From cell phones, to electric vehicles, air conditioners, and paints--chemistry enables products people use in their lives every single day. As the world demands more sustainability and higher performance in every aspect of those same products, Mark Newman, the new CEO of Chemours, believes his company is uniquely positioned to meet that challenge head-on. On his first full day as the company’s second CEO, we sat down with Mark to talk more about his plans for the future 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 CEO role?
A: My career has been a 30-year journey rooted in engineering that evolved to financial and operations leadership, overseeing strategy, business development, and restructuring in previous roles. When the opportunity arose in 2014 to help to launch an exciting new company, Chemours was a natural fit for someone who loves numbers AND the commercial aspect of running a business. The founding of Chemours was rooted in the idea of creating value and making a difference for all stakeholders, from understanding market trends and unmet needs, to defining customer needs for products, innovating new solutions, and safely and responsibly manufacturing those products. All of this comes together through our people. Listening to and empowering our employees is critical to how we run our business and brings our value proposition together, and is something I have always enjoyed. The CEO role gives me the opportunity to touch all those aspects and more, including continuing to uplift 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 become the new CEO of such a great 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. What has always stood out to me through my roles, what makes this company so special, is its people, and I am humbled by the opportunity and responsibility to lead our 6,500 incredibly talented global employees as we expertly serve our customers. I admire all that Mark Vergnano accomplished and the successes we had as a company under his leadership that have created an incredibly strong foundation that I can build upon.
Q: As Chemours begins this next chapter, what changes can we expect?
A: We have a great company and a great strategy as we move into the second half of this year. We also have great momentum right now as the economic recovery from COVID-19 continues, and we see demand coming back from key industries and customers. So really, our immediate action is to execute our strategy and deliver a strong year that doesn’t just meet but beats expectations. There will be no hard lefts or hard rights.
Of course, we already made several important changes earlier this year that were driven by our strategy and a focus on ensuring 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 (APM) and Thermal & Specialized Solutions (TSS), reshaping our Executive Leadership Team, and committing ourselves to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 with a 60% absolute reduction of operations-related GHG emissions by 2030. And 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: Can you give some specific examples of work that’s being done for the future of Chemours?
A: As I mentioned, it’s important that we deliver the year in 2021. It is equally important that we get off to a fast start in 2022 to keep the momentum going. We’re already deep into the planning process and developing 2022 business strategies, 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, 5G 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 to 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, our employees are a key to our success and engaging and empowering them to make decisions that make a difference for the company is critical. I believe we should 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 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 not least, I’m really excited about our new Executive Leadership 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 getting to know you, 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, and I didn’t want to get into trouble or get made fun of. Now, throughout my career, I’ve learned that it also impacts the people around you, and if you give everything your all it empowers others to do the same – as a leader, a peer, or even a friend.
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Mark Newman is the new CEO of Chemours. He took the reins on July 1, 2021 exactly six years to the day that Chemours (a spin-off from DuPont) became an independent company, Mark Newman succeeds Mark Vergnano, who is retiring after more than 30 years in the chemical industry. Vergnano will assume the position of non-executive Chairman of the company's Board of Directors for the balance of 2021, assuring an effective transition of leadership to Mr. Newman—a highly capable leader who is ready to make his own “mark” on the company. We sat down with Mark Newman to talk a bit more on his first day. Read the official announcement full news release.