Green chemistry requires that the entire value chain be considered to ensure that the use and reclamation or disposal of chemicals is economically feasible, says multinational speciality chemicals producer Clariant South Africa head Nicol Meyer.
Clariant’s local clients are receptive to using more sustainable chemicals or solutions and processes that use less chemicals or are more environment friendly or sustainable, she highlights.
Economic viability entails that the products and processes that require chemicals must be considered and modelled to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the solution.
“Our laboratories take contributions from our clients and develop customised solutions to meet their product needs. This is crucial to sustain the use of alternative chemicals and solutions. Our research and development is at the core of our responsible chemicals strategy to ensure that we add value to the processes and practices of our clients.”
Clariant develops expert solutions for clients that, for example, increase their agricultural yields using fewer and less chemicals or modern cosmetics additives that preserve the products while reducing or eliminating their environmental impact.
“We have to demonstrate the value of our products to boost demand, and this is also partly a way of combating the less environmentally sustainable chemicals and, often, the cheaper chemicals being supplied to markets.”
Clariant produces speciality chemicals used in flocculation circuits in mines, agriculture and medicines; chemical catalysts to produce fuel; and cosmetics and plastics additives.
The company also reports on its environmental initiatives as an important part of its yearly results, and its yearly financial report takes the form of an integrated financial and sustainability report. It also adheres to international chemical industry Responsible Care practices, and measures its operations against the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices.
“While we can add expert insight into the effective, efficient and sustainable use and disposal of chemicals, it is our clients, and their customers, who use, or demand the use of, more sustainable chemicals and processes, and need to dispose of waste in a responsible manner,” emphasises Meyer.
The requirements of each factory, plant and process are different, albeit with some common elements for similar processes or products. However, to ensure sustainable improvement for an effective solution, the specifics of the process or use are necessary.
“Therefore, a tailored value proposition is crucial to compete against other chemicals suppliers, including those who do not adhere to sustainability criteria key to building momentum in a market to secure the quick wins, which will help to raise awareness of chemical use sustainability measures and drive broader adherence to best practices.”
Clariant also aims to leverage its best practices and client advice to sustain its presence in new markets, such as Africa, adds Meyer.
“We compete against chemicals suppliers who do not all [share] the same focus on sustainability, but our focus on the economic and environmental sustainability of our chemicals, services and products will help to ensure that we will be present in these markets as they grow. Clients become more conscious of the need to adhere to sustainable practices.”
Companies play a crucial role in providing information about the chemicals industry and chemicals handling and have recommended control measures for governments, but they will have a minimal impact if they do not engage the role-players to ensure that demand and practices are aligned with green chemistry practices, concludes Meyer.