IIham Kadri
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African CEOs - April 24, 2022

IIham Kadri: The Moroccan Woman Revolutionising the Chemicals Industry

IIham Kadri is regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished women. Her achievement is etched in the current world’s trends and ideas, which place a premium on diversity, inclusivity, and environmental stewardship.

She is a trailblazer in the chemical sector, which men control. In 2019, she became the CEO and a member of the Board of Directors of Solvay Group, a Belgian chemicals company and one of the world’s largest and oldest corporations.

Her mission is to shake things up and make people more environmentally friendly and profitable.

Preceding her entry at Solvay, she has taken on significant responsibilities, including strategy, research, business and digital in various industries spanning aerospace, oil and gas, healthcare and hospitality, automotive, construction, and water desalination. 

She has also held a prominent role of being the President and Chief Executive Officer of Diversey, a global leader in hygiene, cleaning solutions, food safety, and infection control. 

She serves on the board of A.O. Smith, a renowned global manufacturer and supplier of water heating equipment situated in the United States.  

Ilham Kadri earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from L’Ecole des Hauts Polymères in Strasbourg and a doctorate in macromolecular physic-chemistry from Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg.

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The early days

IIham Kadri was born in 1969 and grew up in Casablanca, Morocco. She was brought up by her grandmother, who was her first role model. However an illiterate, she taught IIham to love books and how to respect people who put their thoughts and wisdom into writing.

Kadri knew early that she was passionate about science and technology. She wanted to be in physics, chemistry and mathematics, which eventually led her to take on an engineering diploma and advance in doing a PhD thesis.

Over the years, she grew a keen interest in sustainability, which was sparked by her hometown in Casablanca due to the frugal environment and their conservation of food and water.

In 1997, Kadri received her PhD in macromolecular physical chemistry.

Early career days

IIham Kadri career began with Royal Dutch Shell in Belgium as a Development and Technical Service Manager, where she was part of a team that developed a synthetic bottle stopper that helps to prevent the transfer of fungi and germs from cork stoppers to stored liquids. 

She then moved to France to work for LyondellBasell in sales and global key account management.

Kadri joined UCB-Cytec in Belgium in 2002 and worked as a Product Manager and Marketer until the company’s chemicals division was sold.

She also joined the Huntsman Corporation in Switzerland in 2005 as Marketing Director of the global epoxy business that has been sold to private equity.

In 2007 Kadri took on the role of Marketing Director in Rohm and Haas, for the company’s paint, coatings, and construction businesses, where she stayed until Dow Chemical Company bought the company in 2009. 

She began her role as the Marketing Director in Dow Coating Materiales in 2010. 

She was later promoted to Dow’s Advanced Materials division’s General Manager Middle East and Africa (MEA) and Dow Water and Process Solutions’ Commercial Director EMEA. 

Kadri developed water projects in Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Israel, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan while at Dow. She also started the first reverse osmosis (RO) membrane manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia.

More leadership footprint

In 2013, Kadri joined Sealed Air Corporation as Senior Vice President and Officer and was named President of Diversey Care, the company’s hygiene and cleaning division, which had lost money the previous year. 

When Kadri first arrived at Diversey Care, she was tasked with turning around the company’s declining sales and earnings, which she accomplished by leading service division reforms.

She championed technical innovation strategy at Diversey Care, which includes the introduction of the world’s first commercial cleaning robots in the United States and Europe, as well as a digital food safety management platform that aids enterprises in achieving regulatory compliance in the food industry.

When Sealed Air’s new corporate headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, opened in 2015, Kadri migrated from the Netherlands.

Kadri was named Sealed Air’s Digital Leader in early 2016, and is responsible for Internet of Things (IoT) integration across the firm, with a focus on the IS digital architecture, external ecosystem acquisitions, digital monetisation, and robots.

Diversey Care was acquired by Bain Capital for $3.2 billion in 2017, following its return to profitability, and Ilham Kadri was named President and CEO of the new company, Diversey.

In March 2019, Ilham Kadri was named CEO of Solvay, after interning there in 1989 in Tavaux, France. Her appointment was made public in October of last year.

During her first year as CEO, Solvay announced its new strategy, the Solvay One Planet sustainability plan.

Kadri serves on the boards of A.O. Smith Corporation and L’Oréal as an independent director. 

She is a member of the European Round Table’s steering committee, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Executive Committee, and a permanent member of the International Business Council.

Kadri is the originator of the ISSA Hygieia Network, which she co-founded in 2015 with other female cleaning industry executives.

She is a member of The B Team, a global group of corporate and civil society leaders dedicated to promoting better business practices that benefit people and the environment.

Recognition and Awards

Fortune magazine’s list recognised IIham Kadri in 2019 by ranking her as the 21st Most Powerful Women in Business on its International list. 

At the 14th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business in 2017, she received the Golden award for Woman of the Year in Industry and the Golden award for Women Helping Women in Business.

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