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Quotations to use on your network, May 2017

Pierre Barthélemy, member of the ISC3 Advisory Council

1. Why did you engage in the ISC3 Advisory Council?

The concept of sustainable chemistry is an evidence for me, both on account of my career in the chemical industry and on a more personal level. I am proud to be a chemist and to be part of an industry that enables so many value chains and virtually all products around us.  Sustainability must be seen from (at least) two different angles.  We have to keep on making sure that chemical products and materials are manufactured, stored, distributed and used in a safe way for people and for the environment; and we have to make sure that, especially through innovation, the chemical industry keeps on providing the essential products, materials and services for society to develop solutions to all the challenges it faces. 

Mostly all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the UN require solutions from the chemical industry as highlighted on the Cefic website (

The SusChem ETP (European Technology Platform) that started more than 10 years ago is another tangible example of the commitment of the European chemical industry to sustainability.

2. How industry will take advantage from sustainable chemistry approaches?

There is no disconnect between sustainable chemistry and business.  I wish that the strong efforts, concrete contributions and clear improvements made by the European industry in the past decades were better recognized beyond the boundaries of the chemical industry.  The track record is impressive, such as regarding GHG emissions, waste water, energy intensity, just to name but a few.  

Sustainability is very high on the agenda of the chemical industry and most of the large chemical companies include sustainability of their operations and products in their portfolio management systems.

There are opportunities for industry because of the essential role that chemistry plays in developing better solutions and in addressing societal challenges.

Nevertheless, also from a business standpoint, sustainability is part of the global landscape.   Europe likes to take the lead in term of sustainable goals but we cannot forget that we need to maintain our global competitiveness.  The rise of Asia as a key actor on the global scene, the advantageous position recently developed by the US industry thanks to cheap energy (“shale gas revolution”) are key factors to be taken into account.  Hence, dialogue between policy makers and industry is essential to move forward.

3. What about the economic opportunities of business models based on sustainable chemistry?

There already numerous examples of new business models that support sustainability.  I am convinced that more practical examples will be developed in the future. Sustainable chemistry is not a new concept but it will grow even more provided that there is a business case.   The challenge is to understand how we can develop new models that are compatible with modern societies and better standard of living, taking into account the 3 fundamental dimensions of sustainability: the people, the environment and the economy.   Failing to address the three dimensions in a balanced way would hamper the development of more sustainable societies.   There are opportunities with low carbon technologies, with circular economy, with higher resource efficiency, with renewable energies.   As an example, Cefic has recently supported a study by Accenture that aimed at analysing the opportunities offered by circular economy for the European chemical industry.

Pierre Barthélemy, member of the ISC3 Advisory Council
Pierre Barthélemy, member of the ISC3 Advisory Council

ISCnet – International Sustainable Chemistry Network