The Chemical Industry in Europe: Towards Sustainability

The European chemical industry is determined to play a key role in ensuring that by 2050 over 9 billion people live well, within the resources of the planet, according to Cefic’s first-ever sustainability report released on May 8, 2012.

The report presents a vision for how the chemical industry will help meet future challenges and was unveiled at a special event at the European Parliament in Brussels hosted by European members of parliament Karl-Heinz Florenz and Vittorio Prodi. It also provides 17 key performance indicators that serve as a benchmark of industry sustainability efforts to date that the sector plans to measure itself against in future. The 70-page document details all three “pillars” of sustainability – planet, people and profit. It serves as a starting point in developing a sustainability framework for the European chemical industry, a project the Cefic board tasked its Sustainability Strategy Group to put forward this year.

This Cefic sustainability report is a first step towards achieving the vision approved at the highest level of the European chemical industry.

It has come about through the recognition that we have not only the capability but also the responsibility to address societal challenges of sustainability such as energy, water, raw materials or, more broadly, resource efficiency.

The report is also a significant step in strengthening the dialogue with key stakeholders and meeting their expectations. It aims to provide solid data on the European chemical industry’s performance to date – hence a benchmark against which it will measure itself in future – and an overview of its contributions to sustainability.

The report thus covers

– A review of the European chemical industry’s performance over time against standard Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), under the three traditional pillars of economic development, social development and environmental protection:

  • PLANET from emission reductions and waste management through to energy efficiency
  • PEOPLE from employee safety through to employment and labour productivity
  • PROFIT from added value and trade competitiveness through to R&D spending and investment

These KPIs are a powerful tool to help the industry identify opportunities for improvement.

– The importance of legislation and of industry voluntary efforts

– Examples of innovative and leading-edge products and initiatives from companies and sectors in the areas of energy and climate change mitigation, food and water, mobility and housing.

– The role of innovation in addressing the challenges and opportunities of the future

There is no doubt that sustainability is not an option but an absolute necessity, not only for the European chemical industry, but for all businesses and society as a whole. It is hoped that this report will stimulate a genuine dialogue on what can be achieved if we leverage joint strengths in industry, academia, government and society at large. More than ever before, success depends on a new spirit of cooperation and a set of shared objectives and values.

The full report can be accessed here.

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