DSM at a glance:
Headquartered in Heerlen, Netherlands, DSM is a life sciences and materials sciences company that began as a state-owned coal-mining company in 1902.
Sales: $12.6 billion (U.S. dollars)
Locations: some 200 on five continents
Chief Executive Officer: Feike Sibesma
Company privatized: 1989
Listing: NYSE Euronext
Mission: “Our purpose is to create brighter lives for people today and for the generations to come.”
From its beginnings as a national coal company to its recent announcement to help POET bring cellulosic ethanol to the marketplace, DSM has never stopped innovating.
The company, headquartered in Heerlen, Netherlands, employs some 22,200 people worldwide at about 200 locations with annual sales of $12.6 billion a year. DSM focuses on food and dietary supplements, personal care, feed, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive, paints, electrical and electronics, life protection, alternative energy and bio-based products.
Those are the cold, hard facts.
DSM is so much more. It began in 1902 as a state-run coal mining operation, but company officials realized they needed to change. In the 1930s, DSM began converting a coal-mining by-product, ammonia, for use in nitrogenous fertilizer production,and thus began the path to diversification that ultimately saved DSM from the fate of most Western European coal mining operations.
The company closed its last coal mine in 1973 and over the years turned toward a future of sustainability. It pursues a three-dimensional value creation for shareholders: People, Planet and Profit.
“At DSM, we are committed to make a lasting and sustainable difference to the world in which we live,” DSM Chief Executive Officer Feike Sijbesma said in 2011 during his acceptance speech for the prestigious George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology. “Biotechnology will enable us to combine our knowledge of life sciences with materials sciences to provide brighter lives for people today and generations to come.”
Indeed, the company recently donated $1 million to the World Food Programme to introduce fortified rice into WFP’s food basket, with the aim to improve the nutrition of 4 million people in several Southeast Asian countries.
And partnering with Sioux Falls-based POET was a logical step forward for the company, Sijbesma said.
“This cooperation is a milestone in realizing DSM’s strategy,” he said in announcing DSM’s partnership with POET in January. “… As the world is facing unprecedented challenges with a growing population making an ever bigger claim on the planet’s resources, we need to accelerate the transition to a bio-based economy, and this joint venture is a significant step in that direction.”
Sijbesma and POET founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Broin share the same vision for biofuels – and a world where fossil fuels are delegated back to the age of dinosaurs.
“The so-called fossil-age will make a shift to the bio-based-economy,” Sijbesma said during his George Washington Carver Award speech. “In two or three centuries from now, people will look back on our civilization as a merely brief moment in history where we, in a period of just about 250 years, shifted our total economy to coal, oil and gas. To make the shift back to living with – and especially off – nature, we need to start this shift now. We are at a turning point towards a next green industrial revolution to secure our feed and fuel needs in the future.”