Creating chemistry for a sustainable future

We live at the time of big changes. Unprecedented socio-economic and environmental concerns as well as hardly predictable political developments create great challenges for both European leaders and economic actors. And going forward, the chemical industry will be one of the sectors to play a pivotal role in tackling those challenges.

Not only this industry significantly contributes to the economy (ed. the European chemical industry directly and indirectly contributes to around 20% to the EU’s annual GDP), but it provides some of the most innovative and sustainable solutions to turn challenges into opportunities. It is in such context that, on 16 March 2015, the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem) presented its new Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda.

SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda 2015

The new SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda introduces an action plan addressing the most staggering societal issues in Europe. The agenda highlights five key areas – climate action, food security, energy efficiency, citizens’ wellbeing and greener transport – as described in Horizon 2020. In presenting the project, the Chairman of the SusChem Board, Dr Klaus Sommer, said: “the new strategic document highlights the role of the chemical industry in boosting innovation in Europe and the potential for sustainable chemistry technologies to tackle societal challenges, as outlined in Horizon 2020.”

As its first point, the Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda highlights the important role that the chemical industry plays in redefining European climate policies, with a particular focus on resource efficiency and preservation of natural resources.

High importance is also given on the chemical industry’s capability, through its value chain, to achieve sustainable food security and waste management, introduce efficient energy use and bring innovation in healthcare and transport sectors.

ISOPA supports SusChem’s position

Through the Polyurethanes campaign, ISOPA has been engaging with public, industry stakeholders and policy makers on the benefits of the polyurethanes industry for Europeans, the environment and the economy. It is only through combined efforts of policy makers, civil society and industry that the Horizon 2020 targets (and beyond) can be achieved.

It has been over 5 years that ISOPA has been looking ahead and organising activities, such as dinner debates gathering representatives of the European institutions, industry and civil society on a number of key concerns for Europe. Our projects, in line with SusChem’s Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda, aim to discuss innovative strategies and present solutions to key societal challenges.

For example, following the end of the European Year against food waste ISOPA organised a dinner debate on the issue to assess how commitments made in 2014 could be carried over in the year to come. The dinner debate brought together stakeholders from the European Commission, European Parliament, NGOs and industry and was an opportunity for ISOPA to highlight that innovative materials such as polyurethanes could play a role in tackling EU priority issues.

ISOPA’s next step is to attend the UTECH Europe 2015 exhibition on 14-16 April 2015. In Maastricht ISOPA will interact with industry stakeholders to reinforce the message that a strong and proactive industry could benefit far more than itself. It could be a valuable ally to policy makers in addressing key environmental and socio-economic issues.

Polyurethanes: the best example of sustainable chemistry

According to Eurostat, households accounted for 19% of the overall greenhouse gas emissions in Europe in 2012. Nonetheless with every problem comes a solution! In 2013, ISOPA spearheaded and manufactured the ‘Passive House’ project to demonstrate in action both to regulators and the general public the positive environmental and socio-economic impacts of innovative materials manufactured from diisocyanates and polyols.

The ‘Passive House’ which was built using innovative polyurethane applications, requires reduced resources for its heating and cooling thus contributing to reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Not to mention that the polyurethane industry across its value chain leads by example and showcases the benefits of sustainable waste management. In fact, more than 250,000 tonnes of polyurethane are recycled and recovered every year, and the number is increasing!

Where are we heading?

So what’s at stake going forward? Our environment, our economy and our well-being. This is why ISOPA invites everybody, from the public to policy makers to have a look at the new SusChem agenda and acknowledge the chemical industry’s important role in creating a sustainable future for Europe.

For more information on the ISOPA’s activities or any other questions on polyurethane’s contribution to sustainable chemistry do not hesitate to engage with us on Twitter and read our blog posts!

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