World Earth Day 2021 is a global event for businesses, corporations, and individuals to demonstrate their support for environmental protection. Now in its 51st year, the intentions behind the event, namely the need for proactive stewardship of our planet, have never been more important. April 22nd marks the ideal time for all industries, including fine chemical manufacturers, to look at their current environmental obligations and to invest in a more sustainable future.
Earth Day: A History Based on Activism
The 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill in the U.S. gave rise to environmental activism, the first Environmental Rights Day, endorsement by universities, governments, unions, and the United Nations, culminating in the founding of Earth Day by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an annual teach-in event to support environmental protections worldwide.
Annual themes grew over the years, encompassing air and water pollution, climate change and civil rights issues. The theme of Earth Day 2021 is Restore Our Earth, with multiple tracks addressing forestation, food, climate literacy, and volunteerism.
What Environmental Obligations Do Fine Chemical Manufacturers Have?
Specialty and fine chemical manufacturing contribute products and services toward a better quality of life. Customers in the agrochemical, healthcare, electronics, and other sectors requiring complex chemical synthesis turn to custom chemical manufacturers for sourcing of advanced intermediates and active ingredients. By leveraging innovative and greener technologies, this corner of the industry has made important progress towards sustainable production processes with reduced CO2 emissions, greater use of circular economy, and transparent communications to all stakeholders.
However, while significant strides have been made in critical fine chemistry and special chemistry processes, it is critical that the industry continues to focus on setting and realizing sustainability goals, with environmental stewardship at the forefront of all decision-making processes.
Sustainability Starts with Safety
Safety is of primary concern throughout the fine chemical industry. Besides employees and local communities as direct stakeholders, safety is also critical to the environment at large. Buyers should do their part to ensure that suppliers have robust safety plans, measured via ISO and Responsible Care certifications or site audits and scorecards.
Transparency and Commitment
The fine chemical industry has a duty to communicate transparently on the themes highlighted by Earth Day. Annual sustainability reports are an effective way to publicly establish benchmarks, set metrics and define pathways toward future goals, particularly in accordance with the UN Global Compact and UN Sustainable Development Goals. Currently 13,043 companies in various industries (including the fine chemical industry) from 160 countries support the UN Global Compact. By being open about their commitment and status, fine chemical manufacturers can better implement best manufacturing practices.
Fine chemical suppliers have a continuing obligation to lay out clear goals for emissions including CO2 and waste reduction. These may include renewable energy initiatives, greater energy efficiencies from assets, and the selection of new projects based on emissions criteria. There is no one-size-fits-all plan, but the important thing is that fine chemical companies live by circular economy programs.
True sustainability requires partnership up and down the supply chain. Customers should understand where their product comes from, how to select vendors that share their values, and what are the best ways to reduce waste and realize common goals. Free markets are driven by choice, so partnerships and alignment between customers and suppliers will have a tremendous impact on the success of global sustainability goals.
Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves how lucky we are to live on this beautiful and wonderful planet. As businesses, that opportunity should give us the chance to develop actionable plans that preserve that beauty and wonder for years to come.