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71% of Chemicals Industry ‘Has Sustainability Plan’

Some 71 percent of the over 700 chemicals companies surveyed in a study by Genomatica now have sustainability plans in place.

Furthermore, 44 percent said it was “very important” that they are front-runners in sustainable chemicals and 72 percent of producers said their customers have expressed interest in sustainable chemicals, according to the study, which was conducted with petrochemical market information provider ICIS.

Both producers and users are incorporating sustainability in their current practices and renewable materials have become increasingly important, according to Genomatica.

One of the most important factors for users is minimal impact on product performance or characteristics; similarly, for producers it is minimal impact on downstream products and customers, Genomatica says. Most companies reported that they are taking a pragmatic approach and looking for “drop-in or near-drop-in” bio-based alternatives to petroleum products in an attempt to minimize development time and costs associated with reformulation and re-equipping production facilities.

This attitude shows a marked change from previous years, when survey respondents largely viewed increasing sustainability more as a cost than a benefit. According to Genomatica, a majority of companies in the chemical industry have now incorporated sustainability into business practices and are looking to it as a way not only to reduce environmental impact but also to lower costs and meet customer requirements.

In June 2011, Genomatica won an EPA Greener Synthetic Pathways award for developing a microbe that uses sugar fermentation to make 1,4-Butanediol, a high-volume chemical building block used to make many common polymers, such as Spandex. When produced at commercial scale, Genomatica’s Bio-BDO is less expensive, requires about 60 percent less energy, and produces 70 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than BDO made from natural gas, the EPA says.

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