A 2013 survey by the American Chemistry Society showed that more than half of its members believed the returns on investment in green chemistry R&D are higher than for standard investments. In another study conducted in 2014, 62 percent of chemical manufacturers said that their customers are interested in sustainable chemicals.
The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3) engaged Trucost to assess the potential business and economic value of “safer chemistry.” Safer chemistry would include reducing the use and generation of hazardous substances, cutting down health and environmental impacts ofproducts and processes, and developing safer products.
The evaluation by Trucost showed that market growth, capital flows and market demand have shown upward trajectories over the past five years in sustainable chemical products. Large chemical producers such as Dow Chemicals, DuPont and SigmaAldrich have experienced higher sales growth of ‘green chemistry’ product portfolios, as compared to sales of conventional chemistry.
Smaller companies, which differentiate themselves primarily on the basis of safer chemistry, have demonstrated continued growth. Trucost research also found examples of significant business risks posed by traditional chemistry that could be alleviated with safer chemistry. Strengthening regulations, investor concerns, loss of access to certain markets, and chemical mismanagement put sizable value at risk.
Kaiser Permanente is a good example of company that has focused on sustainable chemistry in its products. Since 2010, the company has required its medical product vendors to complete a Supplier Sustainability Scorecard about ingredients, internal chemical policies and social and environmental practices. The company seeks to phase out carcinogens, mutagens,reproductivetoxins and persistent bio-accumulative toxins. KP also committed in 2014 to spending its annual $30 million furniture budget on upholstered items that do not contain toxic flame retardants.
Adrian Horotan of Elm Street Ventures pointed out that while the demand for greener chemistry exists, on the supply side there is a lack of success stories and narratives. The industry needs to draw attention to its successes.