Leading with Chemistry: What We Do Is Essential—And So Is How We Do It
Known for decades as the central science, more recently chemistry has earned yet another new moniker—the Science Behind Sustainability—making chemistry, and the facilities that produce chemistry, essential to creating a cleaner, safer, and healthier world.
What We Do: Essential, Innovative Products
Chemistry is synonymous with innovation – and now, it’s also synonymous with sustainable development.
Chemistry-enabled products contribute to 13 of 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When the deep social impact of our companies’ and industry’s global presence are factored in, chemistry can be said to influence all 17 SDGs.
You don’t have to search far to see why chemistry is integral to sustainability. Just look at some of the products driving sustainability forward, and the essential role that chemistry plays:
- Solar cells: silicones and silicone ink
- High capacity batteries: fluoropolymers and lithium-metal oxides
- Wind turbine blades: chlorine-based epoxy resins
- Lightweight autos: polycarbonate and carbon-fiber composites
- Energy-efficient home and building construction: polyurethanes, silicones, polycarbonate… the list goes on.
Despite these critical innovations, consumers do tend to rate downstream industries (like tech, renewables, automotive, and building and construction) higher on sustainability than chemistry itself—despite the fact that chemistry products enable the higher sustainability performance of countless downstream industries and products. Why?
The answer: what we do through chemistry clearly matters—but also critically important is how we do it.
How We Do It: Operations and Manufacturing Processes
While the chemical industry is energy intensive, ACC members are taking action to reduce the industrial GHG intensity of their supply chains, operations and products and are deploying commercially available solutions to reduce emissions.
For example, I’m proud to say that, even as demand for chemistry products has increased, ACC members have reduced their GHG intensity by over 12% in the last four years.
Further reducing emissions will require accelerated investment in lower-emissions technologies, such as:
- clean hydrogen;
- carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS);
- use of biomaterials and circular feedstocks; and
- cracker electrification.
From being climate smart and energy smart, to creating a more diverse workforce; from conserving and protecting drinking water, to monitoring and improving air quality—the business of chemistry can do well by doing good.
It’s both the right thing to do—and good for the bottom line.
Leading with Chemistry
With trust eroding in many government institutions, and the ongoing polarization of media, the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer offers a sobering, albeit encouraging, account of the expectations that citizens now place on business to fill the void of steady, reliable societal leadership.
People, especially employees, are looking to their employers and the business community at large to help solve big challenges. They may feel like government and the media have failed them; it’s too bureaucratic and it’s too polarized, they say.
Whether you agree or not, the result is the same: We need more leadership from business, not less. And that’s what we are doing in the business of chemistry every single day.