Introduction by the Chair
In all the years reported on by DSM since the company’s first foundation, probably not many have presented our company, the executive team and the Supervisory Board with the challenges that we encountered in 2020. Looking back on the year, I am pleased that DSM faced this environment in a courageous, caring and collaborative spirit that showed what a truly innovative, agile and robust company we are.
A change of leadership is always a challenging moment in the life of any organization. With our long-standing CEO Feike Sijbesma stepping down on February 15, we entered a new phase in DSM’s history — led by our Co-CEOs Geraldine Matchett and Dimitri de Vreeze. Carefully planned and well prepared for, this transition occurred smoothly, providing us with an innovative model of joint leadership based on a deep mutual understanding and respect. I am proud of the way Geraldine and Dimitri have taken up their new joint role. The Supervisory Board also appreciates the thorough way in which Feike did prepare and execute the transition.
Geraldine and Dimitri, along with the entire Executive Committee, found themselves confronted with unprecedented challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were not alone in this, however. Throughout the year, our employees across the globe demonstrated determination and initiative, maintaining safety standards, protecting supply chains and keeping our customers supplied in often very difficult circumstances. Our people showed what it means to work for a purpose-led, performance-driven company, contributing their time, know-how and resources to support their local communities.
Despite the difficulties created by the pandemic, we stuck to our values and our strategy, and continued to make progress in terms of People, Planet and Profit during 2020. We are becoming a more diverse, agile and resilient organization, and we took further strides in developing a business that does not only have sustainability as a core value but which also visibly propagates sustainability in the wider world. The special challenges of 2020 have shown that, with creative thinking and responsible management, this approach improves both the top and bottom line. We are showing what it means to do well by doing good.
The safety of our employees and contractors is always a key priority to the Supervisory Board and we spend ample time on it in our meetings. I am glad to report that in 2020, our Safety performance improved. We will continue to focus on safety as every incident is still one too many.
The year 2020 was also a milestone year for DSM in terms of progress on our growth strategy focused on Nutrition, Health and Sustainable Living. In order to strengthen our ability to deliver organic growth, we implemented changes in Nutrition and Materials to get our teams closer to customers and respond better and faster to their needs, while reducing internal complexity and cost. We enhanced our platform-based approach to innovation, ensuring a healthy pipeline of new products and solutions. Additionally we integrated three important acquisitions into DSM’s Nutrition business — CSK, Glycom and the Erber Group businesses Biomin and Romer Labs that enhance our offering to customers. We extend a warm welcome to our new colleagues, and view with excitement the new capabilities and reach that have been added to our Nutrition business. In addition, we announced the divestment of Resins & Functional Materials and associated businesses to Covestro AG, which we expect to close in the first half of 2021. These businesses join a new home with a leading position in their sector, a track record of investment, and values closely aligned with our own, including sustainability and care for people.
The constraints of the pandemic forced us all to interact in new ways. It was excellent to see how successful DSM’s first virtual investor event was, along with the first virtual Annual General Meeting. My colleagues and I on the Supervisory Board were pleased that we were able to uphold the quality and effectiveness of our collaboration throughout the year, despite the fact that we were unable to hold physical meetings or enjoy our usual annual site visit. Like everyone else, we adapted to the situation, we learned from new experiences, and we supported each other.
I would like to thank our Co-CEOs and our Executive Committee for everything they gave to DSM in 2020, the many stakeholders who continue to place their trust in our company and all of DSM’s employees: Together we delivered a performance of which we can all be proud.
Rob Routs, Chair of the Supervisory Board