People and Leaders

Who has the Best CEO: Neste, NatureWorks, Solvay or Basf?

There has been a recent wave of new CEOs in the Bioplastics Industry: NatureWorks, Neste, BASF and Solvay. Let's look at who's the best Bioplastics CEO.

Peter Vanacker is the new CEO of Neste

Peter Vancaker became Neste’s new CEO in November 2018. He has the Belgian and German nationalities and was born in 1966. Vanacker served in several executive roles at Bayer MaterialScience and was CEO of Treofan Group and CABB Group.

Neste‘s Previous CEO, Lievonen, managed to transform the company from a traditional oil refiner to a leading biofuel producer.

Vanacker’s objectives will be to expand Neste’s biofuel activity  from  automotive to aviation, to expand Neste’s core business from energy (biofuel) to materials and chemicals and ensure that investment projects run smoothly. Besides this, he will drive acquisitions and focus on internal communications to reassure Neste’s employees on this strategic transformation.

Let’s look at some of his past linkedIn posts:

Our purpose is creating a healthier planet for our children and by doing that we continue to outperform. It also allows us to get the best talents in board. And believe me: they are passionate about their contribution to a healthier plant!

As the article describes, we have lived up to our promise in 2018 by producing the first commercial scale volumes of jet fuel made out of waste and residues. And we plan to produce substantial volumes during 2019. So the future is now!

In the middle of climate talks, I decided to write a blog post on an important topic: Be a climate hero. This fall we have all read alarming news about climate change, especially after IPCC report. The outlook surrounding this challenge, however, should be one of hope, not fear. After all, when passion and optimism are turned into action, the results can be considerable. You can read more my thoughts on the topic from the blog post but after reading it I hope to hear from you: What part could you play in bringing about a climate-friendlier way of living and doing business?

Already a few months have passed at Neste and I have had the privilege to visit our sites. I am impressed how the safety culture is embedded in the daily life at Neste. Guidelines, trainings and visual reminders are important, but leading by example as an individual is even more so. Safety is a state of mind here and this is shared by our Board of Directors, all management levels and all employees and contractors. In the end, we all want to go home healthy after a safe working day! What do you think are the most important factors in making safety culture part of an organisation‘s DNA?

Richard Altice is the new CEO of NatureWorks

richard altice natureworks ceo

Richard Altice was appointed as the new President and CEO of Natureworks in April 2018 replacing Marc Verbruggen who led the company from 2008 to 2017. Richard has a BS Chemical Engineering from the Missoury University of Science and Technology (1982-1986).

He was senior VP and President of Designed Structures and Solutions at Polyone, VP Epoxy Specialities Resins at Hexion and President & General Manager at Solutia. He has broad experience in international business, strategic marketing and building highly effective teams to serve customers in the polymer and chemical industry.

Altice’s official objectives will be to advance market development and the adoption of NatureWorks’ performance materials in new applications.

We couldn’t find any LinkedIn post from Richard.

Ilham Kadri is the New CEO Solvay

new ceo solvay

Ilham Kadri (49) became Solvay’s CEO in March 2019. She’s half French and half Moroccan and lives in North Carolina. She used to be CEO of Diversey, an American Hygiene Technology company.

She has an engineering degree from the Ecole de Chimie, Polymères et Matériaux de Strasbourg and a doctorate in Macromolecular Physics-chemistry at the Louis Pasteur University.

Her main duties will be to modernise Solvay and make it a more customer centric company. Here are some of her latest LinkedIn posts:

That’s the universal language of chemistry I love! What an inspiring lecture by #Nobel and #Solvay Prize Prof. Ben Feringa at UNESCO in Paris. Let’s celebrate 150 years of Mendeleev’s scientific revolution yet open to infinite discoveries!  Year after year, researchers prize us with new elements so that the latest scientific creativity for progress can flourish! That’s why at Solvay we nurture talent to respond to the global need for #sustainable solutions.

Communication is key! Now more than ever. If you truly want to anticipate trends, you must start with leveraging talent at its best. Speak the unspoken conversation and share views can only help to boost teams’ unity and productivity. As a good leader, you cannot wave stats on this: you require empathy, consistency, quality and engagement. By keeping the eye on the goal and securing the time for conversations ensure you are eradicating any barrier to success.

I wish I were there, close enough to hear those Nobel Prizes thinking.  Right there, in the exact room of the 1st #Solvay Conference! The more I look at it, the more Ernest Solvay’s groundbreaking scientific and entrepreneurial spirits strikes me! He was such a pioneer in #chemistry and #leadership for a better world,  challenging innovation to transform the market and benefit to our clients.

BruderMueller is the New CEO of BASF

martin brudermueller ceo basf
martin brudermueller ceo basf

Martin Brudermüller was born in Stuttgart in 1961. From 1980 onwards he studied Chemistry at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, and received his degree in 1985. After earning his doctorate in Karlsruhe in 1987, he did a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, United States.

Brudermüller joined BASF in 1988, rising to vice chairman in 2011, and chairman of the board of executive directors and chief technology officer (CTO) in 2018. BASF appointed Martin BruderMueller as new CEO in May 2018. He’s the 13th CEO of BASF.

BASF is being perceived as too big to drive innovations and to boring to reflect a dynamic image. Brudermueller was appointed to deal with the company “boring” image, to make a few acquisitions and drive innovations.

Mr. BruderMueller has no LinkedIn accounts … anno 2019.


These CEO’s are bright and hard-working individuals with lots of merits. You don’t make it as CEO without any achievements. Some CEOs will discover that their real mission is different than what their job description said.

The chemical and plastics industries are also going through an unprecedented period. Fossil-based plastic is being perceived as the cause of all evil and we’re seeing some unprecedented mergers and acquisitions: Dow and DuPont merged in a $156bn deal and ChemChina bought Syngenta for $44bn.

So who’s the Best CEO?


  • Was Bruedermueller appointed to make BASF look less boring? Is this a German joke or German humour?
  • BASF appoints a German CEO. Should this be perceived as a sign of narrow mindedness or territorial mentality? He’s the only native CEO of all four companies (with the exception of Altice). It’s a bit disappointing as we expect Germans to be Pro-Europeans. BASF clearly fails on this point.
  • Will Brudermueller manage to put a smile on BASF? Or should we ask: will Brudermueller manage to smile?


  • Vanacker has the double nationality which makes him theoretically more openminded and open to change. Being half Belgian, he will probably look for collegial decisions and Belgian compromises rather than leadership. Is he the type of CEO who will take  big risks?
  • Vanacker looks like a brave school boy. Will the board allow him to use his bicycle to come to work? Will he be allowed to skip breakfast?
  • Neste has been surfing on a wave of successes recently so we may trust their judgment call on this one.
  • Neste is becoming the NatureWorks of the early days…the disruptor. They’re bringing a wave of fresh air and risk taking.


  • She’s definitely the biggest risk from these 4 CEOs, but this is exactly what chemical dinosaurs like Solvay need. She’s the only woman and she’s half Moroccan, which is a sign of change in the traditional chemical industry. Appointing her is a disruption on itself.
  • She seems to be a good communicator and is bringing some unprecedented visibility to Solvay.
  • Solvay is a Belgian company meaning that decisions are being taken in a collegial way and that risk, changes and leadership are usually replaced by Belgian compromises. Will she change this? Will she disrupt the Belgian dinosaur?
  • Solvay was unsuccessful in product marketing. We know that Solvay is a chemical company, but we don’t know exactly what they’re doing. Will Kadri finally discover what Solvay has been doing for the last 100 years and share that with the rest of the world?
  • Will Kadri manage to convert Solvay as a client centric company?


  • Altice’s main objectives will be to regenerate NatureWorks and to ensure that the company remains at the top of the industry in terms of materials applications.
  • Altice may also have to decide upon a second production site as this should have been done several years ago.
  • NatureWorks wanted to change the world and disrupt the chemical sector initially … which they did. In the meantime, it seems as if they’ve fallen into oblivion.
  • NatureWorks used to be run by marketeers and commercial people and you can still see the benefit of this twenty years later: their logo and brand guidelines still looks cool.
  • Did NatureWorks lost its vision and vibe? Was the company run by financiers in the meantime. Did they loose their start up mentality? Is this inevitable? How do you keep the start up flame alive?
  • Will Altice manage to give a new boost to NatureWorks? Will the phoenix rise from its ashes?

Based on subjective criteria, our ranking is …

  1. Kadri
  2. Vanacker and Altice tie in second place.
  3. Brudermueller


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