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Chemical industry has key role in helping to create a more sustainable world

Chemical companies
By Paul Hodges on 20-Sep-2020

The chemical industry has a critical role to play in enabling the world to “build back better” after the pandemic. That is the conclusion of the World Economic Forum’s Chemical and Advanced Materials Industry Action Group, for which I had the privilege of acting as an Expert Adviser.

Its conclusions are as follows:

“Where next?
Strengthening the recovery through stimulus measures relies on how and how fast resources are allocated. Here are three actions chemical sector leaders can take:

“1. Build infrastructure to support more resilient and more sustainable socioeconomic systems. With 83% of consumers saying it’s important for companies to design products that can be reused, recycled and never go to a landfill, the chemical industry needs to tackle the huge infrastructure investment that is the foundation of its transformation towards greater sustainability. For example, the transition to a circular economy requires investment to encourage greater transparency in waste streams (circular track and trace), establish end-of-life collection systems for further material classes, develop chemical recycling processes, and build the necessary physical assets. This can only be achieved by collaborating in regional clusters, which represent ideal opportunities for stimulus support.

“2. Leverage stimulus packages to innovate and support broader sustainability goals. The chemicals industry has an opportunity to engage with policy-makers and demonstrate their essential contribution to realize ambitious policy goals. As an example, industry innovators may further support the transition to cleaner mobility. The industry already provides a range of solutions that make transport more energy efficient. The future of mobility, with fleets of autonomous and/or electric vehicles, may require a new spectrum of materials and chemicals to make everything from batteries to simplified powertrains and customizable interiors. The contribution of the sector to the development of advanced biofuels, green hydrogen, sustainable battery materials or recycling technologies will be crucial to enabling this transition.

“3.Stimulate a new wave of innovation through a collaborative ecosystem. By engaging with value chain partners, governments and start-ups, the chemical industry can build an ecosystem that drives the next wave of innovation. To make this happen, chemical leaders can partner with start-ups to tap into new sources of (digital) innovation. For example, in the recycling space alone, there are hundreds of relevant start-ups across the world that are working with new technologies – but these cannot scale without additional funding.The time is ripe for a new wave of corporate and public venturing to accelerate the process of bringing these technologies to the market.

“Build back better
The chemical industry has navigated crises before through diligent fixed-cost restructuring, level-headed portfolio management, and applying a ‘lean lens’ to its processes. Now there is an opportunity to show how people and planet are the real drivers for business. By capitalizing on cross-sector innovation and collaboration, the chemical industry can not only build back better, but also secure its role in the post-COVID era with its improved products, services and technologies.”

Please click here if you would like to read the full summary.