The chemicals industry, often perceived as the backbone of modern economies, is undergoing a notable shift. With the world's focus now fixed on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, this sector finds itself at the crossroads of risk and opportunity. In this “ESG Data Trends,” we dive deeper into the chemicals’ market ESG performance, studying the example of Ineos.
The chemicals industry: riding the ESG wave
Post-2020, the chemical market has seen an increase in web mentions. Several factors—from gas shortages rattling this energy-intensive market to escalating environmental concerns—have ushered in a new era of sustainability discussions. But which chemicals are stealing the limelight?
Chlorine, Ammonia, and Base Chemicals like Ethylene and Propylene account for over half of the chemical web mentions. And it's not just about their volume. The narrative is changing too. The industry is leaning towards eco-conscious production, championing innovations like recycled propylene, Renewable-Benzene, and Green ammonia.
Figure 1: Chemical market volume of mentions.
What's interesting about this is the emphasis on ESG initiatives over ESG risks. It's a clear signal that the industry is taking action toward sustainability and is making tangible strides. When looking at the industry’s ESG risks mentions, we found that Arkema has the highest percentage of ESG Risks driven mainly by environmental incidents and impact on biodiversity due to a chemical plant explosion in 2017, followed by UOP LLC, which displays the highest proportion of Social related risks as a consequence of layoffs.
Figure 2: ESG risks by company.
Conversely, across the industry, the volume of ESG initiatives indicates a significant commitment to sustainable related practices. Environmental-related practices are the most mentioned initiatives in the chemicals industry; precisely, two pillars stand out in ESG initiatives: climate change reduction and circular economy strategies. LyondellBasell displays the highest percentage of ESG initiatives mentions due to its climate change reduction and circular economy strategies, where the company is working towards greenhouse gas reductions and advancing plastic waste recycling. Despite having the highest environmental risk mentions, Arkema has the highest social-related initiatives with corporate social responsibility.
Figure 3: ESG initiatives by company.
Case study: Ineos
The TextReveal Dashboard detected another chemicals company with an increasing number of mentions, the British multinational Ineos. After the announcement of Ineos Grenadier's off-roader in 2020, the number of mentions more than doubled, increasing Ineos' overall volume. Later on, the company’s mentions have been relatively increasing after cooling down from the announcement, with a significant increase in 2022 following M&A and collaboration announcements, sustainability actions, and controversies around its CEO, Jim Ratcliffe.
Figure 4: Ineos volume of mentions and relative volumes.
We also detected a geographical shift in mentions. Once dominant in the US, Ineos mentions dropped from 65% in 2015 to roughly 30% in 2022. Europe, on the other hand, has seen a spike from 25% to over 65%. Sentiment analysis offers another layer of insight.
Figure 5: Geographical distribution over time.
While the sentiment has largely remained steady, there have been dips, especially during periods associated with fracking controversies and environmental incidents, including a toxic chemical spill. Digging deeper into Ineos’ ESG risks, there has been a decrease over the recent years; nonetheless, before 2019, we captured a relatively higher number of risks, mainly environmental–related controversies, coming from mentions about overexploitation of resources, namely fracking. Social-related risks display a significant proportion of data driven by social dialogue controversies as we capture multiple mentions of protests, particularly in 2017.
Figure 6: Ineos ESG risks over time.
While Ineos ESG risks mentions represent 2.46% of its overall data share, its ESG initiatives mentions represent 5.91% of its web presence, signaling a more positive outlook for the firm, at least from a perception point of view. Furthermore, we detected that environmental–related initiatives are the main focus for Ineos, particularly climate change, while social initiatives arise, particularly in 2018, due to product safety mentions.
Figure 7: Ineos ESG initiatives over time.
To produce this analysis, we combined natural language processing with billions of textual web data related to the chemicals market. Using NLP-powered models gives us an edge as we can extract ESG, SDG, and financial insights that aren’t necessarily obvious or easy to detect. These insights help investors make better investment decisions. SESAMm leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to help you decipher and understand timely sentiment, trends, and ESG metrics on a wide range of public and private companies.
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