Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Survey:
81% of Chemical Producers Now Aim to Be Frontrunner in Sustainability

Sustainable chemical technology company Genomatica has published the results of a major survey of sustainability issues in the mainstream chemical industry that shows the topic is now considered a high priority in the field, with Genomatica itself ranking alongside industry giants such as BASF and Dow that come to mind when respondents think of those leading the charge.

The survey was conducted together with ICIS, one of the world’s leading chemical and energy market information providers. The companies say they believe the new survey, the third in a series they have run since 2009, is the most extensive one to date of sustainability efforts in the chemical industry. The survey drew 958 responses worldwide, with 53 percent of respondents at the level of VP, general manager or above.

Prioritizing sustainability

“Chemical producers and distributors continue to strengthen their engagement with sustainability,” said John Baker, ICIS global editor and organizer of the survey. “The move is being driven by increasing demands from downstream users and final customers for more sustainable products."

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Overall sustainability findings include:

  • 69 percent say their company has a sustainability policy in place or are currently developing one.
  • 67 percent describe their company’s top business priority in sustainability as either promoting or marketing sustainable products, taking an active lead on sustainability issues, or engaging customers on a business level.
  • 81 percent of producers say it’s very or moderately important to be a frontrunner in sustainable chemicals.

On the specific topic of renewable feedstocks:

  • Amongst producers, 35 percent are investing in R&D in renewable feedstocks and 31 percent have a strategic commitment to their use
  • On economics, 43 percent of producers say there is long-term economic advantage to renewable feedstocks; and 51 percent say they should reduce exposure to the petroleum market.

And interest in and plans to offer more sustainable chemicals and products suggest the prioritization of responsibility throughout product value chains:

  • 72 percent of producers now offer more sustainable versions of chemicals or plan to offer them within two years, allowing chemical users more options when planning for sustainability.
  • Producers say that 80 percent of their customers are showing the same or higher interest in sustainable chemicals than just one year ago, with a sizable segment showing much greater interest. This signifies strong growth in customer demand and helps drive faster action by producers.
  • 75 percent of chemical users either offer products made with more sustainable chemicals or expect to do so within two years. They’re taking action to make products that they plan to differentiate based on sustainability, to meet growing demand.

Leading the charge

When survey respondents were asked what companies come to mind as ‘technology developers for sustainable chemicals,’ they unsurprisingly listed some of the industry’s leading firms, including BASF, Dow, DuPont and Bayer, in that order. Genomatica came in fifth, up from ninth in 2012.

Survey respondents also rated their overall impressions of numerous companies with regards to sustainability. The three companies viewed with the highest ‘very positive’ ratings were BASF, DuPont and Genomatica.

“This survey provides concrete, current data to confirm the transition toward greater sustainability in the mainstream chemical industry,” said Christophe Schilling, CEO of Genomatica. “We’re proud to support the industry by showing how and where biotechnology can be harnessed to develop new, better processes for the advantaged production of major chemicals using alternative feedstocks. And we’re delighted to see that our message and results are being noticed, as shown by how respondents include us with the leaders when thinking about technology for more sustainable chemicals.”

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