What is Sustainable Chemistry?
Sustainable Chemistry is an essential part of sustainable development based on the application of ecological principles in chemical production and by shaping product design, manufacturing, consumption of resources, health and safety at work, economic success and technical innovation based on clear sustainability criteria – in industrialized nations as well as in emerging and developing countries.
Along that path the chemical industry plays a crucial role. On the one hand, it consumes vast quantities of raw materials and energy and is the cause of pollution with hazardous substances. That is why the sound management of chemicals and waste is crucial. On the other hand, today the chemical sector already plays an important role in solving key societal problems by using and developing innovative materials and products. This offers broad opportunities for economic progress especially in developing and emerging countries – whilst protecting health and the environment. Therefore, a sustainability-oriented chemical industry can make a major contribution to achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN.
Sustainable Chemistry focuses on:
- Quality: Use of non-hazardous substances or – in cases where this is not possible – of substances which are less hazardous for man and environment as well as resource-friendly manufacture of durable and recyclable products.
- Quantity: Reduction of consumption of resources; use as far as possible of renewable resources; avoidance of emissions or discharges of chemicals or hazardous substances into the environment or – where this is not possible – corresponding reduction; these measures additionally help to save costs.
- Life cycle assessment: Analysis of raw material extraction, manufacture, further processing, use and disposal of chemicals and products in order to lower resource and energy consumption and avoid hazardous substances.
- Action – not reaction: Avoid in advance that chemicals endanger the environment and human health during their life cycle and overburden the environment as source and sink; avoidance of damage costs and thus of economic risk for enterprises and clean-up costs for the state.
- Business innovation: Chemicals, products and manufacturing methods developed in line with the requirements of sustainability create trust amongst industrial users and private consumers and thus lever a competitive advantage.