- The chemical industry has above-average environmental exposure, resulting from a global trend toward more stringent regulation, while opportunities may stem from products enabling lightweight applications, water treatment, and resource efficiency.
- Social risks also pose above-average risk, only marginally lesser than environmental issues. They stem from changing customer preferences and awareness of risks related to the uses of chemicals.
- Such exposure varies significantly across different subsectors. Energy-intensive subsectors, exposed to stricter CO2 emission regulations or rising carbon prices, include petrochemicals, nitrogen-based fertilizers, and industrial gases. Agrichemicals including fertilizers, crop-protection chemicals, and seeds and traits, are most exposed to waste, pollution, toxicity, and biodiversity risks.
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities can affect an entity's capacity to meet its financial commitments in many ways. S&P Global Ratings incorporates these considerations into its ratings methodology and analytics, which enables analysts to factor in short-, medium-, and long-term impacts--both qualitative and quantitative--to multiple steps of their credit analysis. Strong ESG credentials do not necessarily indicate strong creditworthiness (see "The Role Of Environmental, Social, And Governance Credit Factors In Our Ratings Analysis," published Sept. 12, 2019).
Our ESG report cards qualitatively explore the relative exposures (average, below, above average) of sectors to environmental and social credit factors over the short, medium, and long term. For environmental exposures, chart 1 shows a more granular listing of key sectors and (in some cases) subsectors reflecting the qualitative views of our analytical rating teams. This sector comparison is not an input to our credit ratings and not a component of our credit rating methodologies; it is based on our current qualitative, forward-looking opinion of credit risks across sectors.
In addition to our sector views, this report card lists ESG insights for individual companies, including how and why ESG factors may have had a more positive or negative influence on an entity's credit quality compared to sector peers or the broader sector. These comparative views of environmental and social risks are qualitative and established by analysts during industry portfolio discussions, with the goal of providing more insight and transparency.
Environmental risks we considered include greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including carbon dioxide, pollution, and waste, water and land usage, and natural conditions (physical climate, including extreme and changing weather conditions, though these tend to be more geographic/entity-specific than a sector feature). Social risks include human capital management, safety management, community impacts, and consumer-related impacts from customer service and changing behavior to the extent influenced by environmental, health, human rights, and privacy (but excluding changes resulting from broader demographic, technological, or other disruptive industry trends). Our views on governance are directly embedded in our rating methodology as part of the management and governance assessment score.
The list of entities covered in this report is not exhaustive. We may provide additional ESG insights in individual company analyses throughout the year as they change or develop, with companies expected to increasingly focus on ESG in their communication and strategy updates.
The sector equally has above-average exposure to social risks, notably those related to safety management and the growing influence of consumer behavior. While overall demand for chemical products continues expanding, well-prepared, innovative companies are seizing growth opportunities. However, others are facing increasing local resistance to setting up plants in some locations. There have also been changes in consumer sentiment toward chemicals, plastics, and other products such as seeds and traits. We believe that social awareness about chemical products, particularly with regard to health and environmental issues, is likely to continue growing. For example, the willingness of some consumers, notably in developed economies, to pay a premium for farm produce grown without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers, or the increased customer focus on buying foods produced without chemical preservatives or other substances, could diminish demand for chemical products. Although some of these evolving trends don't substantially hinder demand, social perception of chemical products and consumer preferences could pose important long-term challenges for companies.
Finally, many companies face risks from the fallout of accidents in the manufacture or transport of hazardous chemicals. Such low-probability but potentially high-impact accidents can jeopardize lives and the environment. In addition, they can result in financial claims, loss of operational licenses, or damage the public's perception of chemical companies. The chemical sector is associated with what is considered the worst industrial accident ever--the 1984 release of the chemical methyl isocyanate at Union Carbide Corp.'s then majority-owned joint venture in Bhopal, India. More recently, there have been a number of explosions and fires at Lubrizon's plant in Rouen, France and a fire at BASF's headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany in 2016.
The chemical industry has above-average credit exposure to environmental risks, arising from CO2 emissions, as well as from waste, pollution, and toxicity. However, such exposure varies significantly across different subsectors as outlined below. Many chemical products, raw materials, and by-products or effluents are pollutants and toxic, and, as a result, several chemical companies face ongoing liabilities or litigation. Several chemicals are classified as hazardous by institutions such as the U.N. Such classifications underpin regulations, which have become more stringent over time, but, generally speaking, are well incorporated by all key players.
Chemical companies also face risks related to water use, scarcity, efficiency, decontamination, and climate change. For example, an international treaty phased out the production and use of chloroflurocarbons, previously used in multiple applications including refrigerants.
Subsector ESG Risks
Some subsectors within the broader chemical sectors have distinct environmental and social risks.
Petrochemicals: Petrochemicals have higher environmental risk exposure than the chemical sector average because of their high energy-intensive production facilities. This often implies rising exposure to CO2 and other emissions and the risk of rising carbon prices (as demonstrated by the EU Emission Trading System). The potential for water and air pollution associated with these large facilities is often greater than for those subsectors with a smaller manufacturing footprint. Social risks range from localized opposition (not-in-my-backyard) to setting up new facilities in specific areas to broader objections related to the potential for environmental damage. In addition, a growing awareness of, and resistance to, plastic production and consumption are crucial risks. Conversely, while the health and environmental impact related to plastic pollution became increasing prominent on the public agenda in the past few years, the long-term implications related to the use of comparably more complex, specialty chemicals are yet to become apparent as they materialize over time.
Agricultural chemicals: We also believe agricultural chemicals, including fertilizers, crop-protection chemicals, and seeds and traits, have amongst the highest environmental and social exposure within the broader chemical industry. Mainly because there has been greater focus and growing public scrutiny of the environmental impacts on biodiversity and health (which could lead to future shifting of consumer preferences toward food products grown without the use of crop-protection chemicals or fertilizers, notably in developed economies). That said, the rising global food needs underpin the widespread use and long-term growth expectations of agrichemicals. Crop-protection chemicals such as glyphosate, for example, have faced litigation related to allegations about whether they are carcinogenic and harmful to human health (as recently demonstrated by the multibillion dollar claims against Bayer AG since its take-over of Monsanto Co.). Seeds and traits and genetically modified foods have attracted considerable negative press, especially in Europe, reflecting concerns about their deleterious impact on health. Additional risks arise in products such as nitrogen-based fertilizers, because their production tends to release nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, and the excess is often washed away by rain, polluting ground waters and eventually leaching into rivers. Similarly, excessive phosphate applications have resulted in land pollution and biodiversity concerns. Although there doesn't appear to be a global consensus about the hazards of these chemicals–and, widely prevalent views about their benefits generally outweigh concerns--this sector is becoming increasingly susceptible to changes in consumer preferences and views.
Specialty chemicals: Specialty chemicals have comparatively lower environmental and social risks than the commodity chemicals (petrochemicals and agrichemicals). However, this segment consists of a broad range of chemicals with varied manufacturing practices, and end-use applications For example, chemicals used as effluent or water treatment tend to be more organic or bio-sourced and may benefit from supportive ESG dynamics, while chemical additives used in consumer applications such as cosmetics or food products, could face higher social risks.
Paints and coatings: This subsector is today less risk-exposed, because most paint companies have transitioned to water-borne paints for use in homes and commercial places (as required by regulations). Some legacy paints and coatings producers such as The Sherwin-Williams Co., still face environmental liabilities related to the past use of lead paint in homes. Over the past decade, there has been a shift away from traditional solvent-based paints to water-based paints in certain regions, as part of an attempt to reduce potentially hazardous emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. Because this segment is most exposed to retail consumers, customer preference for more environmentally friendly products has become a key strength as well as a risk.
Industrial gases: Industrial gases imply energy-intensive manufacturing processes, but overall we see this subsector as less exposed than the broader industry, when balancing both risks and opportunities. The manufacturing of hydrogen from methane reforming is a major source of CO2 emissions. Industrial gas (IG) companies therefore seek to optimize energy and emissions, which may help win over more companies to outsource such processes. Another long-term game changer will be the production of hydrogen through electrolysis (via renewable electricity) and the rise of the hydrogen economy (notably, if fuel cells take off).
At the same time, many IG applications help reduce the environmental footprint of its customers and the end-user. Examples include the oxygen that's separated from atmospheric air by IG companies and is used in steelmaking to improve combustion efficiency and reduce indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Also, the process serves millions of patients worldwide needing respiratory oxygen. Finally, hydrogen is used to make ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, which, for example, helps oil refiners meet air-quality limits set by environmental regulations.
ESG Risks In The Chemical Industry
|Company/Issuer Credit Rating/Comments||Analyst|
|We view the credit quality of Albaugh, a producer of agricultural chemicals, as more negatively influenced than global peers by environmental and social risk factors, given the regulatory scrutiny of the herbicide glyphosate, a product which accounts for more than 40% of its sales. Even if the company hasn’t suffered a material financial impact to date, we expect glyphosate to continue to face risks in terms of public and potentially regulatory and legal scrutiny. Top producer Bayer has faced multibillion dollar lawsuits in the U.S since its take-over of Monsanto regarding the usage of RoundUp, its branded glyphosate product. Another medium- to long-term risk is climate change, which could affect Albaugh’s financial results if altered weather patterns and a higher frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts or flooding, were to materially weaken crop output, leading to a decrease in the use of crop-protection chemicals.||Michael McConnell|
|The Chemours Company Co.(BB-/Stable/--)|
|Specialty chemical company Chemours has higher environmental and social risks relative to its peers in the chemical sector. The company, in its brief history since a 2015 spinoff from DuPont, has faced several legal claims related to environmental issues, some of which it has settled (notably, personal injury legacy lawsuits related to PFOA) Chemours portion of that settlement was $335 million, an amount while significant was manageable without impairing credit quality. However, new claims against the company, many untested in a court of law, are being reported. The company recently raised its self-reported maximum potential contingent liability to $570 million from $480 million. The amount is in addition to the provisions or accrued liabilities in the company's financial reporting. Chemours characterizes the amount as having a low likelihood of materializing. Our rating factors in the company’s current provisions related to environmental and contingent issues, and we believe there is some cushion under credit metrics should these issues increase by the additional amount of $570 million. However, the risk with some of these ongoing legal issues, is that environmental costs or liabilities could be higher than we currently envision. New costs or liabilities, not currently provided for by the company or considered in its self-reported maximum potential liability, may materialize. The company has filed a lawsuit against entities that constituted its former parent E.I. DuPont de Nemours. Chemours is challenging its legal indemnity to DuPont for environmental damage claims related to specific legacy issues. While the claims against the company mainly relate to legacy issues, the social risks are higher than those for a typical chemical company. The claims, and the public attention garnered by these claims, could, for example, create reputational risks for the company and its current products, which could ultimately have a tangible negative impact on financial performance.||Paul Kurias|
|Cornerstone Chemical Co.(B/Stable/--)|
|Cornerstone’s credit quality is more negatively influenced than global peers by environmental and social risk factors, given its single-site location near residential areas in a region prone to hurricanes and flooding. The company is an intermediate chemical manufacturer, notably of acrylonitrile and melamine. Cornerstone’s facility is on the Mississippi River in Waggaman, La. We believe the company’s single-site risk is exacerbated by its location in a hurricane-prone region, and any extreme weather events or flooding could lead to a disruption in operations or damage to facilities. The site also houses facilities owned by Cornerstone’s supplier Dyno Nobel as well as some of its customers, which could simultaneously lead to supply-chain disruption in the event of a severe weather event. In addition, Cornerstone’s site is in close proximity to residential communities. We view this as a risk factor because it could hinder the company’s ability to pursue long-term growth plans due to a lack of support among local communities and politicians. This risk has materialized in the recent past: The company’s plans for a new hydrogen cyanide plant entered into legal proceedings after the local Jefferson Parish Council reversed its initial approval.||Michael McConnell|
|We view Corteva’s exposure to environmental and social risks in line with the agrichemicals sector. Corteva remains susceptible to changing consumer preferences and litigation risks. Only a small portion of the company's overall sales comes from glyphosate, although about half of its revenues come from seeds and traits that are genetically modified organisms (GMO). This could pose a risk if consumer preferences change and demand for GMO seeds fall. One longer-term risk is climate change. Altered weather patterns and more frequent extreme weather events such as droughts or flooding could materially weaken crop output and lead to less usage of crop-protection chemicals. To date, these risks haven’t materially affected financial results, although they could hurt Corteva and other agricultural chemical companies over time.||Danny Krauss|
|The Dow Chemical Co.(BB-/Stable/A-2)|
|We view environmental and social risks for Dow as being on par with that of the chemical sector. Dow has taken some steps to reduce its exposure to the hazardous nature of its product portfolio by shedding many of its chlorine assets. Still, Dow's financial statements reflect accounting provisions for environmental liabilities, including asbestos-related liabilities, which we view as debt-like. Total tax-adjusted provisions currently form less than 10% of S&P Global Ratings’ total adjusted debt at Dow. Dow's social risks are likely to increase as end-market requirements, and consumer consciousness and preferences evolve with respect to the use of plastics, a key product for Dow, and chemicals, in general.||Paul Kurias|
|DuPont De Nemours Inc.(A-/Watch Neg/A-2)|
|We view the environmental and social risks for DuPont de Nemours, a leading global specialty chemical player, as being on par with that of the chemical sector in general. DuPont’s environmental liabilities and provisions aren’t unusually large (for a chemical company) relative to the size of its operations. Still, some legacy environmental issues related to former parent E.I.DuPont de Nemours have attracted considerable media and public attention. These issues originated when DuPont’s current business was part of its erstwhile parent E.I. DuPont de Nemours. These risks have generally been managed without impairing credit quality, including a 2017 settlement (for $671 million) by the former parent of multiple claims related to the legacy production of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA;). We are not currently factoring in any additional liabilities from the developing Chemours litigation (Chemours was spun out of DuPont in 2015, and has filed a lawsuit against DuPont among others seeking to eliminate Chemour’s indemnity to E.I. DuPont. We still believe the liabilities are primarily Chemours. DuPont’s social risk is likely to increase as end-market requirements and consumer preferences evolve with respect to the use of the specialty chemicals it produces. In addition, legacy issues related to environmental liabilities, and the attention these attract could create reputational risks. At the same time, we recognize that as a leading specialty chemical player, DuPont’s product mix is equally well positioned to benefit from increasing demand for healthy living and sustainably sourced foods, and products used in the manufacture of light-weight vehicles.||Allison Schroeder|
|We view Ecolab's environmental influence to be more supportive compared to peers. Ecolab's service-oriented business, which is unusual for a chemical company, seeks to benefit from industrial and consumer trends focused on improved hygiene, cleanliness, and pollution control in end markets such as food and beverage, hospitality, restaurants, and manufacturing. For example, Ecolab provides products and services to its customers to conserve water and optimize water quality. Relative to the size of its operations, it has low environmental liabilities compared with other chemical companies. Because the manufacture of chemicals forms only a portion of Ecolab's business, it faces lower environmental and regulatory risks relative to most chemical companies. We see social factors as comparable to the broader industry. The ongoing evolution of consumer preferences over time and differing regional consumer preferences will remain opportunities but could also pose future challenges for Ecolab.||Rachel Gross|
|LyondellBasell Industries N.V.(BBB+/Negative/A-2)|
|We view LyondellBasell’s exposure to environmental and social risks as on par with peers in the broader petrochemicals sector. LyondellBasell’s accounting provisions for environmental liabilities, as reflected in its financial statements, are relatively low for a large petrochemical company, partly because it emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 with reduced remediation liabilities. LyondellBasell’s social risk is likely to increase as end-market requirements and consumer preferences evolve with respect to the use of the plastics and chemicals it produces. Its production sites in the U.S. and Europe are in jurisdictions that typically have more stringent environmental regulations, and, generally speaking, a high degree of social consciousness of environmental issues. The company was one of the founding members of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a group that has committed over $1 billion to develop solutions to minimize and manage plastic waste. We believe solutions developed by this group are crucial to addressing increasing environmental and social risks as end-market requirements and consumer preferences evolve with respect to plastic use.||Danny Krauss|
|We view the environmental and social considerations for Nutrien as being in line with its industry peers. As fertilizer production generates significant GHG emissions, Nutrien’s GHG management practices have the potential to materially affect its credit profile and rating. In Canada, there are well-defined environmental regulations governing GHG emissions, emissions-intensity reduction, and the investigation and remediation of contaminated properties. Canada’s federal carbon taxes are designed to give industry participants an incentive to conform with emission-reduction targets. In addition, there are initiatives under way that may result in new regulatory restrictions on the use of nutrients to reduce environmental impact on water quality and other areas. Although there remains some uncertainty about the likelihood of new or amended federal GHG regulations that could affect the company, they have no effect on the company’s credit quality at this time. As an industry-leading producer of crop nutrients and services, Nutrien is subject to various environmental regulations focused on air emissions, wastewater discharges, land use and reclamation, groundwater quality, and solid and hazardous waste management. Fertilizer production generates about 95% of the company’s GHG emissions. The company recaptured and sold or transferred 1.1 million tons of its GHG emissions in 2018. Water used in the production processes is largely recycled within a closed loop system. All discharges of non-recycled water or non-recaptured emissions are handled as mandated by provincial and federal regulations. With specific board oversight of environmental risk management, and executive compensation tied to the company’s adherence to its established environmental and safety policies, we believe there is appropriate emphasis on environmental risk management. The company includes the cost of complying with these regulations in its reported production and operating costs.||Phalguni Adalja, CFA|
|PPG Industries Inc.(A-/Stable/A-2)|
|We view PPG Industries’ exposure to environmental and social risks as comparable to other leading paint companies. The company has benefitted from being one of the first companies to transition from solvent-borne to more environmentally friendly water-borne coatings. Similar to other large U.S. paint companies, PPG faces various claims related to asbestos. We believe these liabilities are known and sufficiently addressed through environmental reserves of approximately $300 million, and only represent a minimal portion of PPG’s adjusted debt balances. We view the company’s governance assessment as satisfactory. Coatings industry companies, including PPG, have been targets of activist investors in recent years, with activists advocating for initiatives ranging from mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to profitability enhancement to changes in management and board structures. Despite the recent exit of activist Trian Fund Management L.P. from PPG, we believe the environment still promotes a degree of uncertainty for potential future governance in the sector.||Michael McConnell|
|We view environmental and social risks for Sherwin-Williams, a leading global paints company, as comparable to most other paint companies. Sherwin is exposed to environmental risks and pending legal liabilities particularly related to lead-paint exposure. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court left a court ruling in place that requires Sherwin-Williams (and two additional companies) to pay about $300 million total for the remediation of lead-based paint in California. We believe, however, that the risks related to these issues are contained and the penalty represents an insignificant amount of the company’s 2018 adjusted debt. Due to its direct exposure to consumers, Sherwin is exposed to changing demographic and consumer preferences. The company has made strides to address changing preferences with products catering to more environmentally conscious consumers. The company remains susceptible to changes in the housing markets and the economy.||Paul Kurias|
|Alpek S.A.B. de C.V.|
|We see the influence of environmental and social factors on Alpek’s credit quality as comparable with the broader petrochemical industry. Alpek generates about 75% of its sales from its Polyester Business segment, which includes purified terephthalic acid (PTA), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and recycled PET which are used in bottles and other containers for liquids, food and personal care products. These products are easier to recycle, as PET is the most recycled plastic worldwide. Products from the Plastics & Chemicals Business segment, which mainly includes polypropylene (PP) and expandable polystyrene (EPS) (around 25% of total sales) can be and are recycled, though a lower rates than PET. The company is subject to increasing regulations because most of the feedstock used in its production processes derive from petroleum. In recent years, Alpek has allocated between 10% and 15% of its capital investments to environmentally sustainable-related projects, including operating efficiencies to mitigate its carbon footprint. Alpek recently acquired Perpetual Recycling Solutions (PRS), and together with Alpek’s recycling facility in North Carolina, has now become the largest PET recycler in the U.S. These facilities operate in full compliance with U.S. environmental regulations and, in Mexico, Alpek has a clean industry certification, which, in our view, mitigates the risks of facing material environmental liabilities. Alpek’s social exposure is similar to the broader industry, influenced by changing consumption patterns and regulations to increase the recycling of plastic products, such as water bottles. In Mexico and the U.S., for example, some local governments are already pushing for regulations to ban the use of certain single-use plastic products, which exclude PET, but can end up in the land or water. Nevertheless, we don't anticipate an immediate impact on the company's financials or our ratings on Alpek, because these kind of initiatives usually take several years to mature.||Rodolfo Fernandez|
|We assess Braskem’s management and governance as only fair and less supportive than most Brazilian entities, reflecting the weaker-than-expected governance standards and internal controls. Braskem is a leading petrochemical player in Brazil, 38% owned by Odebrecht S.A. and 36% by Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras). The leniency agreement that followed the Lava Jato corruption investigation resulted in a R$3.1 billion fine to the company in late 2016, representing 12% of our adjusted debt figures. Braskem also has greater social exposure than peers, as reflected in our negative outlook. Brazilian authorities are claiming multibillion damage claims stating that Braskem is responsible for a geological phenomenon that occurred in Maceió, the capital of the State of Alagoas, alleging Braskem's mining activities have generated cracks across hundreds of homes and commercial buildings in three villages. Given the high uncertainty about any developments regarding the damage in Alagoas, we expect it will most likely take several years to resolve. Still, the company's cash flow generation has been suffering from the effects of not working through an integrated model at its polyvinyl chloride (PVC) business. Also, additional costs related to the proposed shutdown of its salt-mining activities, although still uncertain, will likely disrupt cash flow generation in 2020. Any significant contingency coming from the state could also trigger a rating action.||Felipe Speranzini|
|Orbia Advance Corp. S.A.B. de C.V(BBB-/Stable/--)|
|We consider the environmental and social risks of Orbia, a leading Mexican chemical player in the field of pipes, PVC, and fluor chemicals, comparable to the broader chemical industry. In recent years, the company has managed social risks by maintaining a strong engagement with the communities where it operates its 137 plants. That said, it suffered a major fatal plant explosion, albeit several years ago. In 2016, Orbia was heavily scrutinized due to a tragic accident at one of Petroquímica Mexicana de Vinilo S.A.’s (PMV) plants (a 60/40 joint venture with Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) dissolved in July 2018) that killed 32 people and injured 136 others. This incident didn’t trigger any rating actions, because PMV represented about 5% of Orbia’s total EBITDA, it was found not liable, and it collected insurance payments to cover damages and business interruption. On environmental factors, Orbia actively pursues product solutions committed toward reducing its carbon footprint, and adheres to disposal regulations and the protection of human health. The company recently acquired and incorporated Netafim to its Fluent business group (~36% of total EBITDA) to strengthen the development, manufacturing, and distribution of advanced drip and micro-irrigation solutions, and also contributes to water scarcity and food supply issues.||Rodolfo Fernandez|
|Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile S.A.(BBB+/Stable/--)|
|We see SGM’s management and governance as fair only, and less well positioned than its industry and domestic peers. Between 2015 and 2018, SQM was involved in a dispute with the Chilean Development Corp. (CORFO), which alleged SQM had incorrectly applied the formulas to determine lease payments from 2009 through 2013 and implied risk of early termination of the SQM’s concession in the Salar de Atacama, which has represented between 50% and 70% of its gross margin for the past four years. The dispute was favorably resolved and SQM reached a new lease agreement with CORFO in January 2018, but this new contract resulted in a markedly higher lease payments, which had an impact of about 4 basis points (bps) in EBITDA margins. Additionally, we assess increased governance risk exposure amid highly leveraged shareholders with considerable representation and influence on the board. This could mean the company will maintain high dividend payouts in coming years, which could present challenges regarding the ability to balance a conservative financial policy with capital expenditures (capex). SQM’s environmental exposure is comparable to peers. It is subject to environmental impact assessments, which combined with existing infrastructure, could result in important restrictions by authorities on the maximum allowable amounts of brine and water extraction. For instance, during 2018, monitoring showed slightly lower water levels than those required and SQM had to reduce brine extraction by 250 liters per second. However, the impact of this production reduction, should have an annualized negative impact of slightly less than 2% of the company´s EBITDA. On the other hand, environmental factors also pose an opportunity for SQM, because the shift toward electric vehicles (EV), given regulatory mandates, demand, and clean energy preferences, should boost lithium demand, which is responsible for more than 50% of the company's EBITDA generation.||Amalia Bulacios|
|Europe, Middle East, Africa|
|Akzo Nobel N.V.(BBB+/Stable/A-2)|
|We view environmental and social risks for AkzoNobel as being on par with that of the paints industry. Since its divestiture of its specialty chemicals business, the company has concentrated risk related to regulations and shifting consumer preferences in the paints and coatings industry. From an environmental perspective, the company aims to move toward zero volatile organic compounds (VOC) in products. In 2018, AkzoNobel still produced 1.6 kilotons of VOC emissions and achieved a 10% reduction per ton of production compared with 2017 results. AkzoNobel's social risk is on par with other paint producers, because it sells its products directly to consumers, and therefore, there’s direct exposure to issues such as demographic changes and changing consumer preferences. About 22% of AkzoNobel‘s sales stem from products with sustainability benefits that outperform mainstream solutions in addition to 20% of products with sustainability benefits that are on par with alternative products in the market.||Oliver Kroemker|
|We view BASF's ESG-related exposure as similar to that of the chemical industry in general. BASF’s presence across a wide variety of subsectors, exposes it to a broad spectrum of potential risks including those related to the use of plastics, additives and preservatives, as well as crop-protection products and seeds. We view crop-protection products (fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides) as more environmentally and socially sensitive. They represent about 19% of group-reported EBITDA. BASF has strategically expanded its Agricultural Solutions segment in recent years through the €7.6 billion acquisition of Bayer's global seeds and nonselective herbicides businesses. While growth prospects are substantial for the segment, opposition to genetically modified products remains an important barrier in Europe. The company has a long operating history with limited major controversies. Other environmental influences relate to BASF’s product mix as management estimates 28% of its products, contribute to sustainability initiatives (lightweight, biodegradable, recyclable, or longer-life) across all customer industries including transportation, construction, consumer goods, health and nutrition, agriculture, and energy and resources. A key risk factor remains the exposure to CO2 emissions, because the company’s operations are highly energy-intensive, leading it to focus strongly on CO2-emission reduction, with an ambitious target of CO2-neutral growth by 2030. The company has a good safety record, but suffered a significant explosion at its main headquarter plant in Ludwigshafen in 2016.||Gaetan Michel|
|Evonik Industries AG(BBB+/Stable/A-2)|
|We consider Evonik ’s exposure to environmental and social risk factors as comparable with the chemical sector. Especially regarding environmental risk factors, Evonik benefits from its ongoing transformation and focus on specialty chemicals and reducing its exposure to raw material- and energy-intensive businesses. The company also generates approximately 50% of its sales from products and solutions that help improve resource efficiency in customers’ applications. Examples include amino acids for animal (notably poultry) nutrition, additives for hydraulic fluids, and functional silanes to protect building facades.||Oliver Kroemker|
|Ineos Group Holdings S.A.(BB/Stable/--)|
|We assess Ineos Group Holdings’ (IGH) management and governance as fair due to the complex group structure and concentrated decision-making. IGH is a private company with three shareholders playing a key role in strategy and operations. James Ratcliffe owns 62% of the company (and he’s the board chairman), followed by Andrew Currie and John Reece, each holding a roughly 19% stake. All shareholders are members of the board, which has no independent directors. As to environmental and social risks, we see IGH’s exposure as comparable to other petrochemical players. We expect the wider Ineos group to continue spending approximately €350 million per year on capex linked to sustainability initiatives. The company is investing in plant efficiency and product enhancements in order to lower emissions and make products more sustainable. One of IGH’s targets is to offer polyolefin products containing at least 50% recycled material by 2025. We aren’t aware of any significant environmental accidents or liabilities, and the group recorded a strong reduction in incident rates since 2008 to 0.2 per 200,000 hours in 2018 from 1.13 in 2008.||Ivan Tiutiunnikov|
|Israel Chemicals Ltd.(BBB-/Stable/--)|
|We see ESG credit factors for ICL as more exposed in comparison with industry peers, given that it operates a unique natural resource asset in a region facing water scarcity and significant geopolitical tensions. The company conducts its Dead Sea operations under a concession agreement with the Israeli government. The minerals from the Dead Sea are produced by means of solar evaporation, in which salt sinks to the bottom of one of the pools. As a result of this process, raising the water above a certain level may cause damage to the foundations and hotel buildings located near the shoreline and to other infrastructure on the beach. ICL also draws water from the northern basin of the Dead Sea and transfers it to the pools at the southern part of the sea. As a result, the water level has decreased in the Dead Sea’s northern basin over the years, most recently at an average annual rate of about 110 centimeters, leading to the creation of sinkholes. We note that ICL’s share for the responsibility of the Dead Sea’s water depletion is about 23%, with the balance due to evaporation, increased use of upstream water by the neighboring countries (including Israel), and less rain in general. Over the longer term, we believe this situation may create pressure on ICL to reduce its use of Dead Sea minerals, which could have an adverse effect on its business. In addition, ICL is exposed to lawsuits in connection with malfunctions at its plants resulting in an ecological environmental impact. For example, in 2017, a pool used to store water gypsum formed in production processes in the Negev collapsed. This event led to severe environmental pollution. Class action suits were filed against ICL and it was required to bear long-term costs relating to rehabilitation programs. Such costs are hard to predict but could influence the financial and credit metrics of the company once incurred.||Paulina Grabowiec|
|Koninklijke DSM N.V.(A-/Stable/A-2)|
|We believe the DSM is better positioned than peers on social factors given that its product focus more on sustainable solutions. DSM leverages its innovation capabilities to benefit from megatrends such as climate change through an increased proportion of products and solutions (representing 62% of sales in 2018) that have a better environmental or social impact than mainstream solutions. This includes its low-carbon-footprint fiber Dyneema, methane-reducing cow-feed additive, and solar panel products that increase power conversion efficiency and recyclability. As a specialty chemical company, direct environmental risks may be less important. However, DSM is one of the few companies that has set ambitious targets though, including an internal carbon price of €50 per ton of CO2 in its investment and operational decisions (compared with EU ETS carbon pricing, which has tripled over the past 12 months to about €30/ton). We assess DSM’s management and governance as strong. DSM is aligning its governance practices with its ESG commitment by linking part of its executive compensation to its ESG targets. Furthermore, the interest rate on its €1 billion committed credit facility is linked to GHG-emission reduction. In our view, this shows a proactive management team, which has adequate long-term incentives in place to compel sustainability.||Oliver Kroemker|
|L'Air Liquide S.A.(A-/Positive/A-2)|
|We see L'Air Liquide as well positioned and in line with industrial gas industry peers with respect to environmental and social risks. The company has a very strong focus on environmental factors. Air Liquide’s GHG emissions are linked to the thermal energy used in its large hydrogen and carbon-monoxide production and cogeneration units, using natural gas mostly, and to the carbon content of the electricity production where the group operates. This involves the company’s efforts to maximize the efficiency of the production processes, for which the company is recognized--under the EU ETS--as leading in its sector. The company also favors electricity purchase from low-carbon suppliers, representing currently about 70% of its electricity purchases—that is, from natural gas (methane), renewables, and nuclear. We recognize these initiatives may involve extra costs associated with cleaner energy, although this is partly mitigated by potential energy savings, cost pass-through mechanisms, and savings in terms of emissions quotas. The company targets 30% reduction in its carbon intensity by 2025 from the 2015 level. Ultimately, the ability to offer more efficient environmental processes also serves the company’s business model in attracting a greater share of outsourcing from industries. L’Air Liquide is equally highly focused on research in developing blue hydrogen solutions, generated through electrolysis (rather than from methane reforming). We see the development of a greener hydrogen economy (to provide more environmentally friendly hydrogen to refineries, as well as for longer-term fuel cells for heating and the transportation of fuel) as a long-term growth opportunity as well as a strategic challenge.||Gaetan Michel|
|We see Lanxess’ ESG-related exposure as similar to the broader industry. The company’s exposure to the more sensitive product areas such as seeds and pesticides represents less than 10% of revenues. At the same time, Lanxess is investing in research and innovation to meet present sustainability demands in key areas such as lightweight and electric mobility solutions, protection against diseases, and membranes for water purification, which we expect to be the main drivers of volume growth for next few years. Additionally, Lanxess recently set new targets to become carbon-neutral by 2040.||Renato Panichi|
|We see Linde as well positioned and in line with industrial gas industry peers with respect to environmental and social risks. Linde has made significant progress in achieving its target of reducing a total of 6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2020 (it achieved a 5 million tonne reduction at year-end 2018); as a result of technical improvements in plant design and more efficient production processes in air-separation and hydrogen plants (compared to the base year 2009). While its total GHG emissions in 2018 still amounted to 42 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e), the company claims its products and application allowed customers and end-users to avoid more than double this amount (94 million tons CO2e), through, for example, the production of molecular hydrogen (H2), which helps oil refiners to produce ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) or from production of molecular oxygen (O2), which helps steelmakers save energy. It’s also used in oxyfuel applications and serves several hundred-thousand patients needing respiratory oxygen. Linde is also focused on increasing the share of renewable produced hydrogen using wind, water, solar and biomass in the electrolysis of water and reforming of biogas.||Oliver Kroemker|
|OCI is exposed to environmental risks, like other nitrogen-based fertilizer producers though it benefits from a younger asset base. The most near-term risks relate to tightening GHG-emission regulations. OCI benefits from its younger asset base with 46% of production capacity under five years old. Since 2010, OCI has invested more than $5 billion in new production facilities, and upgraded and modernized existing plants, which has led to a reduction of CO2 and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions, as well as increased energy efficiency. As a result, OCI’s global NOx emissions are 55% lower than the global average for nitric acids plants.||Wen Li|
|We believe Sasol's exposure to environmental risk factors exceeds that for the overall chemical sector, largely reflecting emissions from its Secunda, South Africa synthetic fuel plant and that country’s recently enacted stricter regulations. Sasol’s unique synfuel process converts coal (and gas) into liquid fuels, but equally involves large quantities of GHG emissions, totaling around 56,000 kilotons of CO2 equivalent (or 85% of Sasol’s total of 67,000 kilotons of CO2e emitted) per year. GHG has become an increasing area of focus as South Africa continues to tighten regulations: For example, carbon tax legislation became effective June 1, 2019 (although some transitional arrangements and allowances are in place), and there may be additional regulatory pressure relating to sulfur dioxide emissions (in particular, after 2025). Sasol has estimated that its carbon tax liability could be around ZAR1 billion a year, given that the marginal carbon tax rate of ZAR120/ton is subject to several thresholds and allowances. Sasol has reduced its GHG emissions by 13% since 2004, including by 7% at its Sakunda plant, and continues to implement emission-reduction projects. We consider Sasol's management and governance fair, and broadly in line with industry peers, reflected by experienced and prudent management of its domestic operations, and high quality disclosures. Nonetheless, recent capex overruns in key completion phases of the Louisiana-based Lake Charles Chemical Project may indicate the potential for to some weaknesses in overseas project management and executive oversight.||Omega Collocott|
|Saudi Basic Industries Corp.(A-/Stable/A-2)|
|We see ESG factors for Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) to be broadly in line with industry peers, as an efficient petrochemicals producer, with a track record of improved sustainability performance over time. SABIC has a comprehensive sustainability strategy aligned with local and international goals and standards and has been successful in reducing GHG, energy, water, and material-loss intensity. A specific social objective of the company is to employ a specific number of Saudi nationals in its domestic operations, which stands at 90%, comfortably above the target set by the government. However, the company has a relatively low share (7%) of female employees in its global workforce.||Rawan Oueidat|
|We consider Sika's exposure to environmental and social risk factors similar to the broader industry. Because it’s a chemicals producer, Sika's regulatory and social operating licenses depend on strict management of multiple environmental risk factors. We believe Sika has a good safety record, with no significant environmental accidents. We understand that Sika is committed to a sustainable business model and the focus of its existing products portfolio and new product development processes is on ensuring sustainability. This, in our view, is a benefit to the company's growth prospects in light of demand for more environmentally friendly products in the building materials industry. Sika also reached the objective of reducing its energy consumption by 3% per ton sold, which in 2018 amounted to 424 megajoules (2017: 450 megajoules). The company achieved the reduction through a strategy to improve the energy efficiency of its production plants, which we view as a positive credit factor because it translates to better profits.||Paulina Grabowiec|
|We see Solvay ESG-related exposure as similar to the broader industry. Solvay’s business risk benefits from its high share of product portfolio dedicated to today’s challenges related to sustainable mobility and resource efficiency. About 50% of sales, namely in the advanced materials and formulations, are targeting sustainable demands in key areas such as the aerospace, auto, oil and gas, mining, and agricultural sectors. Furthermore, about 60% of group capex is targeting sustainable products. Due to the deconsolidation of the performance polyamides business, Solvay materially reduced hazardous industrial waste by almost 50%. In September 2018, Solvay made a commitment to cut GHG from its own operations by 1 million tons by 2025 relative to 2017 levels, thereby decoupling its targets from its earnings growth. The group intends to achieve this reduction by further improving its energy efficiency and mix, and by investing in clean technologies. In January 2019, Solvay agreed to the new terms of an existing €2 billion revolving credit facility, linking the cost of credit to a reduction in GHG.||Renato Panichi|
|We see Syngenta ESG-related exposure as similar to the agrichemicals sector, but more exposed than the broader chemical industry, with a sizeable litigation settlement in 2017. As with peers, Syngenta can be subject to lawsuits, personal injury complaints, and the changing views of crop-protection products on human health and the environment. We note that Syngenta focuses on mitigating product risks, notably through extensive research on their safety, collaboration with the authorities through provision of data on the impact on human health and the environment, and internal audits and self-reporting processes to ensure compliance with strict and extensive regulatory standards. The company also supports growers in understanding the correct use and application of its products through clear labels and market communication. Yet, litigation in the sector can reach high magnitudes and have a substantial impact on the company's finances, reputation, and ultimately the rating. In late 2017, Syngenta reached a $1.5 billion settlement related to the commercialization of the Viptera and Duracade corn seed in the U.S. However, because of its otherwise strong cash flow and support from its parent ChemChina, Syngenta was able to absorb the associated financial burden, so it had no impact on our ratings on the company. We assess Syngenta's management and governance as fair only, reflecting lesser transparency and timeliness of communications with investors following the change in ownership by ChemChina and delisting in 2017. At the same time, we recognize management's long-standing experience and expertise in the industry.||Renato Panichi|
|Yara International ASA(BBB/Stable/A-2)|
|Similar to other nitrogen-based fertilizer producers, we see Yara as having a higher degree of exposure to future environmental regulations and consumer perceptions. Yara responds to these challenges by: educating and engaging with farmers to ensure they use the right amount and correct type of fertilizers for crops, thus promoting precision in the application of fertilizers; creating crop-specific solutions by combining its premium product offerings with onsite advice from the company's agronomists to the farmer; and developing technology solutions such as sensors, cloud solutions, and satellite-supported tools. The company is also facing long-term environmental risks, notably from tightening regulations on GHG emissions. Yara reduced its GHG emissions by nearly half over the past 15 years, mostly through the installation of nitrous oxide catalysts, which removed about 90% of nitrous oxide emissions from its plants. It’s also investing in energy efficiency, specifically at its ammonia plants, which account for almost 90% of Yara's energy consumption. We view this as positive for the company’s profitability. We consider Yara's management and governance satisfactory, reflecting management's extensive expertise as well as environmental awareness. We note the company's $1.1 billion revolving credit facility is linked to a sustainability indicator target, which references the reduction in carbon dioxide equivalent per tonne of nitrogen produced, compared with the 2018 level.||Paulina Grabowiec|
|China National Chemical Corp. Ltd.(BBB/Stable/--)|
|We see China National Chemical Corp. Ltd. (ChemChina) as less favorably positioned compared to its peers, reflecting heightened public scrutiny in China as well as a past large environmental and deadly incident. There was an explosion in one of the company’s chemical plants in Hebei province in November 2018 causing 24 casualties (even if the direct financial loss was modest at RMB41 million or US$6 million). The explosion was caused by the leakage of vinyl chloride. Despite the company’s acute awareness of health, safety, and environmental issues, this accident highlighted its exposure to environmental risk. As one of the two chemical companies directly owned by China’s central government, ChemChina has been under strict scrutiny both in terms of operational and financial performance. It’s among the first batch of eight units in the second round of central ecological and environmental protection inspections that began in July 2019. In addition, in response to China’s continuous tightening of environmental regulations, ChemChina has been stepping up its investments in the related areas. For example the company invested RMB438 million (or US$66 million) in safety production in 2018, up 37% from in 2017.||Danny Huang|
|Formosa Plastics Corp.(A-/Negative/--)|
|We consider Formosa Plastics more exposed than global peers to environmental and social factors, reflecting the shift toward more challenging government policies and public opinion for chemical companies in China and Taiwan over the past several years. Heightened regulatory risk and rising environmental protection pressures have diminished credit protection measures of the Formosa Plastic (FP) group (Formosa Plastics Corp., Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp., Formosa Petrochemical Corp., and Nan Ya Plastics Corp.). The FP group continues to face persistent pressure from local communities and governments that require better than the minimum regulatory standards of managing its air, water, and land pollution, which we believe will require ongoing capital spending.||Ronald Cheng|
|Incitec Pivot Ltd.(BBB/Negative/--)|
|We view IPL’s exposure to both Environmental and Social factors as material and consistent with its peers in the Chemicals industry. The group’s adherence to its GHG emission and water utilization targets during 2018 (2019 report yet to be released at the time of this report), in addition to initiatives being taken to reduce nitrogen and sulphur oxides, waste and energy use, demonstrates IPL’s commitment to minimize environmental impact. IPL’s focus and commitment to product quality is evident through ongoing research and development that is undertaken across both fertilizer and explosives. The group exceeded 2018 product quality targets and also promotes best practice in fertilizer use through its analytical laboratory that is NATA accredited and ASPAC certified. We note that IPL fell short of its gender diversity target when they reported a 1% increase in women employment during 2018 (versus 10% increase target), with multiple initiatives currently ongoing to both attract and retain female talent. Relatively minor fines were incurred during 2018 for environmental breaches although the group maintains a robust governance framework to manage and mitigate these risks.||Aldrin Ang|
|We see Nufarm, an Australian company, as somewhat more exposed to environmental factors through its distribution of glyphosate products while exposure to Social factors remain consistent with its industry peers. We expect heightened regulatory scrutiny of gyphosate product sales and remain mindful of the potential litigation risk and product registration risks that may arise following the civil cases taken against Bayer-Monsanto in the U.S. That said, there are currently no lawsuits against Nufarm involving the use of glyphosate. Nufarm doesn’t manufacture glyphosate but instead purchases glyphosate material to formulate into glyphosate products for sale. Glyphosate products currently represent about 10% of Nufarm’s group profit.||Aldrin Ang|
|We deem Orica's ESG related exposure as similar to the broader chemical industry, noting that the majority of the above areas are directly linked to its regular operations. Orica achieved its greenhouse gas emission targets for fiscal 2019 with ongoing remediation activities completed at sites across Australia. The second shipment of 1,500 tons of hexachlorobenzene was successfully destroyed in Finland during the year with further shipments proceeding to plan. The majority of workplace safety targets were achieved during fiscal 2019. Orica's freshwater consumption and waste generation performance fell below target during fiscal 2019, attributed to issues accessing externally sourced recycled water at the Kooragang Island site and lower waste reduction levels than expected; waste generation fell 2.3% on fiscal 2018 (versus target reduction of 5%).||Aldrin Ang|
|Ratings are as of Feb. 10, 2019.|
This report does not constitute a rating action.
|Primary Credit Analysts:||Paul J Kurias, New York (1) 212-438-3486;|
|Oliver Kroemker, Frankfurt (49) 69-33-999-160;|
|Danny Huang, Hong Kong (852) 2532-8078;|
|Renato Panichi, Milan (39) 02-72111-215;|
|Thomas A Watters, New York (1) 212-438-7818;|
|Secondary Contacts:||Luis Manuel Martinez, Mexico City (52) 55-5081-4462;|
|Ronald Cheng, Hong Kong (852) 2532-8015;|
|Minh Hoang, Sydney (61) 2-9255-9899;|
|Christine Li, Hong Kong (852) 2532-8005;|
|Wen Li, Frankfurt + 49 69 33999 101;|
|Ivan Tiutiunnikov, London + 44 20 7176 3922;|
|Michelle S Dathorne, Toronto (1) 416-507-2563;|
|Daniel S Krauss, CFA, New York (1) 212-438-2641;|
|Allison L Schroeder, New York (1) 212-438-0416;|
|Fabiola Ortiz, Mexico City (52) 55-5081-4449;|
|Omega M Collocott, Johannesburg (27) 11-214-4854;|
|Tommy J Trask, Dubai (971) 4-372-7151;|
|Paulina Grabowiec, London (44) 20-7176-7051;|
|Felipe Speranzini, Sao Paulo (55) 11-3039-9751;|
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