US Chemours sets targets in drive for sustainability

Author: Al Greenwood

2019/09/30

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US-based Chemours is adopting ambitious goals to achieve its sustainability goals, something it says is necessary if the company wants to convince the public that it is taking the issue seriously, the company's CEO said.

Chemours included these as part of its larger corporate responsibility commitment goals that it announced last year. On Monday, it issued a follow-up report on those goals. It lists 10 corporate-responsibility goals, and Chemours plans to achieve them by 2030.

Sustainability is not just important for Chemours but for the chemical industry as a whole.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is putting together a set of sustainability objectives for all of its members, said Mark Vergnano, CEO. He made his comments during an interview with ICIS. "I'm not sure 10 years ago, you could get that uniformity of thought with that many different companies inside of a trade organisation."

Several companies with valuable brands are facing pressure from their consumers to be more sustainable. Those companies are responding by adopting their own sustainability goals and by imposing standards on their chemical suppliers.

If a chemical producer can't meet those standards, then the customer will find another supplier.

On top of that, governments and regulators are imposing their own restrictions, whether it concerns plastic bags or firefighting foams.

Overall, chemical companies are facing increasing demands from customers, from consumers and from government.

"Demands are increasing across the board for all of us," Vergnano said. "As people demand more, our job is to deliver more."

For Chemours and the chemical industry, persuading the public that it is truly committed to sustainability will be a challenge.

For years, chemical companies - including Chemours - have faced lawsuits over allegations of pollution.

To demonstrate that Chemours is serious about its sustainability and corporate-responsibility goals, the company set ambitious targets, Vergnano said. It is holding itself accountable by being as transparent as possible.

"The only way you can do that is to come out with bold goals like we did and be very transparent about it," Vergnano said. "Today's report really is about we're going to be transparent every year to let you see how we are making progress on those. It's really about doing the right thing. It's about doing hard things."

One point left unsaid is for chemical companies to explain how their existing products make sustainability possible.

For producers of polyethylene (PE), that involves explaining the connection between plastic packaging and preventing food waste.

For isocyanates, that involves polyurethane insulation and energy efficiency.

For Chemours, that includes its Nafion membranes, which are used to make fuel cells. Its Opteon hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) are being used to make refrigerants and blowing agents that are much weaker greenhouse gases than earlier materials.

The following shows Chemours's 10 corporate responsibility goals.

- Reduce greenhouse gas emission intensity by 60%.

- Reduce air and water process-emissions of fluorinated organic chemicals by 99% or greater.

- Reduce landfill volume intensity by 70%.

- Improve employee, contractor, process and distribution safety performance by at least 75%.

- Invest to advance STEM education, improve the environment and make work and home safer in Chemours's communities.

- Globally, fill 50% of company positions with women.

- Within the US, achieve 20% ethnic diversity in Chemours's workforce.

- Generate 50% of revenue from solutions that contribute to the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

- Show a 15% improvement in the sustainability performance of 80% of suppliers by spend.

- By 2030, progress Chemours's plan to become carbon positive by 2050.

Interview article by Al Greenwood