The UK chemical industry has received a barrage of warnings about sustainability from leading members of its community.

The UK chemical industry has received a barrage of warnings about sustainability from leading members of its community. 

The chemical industry is absolutely essential for the future of a sustainable society, said Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission, speaking at a conference on sustainable development organised by the UK’s Chemical Industries Association (CIA). Without it the prospect of sustainably meeting the needs of the world’s population is zero he said. He added that a number of companies within the industry are ambivalent to sustainable development, and there are ’profound reservoirs of angst and disempowered cynicism’ in the industry.


Jonathon Porritt said the chemical industry is crucial to sustainability

The Chemistry Leadership Council (CLC), of which Porritt is a member, recently published its vision for the sustainable production and use of chemicals. CLC chairman Barry Stickings echoed Porritt’s sentiment by saying that the industry contained a number of laggards who think legislation about sustainable development should be fought at every turn. Angst about sustainability needs to be converted to optimism, he said. ’Those companies who take up this challenge will be more profitable in the long term,’ said Stickings.

CIA president Judith Hackitt told Chemistry World  she would like to eject from the association companies wilfully not complying with sustainable development guidelines. 

Speaking at the conference, Hackitt said leadership from the UK on sustainability can lead to global changes in the industry, but the pace of change has to increase. If companies are not prepared to give their young employees time to develop sustainable processes, those employees will leave the industry, warned Hackitt. She accused the industry of sapping young people’s enthusiasm.

To help companies become sustainable the CLC has produced a sustainability matrix, including long term sustainability objectives, interim measures and business cases that can be applied to maximise the use of resources. Katharine Sanderson