Arkema’s O’Donovan: demand for sustainable materials continues to grow


Anthony O’Donovan’s work philosophy has always been to leave a legacy in every role he has held, and this way of thinking has provided him with direction, energy and focus throughout his career.

“It’s easier for anyone to be successful if their personal values ​​are aligned with company values,” O’Donovan said. “If that person’s values ​​don’t align well with the values ​​of the company, it’s best to part ways. It aligns well with knowing your purpose in your role and the legacy you want to build from that. -this.”

O’Donovan took over as CEO of Arkema Inc. in November 2021 and now oversees Arkema’s operations in the United States, Mexico and Canada. In addition, O’Donovan is the regional manager of the Arkema group in North America. Arkema group subsidiaries in North America employ approximately 4,000 people and operate 45 industrial sites.

“The Arkema group has transformed itself since its creation some fifteen years ago, becoming a world leader in specialty materials with an emphasis on offering the most innovative and sustainable solutions to meet the needs of our customers today and tomorrow,” said O’Donovan. “We are on track to achieve our goal of becoming a pure materials company by 2024.”

O’Donovan has held various leadership positions in manufacturing, supply chain and business for Degussa Specialty Chemicals in South Africa and for FMC in Canada and the United States. O’Donovan joined Arkema Inc. in 2013 as Global Supply Chain Director for Fluorinated Chemicals. Most recently, he served as Regional Group President for Arkema’s fluorochemicals business in the Americas. He holds a bachelor’s and a doctorate, both in chemical engineering, from the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

“I have had many memorable moments throughout my career. However, the one I think about the most is the decision I made to leave my home country of South Africa and explore greater opportunity,” said O’Donovan, who has resided in the Greater Philadelphia area since 2008. “It was a very difficult decision and it preceded a difficult journey where I had to relocate to a new , but it was definitely a turning point in my career. I’ve also been fortunate to have had a number of great mentors throughout my career, as well as a strong family who provide helpful advice and guidance.”

According to O’Donovan, every day presents different challenges and opportunities, but ensuring the health and safety of employees and protecting the environment are core priorities for Arkema.

“The main skills required for this position are leadership and communication,” O’Donovan explained. “I attach great importance to talent management and to strengthening our strong culture based on the values ​​of solidarity, simplicity, empowerment, inclusion and performance.

“I also focus on enabling our business leaders to achieve their growth objectives through the support of strategic and investment projects and interactions with external partners. Much of my time is dedicated to aligning the various activities of our portfolio and ensuring strong alignment with our global organization in France.”

Construction of a $150 million AHF production plant

When asked to tell one of Arkema’s “success stories”, O’Donovan chose one close to his heart. In 2020, Arkema announced an innovative and long-term partnership with Nutrien Ltd., the largest integrated agricultural company in the world, for the supply of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride (AHF) to Arkema’s site in Calvert City, Kentucky.

“This project has many benefits as it secures competitive access to anhydrous hydrogen fluoride, the main feedstock in fluorine chemistry; it supports the growth of fluoropolymers in the attractive segments of water treatment, electronics and batteries; and it offers better environmental protection than more traditional production processes,” said O’Donovan.

As part of this agreement, Arkema has invested $150 million in a 40,000 tonnes per year AHF production plant at the Nutrien site in Aurora, North Carolina, which is scheduled to start up this year. The agreement includes the establishment of a long-term supply contract.

“For Arkema, this project replaces the need for fluorspar mining and produces AHF with a 95% reduction in carbon footprint,” O’Donovan said. “It’s a great example of a creative move toward a sustainably sourced raw material using advanced technology, and a first in North America, that makes economic sense and supports the growth of specialty materials in attractive segments of the water treatment, electronics, batteries and energy-efficient construction.”

A Pure Specialty Materials Company by 2024

According to O’Donovan, Arkema offers a world-class portfolio of technologies to meet the ever-increasing demand for new and sustainable materials. With the ambition of becoming a pure player in specialty materials by 2024, the Arkema group is structured into three complementary, resilient and highly innovative segments dedicated to specialty materials: adhesive solutions, advanced materials and coating solutions. . These segments accounted for 85.5% of group sales in 2021.

“Arkema offers state-of-the-art technological solutions to meet, among other things, the challenges of new energies, access to water, recycling, urbanization and mobility, and maintains an ongoing dialogue with all of its stakeholders,” O’Donovan said. “We are a relatively new company focused on achieving significant growth, which includes significant acquisitions. A primary goal for me is to build a common culture among employees from different parts of the business. This will help provide Talented employees with opportunities to obtain good experiences within the company and allow them to access management positions.

“I would like to make Arkema’s journey to a pure specialty materials company and our mission to help shape the future with our sustainable materials more visible to potential employees who connect with our story. my position with a strong organization — made up of a talented and diverse workforce with a strong, inclusive and collaborative culture — that makes the world a better place by bringing lasting solutions to it, I would consider that a satisfying legacy.”

The Arkema group achieved sales of approximately $11.2 billion in 2021 and is present in 55 countries with 20,200 employees worldwide. According to O’Donovan, the company is on track to meet its 2024 goals.

“Our performance in 2021 validates our strategy of sustainable growth and transformation into sustainable, high-performance materials,” O’Donovan said. “Additionally, in 2021 we launched a new visual identity and positioning to mark the next phase of our transformation as a company, focusing on our vision to help create a more sustainable world with our materials. We will continue to focus on developing innovations, sustainable materials and new solutions to meet major economic and environmental challenges.”

O’Donovan is proud of Arkema’s deep expertise in materials science. The company’s specialty materials platform is unique in the industry and enables Arkema to offer high-performance and sustainable materials and services to its customers in growing markets such as batteries, 3D printing, ecological paint, sports, home comforts and electronics. .

“We have exceptional employees around the world,” O’Donovan said. “They have shown tremendous commitment and agility over the past two years as we faced the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and supply chain constraints. Their tireless efforts have contributed greatly to the strong Arkema’s results and continued growth in 2021.”

Outside of his responsibilities at Arkema, O’Donovan is a member of the board of directors of the American Chemistry Council and a member of the executive committee of SCI America.

“When the weather permits, I enjoy golfing and vacationing with my family,” he said. “I spend as much time as possible with my family. I have two very active children – ages 12 and 16 – and enjoy attending their activities.”

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