairs organisation;
  • enhance employees’ engagement and ambassadorship, specifically through the introduction of an innovative online course and enhanced Sustainability Access Point on the intranet;
  • expand the Product Sustainability Compass sustainability assessment tool across Borealis’ innovation and investment projects;
  • expand the Life Cycle Assessment of the Group’s operations; and
  • scale-up Project STOP to further address the critical issue of ocean-bound plastic waste.

Combined Annual Report 2019 (PDF)

Download complete version

This online report contains only highlights and excerpts from Borealis’ Combined Annual Report 2019. Only the entire report is legally binding and it must be read in full to gain a comprehensive understanding of Borealis’ performance and activities in 2019. A copy of the Combined Annual Report 2019 can be downloaded here.