The largest producer of ammonia in the world, TogliattiAzot (ToAZ) stands as a testament to Russian economic development. While maintaining and even growing its tradition of profitability and innovation, the company is also setting new standards for corporate responsibility. These developments are due in no small part to Sergei Makhlai, Chairman of the Board of Directors, who has provided excellent leadership and set the company on its course of success.
What began as a humble Soviet initiative has grown into a global industry leader, providing ammonia, as well as other chemical products, to customers in Russia and abroad. Founded in 1979, ToAZ has continuously improved its techniques for producing ammonia and urea while benefiting tremendously from the wealth of natural resources in the Samara region of Russia in which it is located.
Its product line has also expanded. Today the plant manufactures products such as high quality insulation material, chemicals used in plastics and adhesives, and bricks made from local clay. TogliattiAzot reported earnings of 37.7 billion rubles in 2013.
Success and Controversy
Wherever success is found, the sharks inevitably circle and bring controversy with them. Unfortunately, TogliattiAzot’s executives have learned this the hard way. The company has been the victim of a protracted smear campaign instigated by Uralchem, a Russian chemical manufacturer and minority owner of ToAZ, and its owner Dmitry Mazepin.
After filing numerous lawsuits against ToAZ and slandering the company online and in the media, investigators confirmed that Uralchem, faced with financial distress, acted out of a desire for a rapid cash influx.
Furthermore, Mazepin and his colleagues have been publicly criticized by the media as well as by government officials for using black PR tactics and spreading libellous information.
Tradition of Excellence
Detractors aside, the company has continued to make strides in the areas of technological development.
In business, the parents of consistent success are stability along with dynamic flexibility.
Sergei Makhlai took over the reins of the company from his father Vladimir Makhlai in 1996. He did so after spending several years completing his master’s degree at the University of North Carolina and working for several American chemical manufacturers.
Along with a commitment to keeping TogliattiAzot at the top, it’s clear that Sergei Makhlai has imported some refreshingly progressive attitudes with regards to corporate responsibility from his experiences abroad.
Social and Communal Caretakers
Blasting popular stereotypes of the detached and uncaring corporation, Makhlai has over the years increased the company’s social initiatives.
For example, employees enjoy a number of unique benefits such an on-site preventative health clinic, family allowances, pension funds and extended maternity leave. The company has also embarked on major construction projects in the Togliatti region to generate even more jobs.
On the communal level, Makhlai has spearheaded extensive philanthropic projects. ToAZ has constructed low-cost housing, day cares and playgrounds. It has funded places of worship, schools and social recreation centers.
These acts of giving exemplify TogliattiAzot’s corporate policies. Economic success should not come at the cost of community and environment but rather should benefit all. Based on its track record, it seems as though this manufacturing giant will realize this vision as well.