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Stepping Up to Surmount Challenges in the Oleochemicals Industry

December, 2022

By: Francis Wiederkehr, Director, Global Market Strategy & Planning

Challenges are a part of our everyday business lives and we continue to adapt our plans to take them on.

Nearly three years ago, the world was in shock after plunging into a pandemic. While in the short term, the safety mitigation response to COVID-19 had strong negative economic and individual consequences, it proved to be a catalyst that accelerated fundamental societal changes. We have seen increased acceptance of work-from-home programs, adoption of remote learning/education solutions and an acceleration of digital commerce growth, as well as more awareness and engagement from civil society and governments on the sustainability challenges we all face. There was to be a “before” and an “after” COVID: a “new normal.”

So, when I had the privilege to take over P&G Chemicals’ global market strategy and planning last year, my thinking was all about defining how to operate and serve our customers in this new normal while being a force for growth and a force for good by driving continuous improvements on social and environmental sustainability.

That was without knowing that the new normal would be rocked, post COVID, by overheating markets and by a war in Europe, putting pressure on energy, food and vegetable oils supply and demand. Our global business environment is now facing further unanticipated challenges, such as combined recessionary and inflationary pressures, rapid interest rate hikes in the United States and elsewhere, an energy crisis in Europe and ongoing COVID lockdowns in China. While companies are struggling to understand their near-term future, the danger of an overreaction across the supply chain’s actors, who see decreasing customer orders and higher inventories, is real.

At the same time, the oleochemicals industry faces increased government interventions, implemented or pending, such as customs actions and dioxane regulations in U.S., Green Deal, deforestation regulation, anti-dumping investigations and increased REACH dossier requirements in the European Union, and oil export restrictions in Indonesia, to name just a few.

To build a viable future, we all need to integrate those short-, mid- and long-term considerations into a holistic vision and action plan. We shall calmly navigate the turns in the road, adapt to the changing regulatory and societal environment and lead the decarbonization of our supply chains. At P&G Chemicals, we will continue to do our part: we will work with our customers, suppliers and stakeholders to build this future together, no matter the challenges.


Photo by Eric Rossier (used with permission)