What the Chemical Industry Can Do

The chemical industry has a unique role to play in the creation of cradle-to-cradle products and systems. To begin with, the chemical industry must understand the design ideals of and adopt a framework for designing sustainable technology. Cradle-to-cradle can offer a unifying vision, framework, and approach. Next, it is important to understand what the chemical industry's customers want, and why. Are clients specifying environmentally preferable materials? What is encouraging this? Some of the drivers for environmentally preferable products based on sustainable materials include:

• U.S. Green Building Council - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for:

• New construction,

• Existing buildings, and

• Commercial interiors.

• State and federal government (Executive Order 13101), environmentally preferable purchasing programs.

• Private industry with sustainability initiatives

An example of a company moving toward the use of environmentally preferable raw materials is SC Johnson, which has created a GreenList™ similar to the P-list approach described above, and is inviting raw material manufacturers to supply new green chemistries (http://www.greenbiz.com/news/news_third.cfm?NewsID = 26889). Criteria for green or positive ingredients are based on application and performance. The goal of the GreenList is to help SC Johnson continue its progress away from

"restricted use materials," toward ingredients that are "best in class" based on performance, human and environmental health concerns.

The chemical industry would offer a great service to clients such as SC Johnson by providing materials that meet positive design criteria and providing appropriate data to support the characterization and prioritization of material attributes. It would also help formulators and product manufacturers assure their customers that the products they are making meet environmentally preferable criteria identified by external markets.

Finally, according to Roger McFadden, vice president of Technical Services at Coastwide Laboratories.

Chemical manufacturers should recognize the opportunity that the sustainabililty movement is creating for innovation. The green movement is exciting in part because it is driving real product innovation and development of new raw materials for formulation after a long period of incremental change.

—Personal communication, 2004, Roger McFadden, vice president Technical Services, Coastwide Laboratories.

Figure 5.6. A value recovery hierarchy. (Source: GreenBlue, 2004).

While some may argue that there is no good time for innovation, others see the potential benefits and understand that sustainable product design is a driver for innovation and will profit those who engage in it. The cradle-to-cradle approach can be an especially potent catalyst for innovation because it offers both a practical structure for application, and a compelling and hopeful vision.

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