Dean Rohrer

Sustainable Consumption Through Better Chemistry

Many in the chemical industry are already making the switch from fossil feedstocks – oil, gas, and goal – to renewable resources whenever and wherever it makes sense. But it does not always make sense, and there are other ways in which the industry can protect the environment.

LUDWIGSHAFEN, GERMANY – The chemical industry is committed to sustainable consumption. But does this mean that it should switch completely from fossil feedstocks – oil, gas, and coal – to renewable resources, as environmentalists often demand? In fact, the industry is already making this switch – whenever and wherever it makes sense. But it does not always make sense, and there are various ways in which the industry can protect the environment.

Renewable raw materials account for around 4% of BASF’s total feedstock. In certain businesses, such as care chemicals (used for personal hygiene and home care and so forth), the figure can be much higher, depending on the market and the level of demand. But, even if the share of renewables were suddenly and dramatically increased, this would not necessarily produce the desired outcomes, because being “bio-based” is not intrinsically sustainable, and sustainable consumption does not involve only replacing fossil with renewable feedstock.

Despite claims to the contrary, renewable feedstock is finite, too, and its production is often associated with challenges such as deforestation, changing land use, and marginalization of food production. In short, we are a long way from having a clear picture of these complex interactions.

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