Decarbonization Insights – a Cross-Interview with Stéphane Ferreira and Jeongwoo Jay Lee
Moderated by Philippe Li (KEY)
October 22, 2023 | Interview
On October 24, KEY and its partners, the Yonsei University (EU Jean Monnet Center) and Korea Social Science Research Council (KOSSREC), will hold a Forum dedicated to carbon neutrality at the Korean National Assembly. The Forum will address the decarbonization status in Europe and the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) implications for Korean companies, as well as future corporate practices and directions.
Korean and European experts from the EU Commission, research centers and corporations will participate in various panels. Stéphane Ferreira and Jeongwoo Lee, Co-Leads of KEY Sustainability/ESG Working Group, will be among the panelists.
Stéphane Ferreira is the CBO of Carbios, a French biotechnology company developing solutions for the bio-recycling of plastic waste and the production of bio-sourced polymers.
Jeongwoo Jay Lee is Head of ESG Consulting at Kookmin Bank (KB), a major player in the Korean financial industry and leader in ESG consulting. As a preview to the Forum, KEY has met with them for a cross-dialogue to get their views and insights.
KEY: In your respective positions, you deal with new needs induced by climate change and carbon neutrality requirements. Can you explain what your jobs consist of and how your company is involved in decarbonization?
Stéphane: After working for eight years at Arkema Group, my latest position being CEO of Arkema Korea, I joined Carbios as Chief Business Officer in 2022. Carbios was founded 11 years ago and underwent a rapid acceleration in the last two years. We are a true player in the circular economy and work closely with major global brands within dedicated consortiums. These consortiums have common interests in developing and promoting our technology. One of our consortiums relates to packaging and collaborates with Nestle Waters, Suntory, PepsiCo, and L’Oréal. A second one hosts Puma, On Running, Salomon, Patagonia and PVH (Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger). As a result, we are very close to the end-users and have a good understanding of the consumer’s expectations.
There are currently several technologies to recycle plastics like PET (polyethylene-terephthalate), the second most used plastic in the world in volume usage. At Carbios, we are convinced that the different technologies dealing with the global transformations are not really competing with each other, as the needs will be so huge in the future that a sole technology will not be sufficient to address the consumer’s expectations.
Jay: I worked in the private equity sector for years and spent five years in London before joining KB last year as the head of ESG Consulting. My work is divided into two parts. First; providing solutions for green financing. We typically deal with industrial companies who need to build facilities to reduce their CO2 emissions. We are providing tailored financing to these companies. Second; offering ESG consulting. I help companies to understand the stakes of carbon neutrality and ESG, as well as their implications in the supply chain. For instance, we provide Due Diligence, analyze the company’s structure and help them lower their emission levels in accordance with the prevailing regulations and standards. We deal with all sorts of companies, from large groups to SMEs and start-ups.
KEY: How do you assess the current level of Korean and European citizen’s awareness about the carbon neutrality status and implications?
Stéphane: Statistics and regulations are one way to level awareness. Climate change also arouses emotions because it impacts people’s lives. To increase citizen awareness and engagement, it is also important to consider their emotions.
Jay: I agree. I often take the example of the polar bear. In your explanation, if you refer to a polar bear and explain that the life of polar bears is threatened if we do not take drastic actions, people will feel liable and tend to be more responsible.
KEY: Do you believe that Europe is more advanced than Korea in its approach to decarbonization, and if so, for what is the reason?
Stéphane: Each country is moving toward decarbonization at its own pace. This reflects the political choices and the maturity of citizens and societies. That being said, the megatrends are the same between Europe and Korea: common trends towards a more circular and sustainable economy.
KEY: According to you, what factors may trigger more interest and focus from the companies for decarbonization?
Jay: In all circumstances, companies are guided by profitability and the risk of losses. For this reason, they must further understand the financial implications and risks that would be incurred if they do not take any action. All aspects of decarbonization should be monetized for people and companies to have more vivid considerations. If decarbonization is apprehended as factors like inflation or rising interest rates, apprehension will automatically increase.
Stéphane: Decarbonization has a cost as it demands transitions in production tools, energy consumption, choice of raw materials and consumer’s choices. The turning point for the company is how to transform these necessary changes into competitive advantages. I am convinced that new technologies contribute to creating a new economy and moving from cost control to a sustainable, complementary and profitable economic model. New technologies and start-ups complement existing industries as they accelerate the transition.
KB Kookmin Bank is a South Korean bank that was founded in 1963. It is the largest bank in South Korea which allocates 600billion USD as bank's asset with over 900 branches and over 20 million customers and KB Financial group is top financial group in the in the Korean financial industry, and it offers a wide range of products and services, including corporate banking, retail banking, and investment banking, Life&Fire insurance venture capital and Asset management company as subsidiaries. KB Kookmin bank is also a leader in ESG consulting and their service include ESG consulting (helping companies assess and improve their current ESG performance and identify areas for improvement), Decarbonization consulting for SME(Small and Medium Enterprise) businesses (helping companies develop decarbonization management system that are aligned with their NDC(Nationally Determined Contribution) goal). KB's ESG consulting services are designed to help companies to improve their ESG performance and create value for their stakeholders. Especially, KB Kookmin Bank will launch Decarbonization IT platform at 2024 so that Asian coporations can adapt decarbonized business model with ERP or other IT management system and manage their carbon circumstances in line with EU/US/KR's decarbonization goals.
Carbios is a French biotechnology company developing and industrializing biological solutions to revolutionize the biorecycling of plastic waste and the production of biosourced polymers. The company's flagship technology is a biocatalytic process that uses enzymes to break down PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the most common plastic used in beverage bottles and textile polyester, into its basic building blocks. These building blocks can then be used to produce new PET products or other biosourced materials. Carbios is currently industrializing its technology and plans to start commercial production of recycled PET in 2025. The company has partnered with several major companies in the plastics industry, including PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Michelin, to develop and commercialize its products. Carbios is a pioneer in the field of biorecycling and its technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we manage plastic waste. The company's mission is to "contribute to a more sustainable future by providing the world with biological solutions to the plastic pollution crisis".