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Leading with Chemistry: What We Do Is Essential—And So Is How We Do It

American Chemistry Council 150 Years

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:

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.

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About the Author

As President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Chris is responsible for driving a pro-growth, science-based public policy agenda that fosters the development of groundbreaking products to improve lives; creates jobs and economic expansion; and enhances public and environmental health and safety.

In 2021, Chris partnered with Harris County officials in Houston to expand an extensive state-of-the-art air monitoring system to continuously track and evaluate air quality. The partnership included a $1 million donation from ACC’s foundation for mobile and stationary monitors.

Under Chris’ leadership, in 2020, ACC launched the Future of STEM Scholars Initiative (FOSSI) in partnership with Chemours, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and HBCU Week Foundation. The program provides scholarships for students pursuing preferred STEM degrees at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In the first two years, FOSSI raised more than $17 million for over 350 scholars.

Also in 2020, Chris oversaw a strategic review of Responsible Care®, the chemical industry’s environmental, health, safety and security (EHS&S) performance initiative, resulting in enhancements to the Responsible Care Process Safety Code and Responsible Care Security Code.

Chris joined ACC in 2019 after serving six years as President and CEO of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), where he advocated for policies and regulations focused on enhancing security, free trade, environmental protection, worker health and safety, and farm bill and conservation programs to promote the use of fertilizer.

Prior to joining TFI in 2013, Chris served as president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors for seven years and president of the Contract Services Association for three years. He began his career on Capitol Hill, including time as chief of staff to U.S. Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY).

Chris earned an MBA from the University of Maryland and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in New York.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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