Unique sustainability management in the chemicals and plastics value chain

Laura Diez

Startup Stories

Climate targets are changing industry and sustainability has already become a crucial competitive factor. Many companies therefore want to improve their environmental footprint, but often don't know where to start.  

This is where 5-HT X-Linker Alumni Carbon Minds comes in. Carbon Minds provides data, consulting and training to help companies at all stages of the chemicals and plastics value chain develop and enact their sustainability initiatives.  

"We provide unique data on the environmental impact of chemical and plastics products. Our data gives companies in the chemical industry and beyond transparency on their product supply chain and lifecycle emissions. We offer actionable insights to help companies reduce their environmental impact to meet their climate goals. And we build trusted decision-making tools that are rooted in research and applied in many industries," explains co-found and CEO Arne Kätelhön.  

How does this work, and most importantly, what does it mean for sustainability?  

By using a digital model of the global chemical industry, Carbon Minds creates transparency on the environmental impact of companies in global chemical supply chains.

Supply chains contribute to a company's carbon footprint and often have a greater impact than a company's energy consumption and production processes combined. "After all, often only around 20 per cent of the emissions a company causes are those that come from its own smokestacks. But around 80 per cent of emissions are hidden in a company’s supply chain,” Arne explains.  

“We are the only company that has modeled environmental impacts in global chemical supply chains on a supplier-specific level, looking at suppliers of the most commonly used large volume chemicals and plastics,” Arne continues

With this supplier-specific modeling behind Carbon Minds’ data, chemical companies – and sustainability – win in two ways. 

Firstly, companies can now get improved Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) data, so they can conduct their own Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies and spot ways to improve their environmental performance. Data on more than 1000 chemicals and plastics is available in the cm.chemicals database and works with all major LCA tools.  

Secondly, Carbon Minds has partnered with ICIS, a global source of independent commodity intelligence services, to provide supplier- and plant- specific carbon footprint data for chemicals and plastics in a unique analytics tool. This tool allows companies to identify cost-effective ways to achieve even the most ambitious environmental goals. 

In this way, Carbon Minds helps chemical companies turn data into evidence and make informed decisions about how to manage the transition to sustainability. 

Good decisions require good data  

Carbon Minds aims to help the chemical industry reduce its environmental impact through evidence-based decision-making. The challenge lies in the complexity of how chemicals are produced, traded and refined into finished products. Because of this complexity, products which are chemically identical can have vastly different environmental impacts. 

Depending on where a company purchases its chemicals and plastic from, the production pathways for these purchased materials can be very different. These different production pathways play a huge role in determining the overall environmental impacts of a product. Some chemicals and plastics are produced by suppliers using more environmentally friendly technologies than high-impact competitors. This means that within any supply chain there are very likely opportunities for impact reduction. 

Once companies understand the complexity of their supply chain impacts, they can engage their existing suppliers or consider switching. Both of these strategies can reduce a company’s environmental impacts without costly changes to production processes or long wait times for new technologies. 

But any company’s first move must be understanding their supply chain impacts. With Carbon Minds’ data, a company can identify the different environmental impacts of their suppliers and best manage their supply chain emissions.  

Clarity from complexity and faster emissions reductions

Modern analytical tools can inform decisions on sustainability management for supply chains by turning Carbon Minds’ data into a treasure trove of insights.

In collaboration with ICIS, Carbon Minds is launching a new analytics tool for assessing the supply chain impacts of chemicals and plastics. 

Powered by Carbon Minds’ unique supplier-specific data, the tool will empower companies to assess their supply chain impacts, identify emissions hotspots, compare suppliers and find opportunities for emissions reductions. 

In this way, Carbon Minds' supplier-specific data can show companies how they can significantly reduce their carbon footprint by engaging with their supply chains. They can make big steps towards their climate goals as quickly as possible and bring us all closer to a global climate target of 1.5 degrees. 

“This is the value of making clarity out of complexity – faster emissions reductions,” Arne concludes. 

What is the story behind Carbon Minds?

Carbon Minds Co-Founder Raoul Meys and Arne Kätelhön (from left to right) 

"The idea for Carbon Minds was born at RWTH Aachen University," Arne tells us. He and his co-founder Raoul Meys led a team at RWTH that developed sustainability assessments with a focus on the chemical industry. In the course of this work, they repeatedly encountered problems with data availability for supply chains.  

"We started building our own models of supply chains, which then became bigger and more accurate. This then allowed us to gain new insights about CO2 abatement strategies in the chemical industry, which had high practical relevance not only for us. At the beginning, there was never any talk of founding a start-up. However, we quickly realized that our models could be scaled up more and more to describe the environmental impacts of the chemical industry on a large scale. And that is precisely what is important for a successful transition of the chemical industry to CO2 neutrality. At that moment, the idea of Carbon Minds was born." 

What role does 5-HT Digital Hub Chemistry & Health play for you? 

"We are proud to be a part of the 5-HT Digital Hub Chemistry & Health ecosystem. Being part of 5-HT has given us the opportunity to participate in numerous exciting events, functions and startup competitions. The kickstart for our collaboration was applying to the 5-HT X-Linker in February 2021, which was a great event for Carbon Minds. We had the chance to present our pitch to a new audience and initiate collaborations with leading companies that are addressing the impact of chemicals in their supply chains. We look forward to continuing to count on 5-HT's support in the future." 

Carbon Minds on the fast track

Carbon Minds has been linked to numerous corporates through the Hub. Next on their agenda is the Digital Hub Initiative Pitch Night: On May 24th Germany's most innovative startups will come together with national and international investors at Kraftwerk Mitte Dresden. Carbon Minds will present their pioneering solution which provides high transparency on the environmental impacts of the value chains of chemicals and plastics. 5-HT Digital Hub Chemistry & Health Managing Partner Stefan Kohl will attend the pitch night and is more than thrilled to talk face-to-face with Carbon Minds. “Carbon Minds is thriving! The startup has grown steadily to provide some of the world's largest companies with solutions to reduce their environmental impacts related to the production and use of chemicals. Environmental life cycle data is the foundation of the company.”

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