To nab new customers, green chemistry needs to build better 'mousetraps,' experts say
WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 — Manufacturers and entrepreneurs who have successfully incorporated green chemistry into their businesses have a cautionary message for those thinking about following in their footsteps: Being green just isn’t good enough anymore.
“Green chemistry is green business,” says Lynn Leger, director of ALCERECO, a company that is developing advanced materials for the aerospace and electronics industries. “If a product doesn’t meet the customer’s needs successfully at a fair price, it doesn’t matter that it’s green. Ultimately, green products are successful because they are better products for the customers, and customers want to buy them.”
Leger was one of more than a half-dozen business leaders who spoke today at a symposium on catalyzing the adoption of green chemistry in industry at the 17th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Bethesda, Md. The conference, which regularly attracts scientific leaders from around the world, is sponsored by the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute®.
“Chemistry isn’t green unless it can be successfully implemented and benefit society,” Leger says. “We need to understand how to successfully get the best green chemistry research and development out of the labs and into commercial application.”
The speakers at today’s session offered hope that those goals can be met and also yield profitable results.
Pam Spencer, a product sustainability consulting leader at Dow Chemical, notes that her company has developed heat-transfer fluids that help collect and transport solar energy to power-generating stations. Energy produced by 12 of these plants is enough to power 400,000 homes. In addition, these plants prevent nearly 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
“Coupling a culture of sustainability with our strength as a science and technology leader is enabling Dow to deliver innovative solutions to our customers that contribute to a safer, healthier, cleaner and more sustainable planet,” Spencer says.
In addition to price and performance, Tim Cusack, president of Danian Technology Solutions in Stillwater, Minn., says that new green chemistry products need to be convenient to use and must establish credibility with consumers. To do that, he urges small green chemistry start-ups to seek partnerships with more established brands.
“Companies that have brands and have access to the market channels should be the targets for these smaller companies,” Cusack says. “The thought that they’re going to be able to get out there and do it on their own is a bit of a reach.”
Still, Cusack believes there is a great potential for emerging green chemistry products.
“If green chemistry companies can address the challenges facing them and provide products that consumers want with an appropriate performance at an appropriate price, then there are opportunities,” Cusack says. “There is a market out there.
The ACS Green Chemistry Institute® is an organization focused on catalyzing and enabling the implementation of green chemistry and engineering throughout the global chemical enterprise. ACS GCI operates industrial roundtables; conducts conferences, seminars and training; maintains an international network of 26 green chemistry chapters; and with its partner NSF International, led the effort to establish the first consensus standard for greener chemical products and process information in the United States.
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.