Setting up a business completely focused on sustainability


The German start-up MATSEN CHEMIE AG is specialized in environmental friendly chemical distribution, focusing on products made from renewable raw materials. With their unique, climate-conscious approach in chemical distribution, MATSEN CHEMIE AG offers advanced raw materials with low environmental impacts, supporting its customers in achieving their own sustainability goals. For these reasons MATSEN CHEMIE AG has been chosen as ISC3 Start-up for the month of October 2020.

Year of Foundation:

November 2016

Addresses the following SDGs:

9 (industry, Innovation & infrastructure), 12 (responsible consumption & production), 13 (climate action)

a man leaning on a scooter
CEO Jan Hansen on his company electric scooter
a fabric bag filled with seeds
Castor Seeds from India are the raw material for castor oil products
a man leaning on a wall smiling towards the camera
Sustainability Manager Tim Peters

Setting up a business completely focused on sustainability

MATSEN CHEMIE AG was founded 2016 in Hamburg. Jan Hansen, today’s CEO of MATSEN, had the vision to create a chemical distribution company, focussing on the environmental effects that commercial activities in the distribution business generally entail. The start-up’s name is a blended word deriving from co-founder Carsten Mattausch’s and Jan Hansen’s last names: MAT-SEN. After hiring sustainability and environmental expert Tim Peters, alumnus of Leuphana University Luneburg, MATSEN CHEMIE AG set out to further shape and increase MATSEN’s positive climate impact towards more sustainability.

You can only reduce what you can measure

Since then, MATSEN CHEMIE AG build up a portfolio of “modern chemistry” products - that's what they call products that either have a low environmental impact or contribute to a sustainable society in other ways - like Lithium, essential for energy storage of electric vehicles. Upon visiting MATSEN’s website, a very impressive and detailed greenhouse gas balance shows what exactly MATSEN CHEMIE AG is after: Creating a precedent.The start-up is already accounting for most of its direct and indirect carbon emissions deriving from its operations (e.g. all transports, general office activity, business travel, employee commuting, etc.). The next huge step MATSEN is working on is to include the production-related CO2 emissions of their chemical products into their carbon footprint as well. After the first greenhouse gas balance for 2018, MATSEN published their 2019’s carbon footprint just a few days ago.

Wasting resources also means wasting money

As a distribution company more than 90% of MATSEN’s carbon footprint is related to transport activities. To collect reliable data, MATSEN teamed up with a technology partner developing an interface within their ERP system. This tailor-made software calculates the detailed transport distances and related carbon emissions for every product sorted by individual means of transportation - automated and continuously. This system saves a lot of time and practically excludes mistakes that might occur when entering data manually. The calculation is based on realistic assumptions and the latest emission factors of the respective means of transport, published by official authorities such as the German Umweltbundesamt.

How to compensate CO2 emissions?

“The general criticism on carbon offsetting accuses corporates to buy their mind free while continuing to emit as much greenhouse gas as they desire and considering that everything is fine that way. But things are not as easy as that,” Tim Peters explains. ”At MATSEN CHEMIE AG we always ask ourselves, how to reduce emissions first and measure the status quo in order to optimize.” So they learnt that they needed to work on their logistics concept first and ask themselves, “If distances are so long, do we still have the right warehouse locations? Can we ship material to other harbours in order to reduce transport emissions? Truck and ship transport won’t be feasible by renewable energy on a large scale within the next years – this means fossil fuels remain indispensable in the near future.” So there will be emissions that MATSEN, currently, cannot reduce anymore. Those emissions are being compensated by carbon credits of the highest standards only, such as CDM Gold Standard projects. MATSEN compensated their entire carbon-footprint for 2019, supporting two climate protection projects in India, which means since October 2020 their business operations are 100% climate-neutral.

Coming up next at MATSEN CHEMIE AG

The young start-up MATSEN CHEMIE AG is principally supplying clients from the automotive, production of polyamides, surface technology, and paper industries. The company is actively offering sustainable chemical distribution solutions to its customers who, for the most part, are still not asking for sustainable products so far. “Big companies today do set themselves sustainability targets, but there is still a gap between what they want to have and what they want to pay for. Only when a sustainable product does not incur any additional costs, it is chosen over a conventional one. In the chemical raw material business it is still all about the product itself: the desired quality at the lowest price,” Tim Peters relates.With their innovative biotechnological approach, MATSEN CHEMIE AG is actively addressing SDGs 9 (industry, Innovation & infrastructure), 12 (responsible consumption & production) and 13 (climate action). It was onboarded to the GSS in April 2019.