Chemical firms increasingly look to sustainability - ICIS survey

21 January 2013 12:41  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Chemical producers globally are increasingly engaging in sustainability and green chemistry, according to an ICIS survey on Monday.

In a survey conducted for ICIS Chemical Business magazine (ICB), 54% of ICIS respondents said their company has a sustainability strategy and/or policy already in place, a further 17% indicated a policy is currently in development and 17% said that initiatives are likely within the next 2-3 years. Only 12% reported little interest.

The survey, carried out in late 2012 in association with bio-based technology developer Genomatica of the US, reveals that the concept and practice of sustainability is being extended right across the supply chain, from suppliers to customers.

The research was a follow-up and extension of a previous ICIS/Genomatica research project in mid-2009 on sustainability practices. Comparison of findings shows that over the past three years sustainability has become more deeply entrenched than ever and is regarded as a driver of cost reductions in the sector’s operations.

In recent years, uptake of sustainability has been significant, with the majority of companies seeing it as cost-effective – a big swing from conventional thinking not so long ago, where it was viewed as more of a cost than a benefit and a “green premium” for products was seen as key to commercial considerations.

Companies now are looking for cost savings, improved raw materials supply and reduced carbon footprint, and are clearly seeking to use sustainability in their product design and marketing.

And many more producers are finding customers asking for information on sustainably produced chemicals – which itself provides a driver for the shift to renewable materials. Over a third of downstream chemical companies are engaging with suppliers to develop approaches to sustainability.

The ICIS survey “points to a striking result: the time for renewables is now, said Genomatica CEO Christophe Schilling. “It’s a clear mandate for action.”

“The survey shows that sustainability – and the use of renewables-based chemicals – is part of the mainstream of thinking and action for both chemical producers and chemical users.

“Companies within the chemical industry want sustainability as part of their message, to be seen as leaders, and to use sustainability to differentiate themselves,” he added.

“The survey clearly indicates that chemical companies are engaging with sustainability, to the point that it is only a small minority of companies that have yet to embark on developments in this area." John Baker, global editor at ICIS, who managed the reader survey, said.

“Most companies are taking a pragmatic approach and looking for drop-in or near-drop-in bio-based alternatives to petroleum products, in an attempt to minimise development time and costs associated with reformulation and re-equipping production facilities.

“Few companies can ignore the growing trend and effort to sustainability and if they do, the survey indicates they may lose out on business as committed companies, including retailers, drop them from their supplier base.”

By: John Baker
+44 20 8652 3214

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