Chemistry plays a big part in our lives every day. From cell phones and automobiles to refrigeration, medical devices, high-speed data transfer that powers the Internet of Things, semiconductors, energy storage, and more, chemistry enables thousands of products that people use every day. As the world demands and expects more sustainability and higher performance in these products, chemistry will continue to play a significant role to enable game-changing innovations. Mark E. Newman, the CEO of Chemours, believes his company is uniquely positioned to meet these challenges. Below Mark discusses the next chapter of Chemours and what makes it a different kind of chemistry company.
Q: With a background in finance, what drew you to Chemours and eventually the role of CEO?
A: My career has been a 30-year journey rooted in engineering that evolved to financial and operations leadership, strategy oversight, business development, and restructuring in previous roles. When the opportunity arose in 2014 to help launch an exciting new company, Chemours was a natural fit for me, as someone who loves numbers and the commercial aspect of running a business. Since spin, Chemours has been rooted in the idea of creating value through the power of our chemistry and making a difference for all stakeholders, from understanding market trends and unmet needs, to defining customer needs for products, innovating new solutions, as well as safely and responsibly manufacturing those products. All of this comes together through our people. Listening to and empowering every member of the Chemours team is critical to how we run our business and brings our value proposition together, and this is something I have always enjoyed. The CEO role gives me the opportunity to touch all those aspects and more, including continuing to serve the communities where we operate, current and potential customers, and corporate partners.
Q: Now that you are the CEO, what does it mean for you?
A: It is an honor to serve as CEO of such a courageous and innovative company like Chemours. Since I came on board to start our journey in 2014, I have had the opportunity to deeply understand and appreciate this company and help write our growth story. I admire all that Mark Vergnano accomplished and the successes we have had as a company under his leadership, which have created an incredibly strong foundation that I can build upon. What has always stood out to me through my roles, and what I believe makes this company so special, is its people. I am humbled by the opportunity and responsibility to lead our 6,400 incredibly talented global employees as we expertly serve our customers. I am proud of the company we have built and, as we enter this exciting new chapter, I believe we have a profound opportunity to make the world a better place through the power of our chemistry.
Q: As Chemours begins this next chapter, what changes can we expect?
A: We have a great company and a great strategy that will serve as the foundation for Chemours to reach its full potential. This is not a change in our direction, rather we are embracing this moment to continue building and growing our company, by being unafraid to embrace change and innovation. It’s about acting with agility and courage, always striving to do better, be better, and working hard to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. We enter this chapter with great momentum as the economic recovery from the pandemic continues, and we see demand coming back from key industries and customers. So really, our immediate action is to execute our strategy and deliver strong results that don’t just meet, but beat, expectations.
In 2021, we made several strategic changes to ensure that we are structured appropriately and investing in the areas where we can win and deliver the most value for all our stakeholders. This includes creating two distinct fluoroproducts business units: Advanced Performance Materials and Thermal & Specialized Solutions, reshaping our Executive Leadership Team, and making a commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, with a 60% absolute reduction of operations related GHG emissions by 2030. Several more activities are underway to ensure we are well-positioned to meet the needs of our customers and unlock the clear secular growth potential of our businesses.
Q: Earlier you talked about your vision to create a better world through the power of chemistry. Why are you making that a core part of the company’s path forward?
A: Since becoming CEO I’ve thought a lot about this critical question: what are we all about as a company and what is our ‘why?’ When we answer that question, it guides us to take actions that are anchored to and driven by our greater purpose that together we will create a better world through the power of our chemistry. And by better, we mean better for people and the planet. Moving forward, we want to never lose focus of our commitment to delivering exceptional value and performance by meeting customer needs for innovation and sustainable solutions. The fact is, Chemours is a different kind of chemistry company. Our success as a company is not only defined by our business results, but also by how we serve our customers, lift up our communities, and build a brighter future for the planet.
This vision is advanced by four key pillars which are Innovation and Sustainable Solutions, Environmental Leadership, Community Impact, and making Chemours the Greatest Place to Work for every employee. Those four pillars are the roadmap we follow to keep Chemours on the right path to help build a better world.
As we move forward, for us it’s about striving to be better by utilizing our talent and knowledge to not only deliver financial growth for the company, but to also make a difference in people’s lives while leading the way with responsible chemistry.
Q: You’ve mentioned being bold a few times. What do you mean by that?
A: For starters, taking that first step and declaring that you want to make the world better is bold in and of itself. And of course, it takes courage, resilience, and effort to work, day in and day out to fulfill that mission. As we continue to evolve, I want our approach as a company to always be backed up by this idea of ‘Courageous Chemistry™.’ That means working hard, embracing change and innovation, and being unafraid to face the big challenges and at times questioning the status quo and choosing a more sustainable path. At Chemours, we aspire to be nothing less than the best in the world at harnessing the power of chemistry to improve the lives of people everywhere. You can’t become the best without making that bold decision or having the courage to tackle difficult situations, including change.
While never being reckless or unsafe, we must combine our unique chemistry and our talent with agility and boldness to produce innovative and sustainable results. We must think big in pursuit of our mission to change the world through the power of our chemistry.
Courageous Chemistry™ represents that mentality, and it should serve as a rallying cry for all of our employees to be resilient and steadfast, even when the going gets tough with the work they do every day at Chemours.
Q: Can you give some specific examples of work that’s being done for the future of Chemours?
A: We got off to a fast start in 2022 following a successful 2021, and we are working hard to keep that momentum going. One of the ways we are doing that is by developing innovative solutions to help build a more sustainable future through clean energy. Specifically, our Nafion™ membranes are at the very heart of the fuel cells that power electric vehicles and play a critical role in water electrolysis—the process that enables the creation of hydrogen, the clean energy of the decarbonized future. In fact, this March I traveled to Europe to meet with industry experts, thought leaders, and high-level representatives from EU institutions to discuss Chemours’ role in supporting the adoption of renewable hydrogen energy in Europe, while at the same time working to foster strategic partnerships between the U.S. and the EU on hydrogen energy. The progress we are making will not only help meet climate and energy targets but will also lead to greater energy independence and security.
As we continue throughout the year, our focus will be on prioritizing our growth and capital investments, aligning and accelerating our product innovation and R&D work, and scheduling a listening tour with employees at sites around the world. And of course, I’ve spoken with multiple customers about their challenges and opportunities and how we can help them grow. Those insights are essential to our thinking, strategies, and specific business plans.
Q: Given the increasing importance of sustainability across all aspects of business, can you explain how a chemical company can make an impact?
A: Chemistry enables thousands of products that people use every day. From cell phones, automobiles, and refrigeration, to medical devices, high speed data transfer that powers the Internet of Things, semiconductors, energy storage, and more. Chemours is uniquely positioned to deliver on the demand for cleaner, safer, and more capable products and processes. Many of the products in our portfolio enable the next generation of more sustainable technologies and processes, including electric vehicles, the membranes needed for carbon reduction, and low global warming refrigerants. Our products often enable these more sustainable and highly demanding new solutions, when no other material can. Partnering with customers to help them find sustainable solutions through our knowledge of chemistry will be the key to unlocking the next generation of planet-friendly and high-performance solutions. Chemours must lead the way in making the world more sustainable, and we are ready to do just that!
Q: What are a few areas you’re most energized about as the new CEO?
A: I think I am most excited about three things: first, engaging and empowering, our 6,400 exceptional employees who are the key to our success. I want to empower and engage them to make decisions that make a difference for the company. As the next chapter of Chemours takes shape, I believe we have the ability to position every employee to be at their best, and if they are supported, included, and empowered, they will be able to realize their full potential in the company. Our employees are the best and brightest in the industry and they are energized and ready to take the company to a higher level.
Second, the new product innovations that are being developed within our Chemours Discovery Hub, our global world-class, 312,000 square foot innovation center, which will help unlock new market opportunities and position our customers to take advantage of market trends and grow. Through continued collaboration with our customers, our knowledge and expertise coupled with more speed and agility will allow us to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
Last, but certainly not least, I’m really excited about our Chemours Executive Team. This is a highly talented and energized group that has what it takes to make bold, courageous, and impactful business decisions. It’s also one of the most diverse leadership teams in the industry bringing a deep and wide range of knowledge, experience, capability, and perspectives that result in better solutions.
Q: For those who are still getting to know you better, what experiences from your personal life have helped shape the leader you are today?
A: I grew up on a sugar cane and citrus farm in Jamaica, and one of my first jobs was mowing (or as we call it in Jamaica, bush cutting) the citrus groves. One day I was in a hurry and didn’t do a very good job. My father said, "You realize, everybody knows you cut this field." The next morning, I went back and redid it. It’s a lesson that stuck with me, to always give 100%. When I was a kid it meant that people would take notice if I didn’t do my best, and I didn’t want to get into trouble or get made fun of. Now, throughout my career, I’ve learned that giving 100% also impacts the people around you. If you give everything—your all—it empowers others to do the same—as a leader, a peer, or even a friend.
Mark Newman was appointed CEO of Chemours on July 1, 2021, exactly six years to the day that Chemours (a spin-off from DuPont) became an independent company. Mark Newman succeeded Mark Vergnano, who retired as CEO after and spending more than 40 years in the chemical industry. After stepping down as CEO, Vergnano assumed the position of non-executive Chairman of the company's Board of Directors for the balance of 2021, ensuring an effective transition of leadership to Mr. Newman. For more information, please read the official announcement in the full press release. Dawn L. Farrell was named Chairman of the Board as of January 1, 2022.