Eric Johnson
2012 | 173pp | £90 (HB)
ISBN 9789400738331

If you pick up this book expecting to learn about the chemical industry’s role in taking us forward to a more sustainable future then you will be disappointed. This book is instead a study of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) approaches used by the world’s largest chemical companies (29 of them). The book starts with the premise that sustainability is about public relations and goes on to examine the reasons behind the chemical industry’s adoption of CSR.

Some excellent points are made, such as employees being a fertile area for the dissemination of messages on a company’s environmental performance and are possibly the most important stakeholders for a business. However the book has many shortcomings. If the book is intended as an opinionated review of the industry’s CSR approaches it is already dated, which is not surprising given the pace of change on this topic. The criticisms of past performance of the industry are fair, but the arguments become repetitive due to the limited number of case studies. The analysis of company policy is not in depth either. For example, to claim Ineos has no interest in sustainability will come as a surprise to their sustainability manager, and participation in the Vinyl 2010 scheme is overlooked for Ineos but noted for Solvay. I could find no reference to green chemistry and no occurrence of the word innovation. The book also lacks an index, explanations of numerous acronyms and is short on references.

It is hard to see who this book is aimed at; industry professionals will find it dated and students uninspiring. Managing the major sustainability challenges facing the Earth such as providing water, food, shelter, health and energy for the global population while reducing our impact on the planet can only be achieved through chemistry. Sustainability is a direction of travel and the next generation of chemists will think more deeply on this topic than this text does. The book concludes by stating sustainability is a poor word for the main topic of this book. I quite agree.

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