Experts Sound Off On The Future of Sustainable Chemistry

Reading like a who's who of the chemical industry, experts from around the world assembled for The Future of Sustainable Chemistry online conference held on Aug. 16.

The event touted 30 speakers in 60 minutes and host Nancy Jackson, 2011 American Chemical Society president, noted that chemistry is finding itself on the verge of a new era. "In 2011, chemistry must assume a much more profound and crucial position than before. To meet these challenges, we must endeavor to reinvent chemistry."

Sponsored by the Dow Chemical Co., the event reached out to these experts via Skype, therefore the video quality isn't consistent throughout. Jackson encourages us to not mind the video quality but pay close attention to the messages.

The first message is appropriately a look back. Bill Carroll, vice president of Occidental Chemical Corp., notes that 50 years ago big industry had a good reputation. The public equated industry with prosperity and with prosperity came pollution, but that was OK.

But pollution wasn't tolerated for long and soon folks were taught to fear chemicals. The goal now is to regain the positive reputation. According to Carroll, "To represent ourselves as chemistry providers and not an industry creating chemicals."

Further into the presentation, David Cook, executive ambassador of The Natural Step – an international NGO aimed at sustainability, addresses the barriers to sustainable solutions. Not only can I relate to his message -- coming up with a globally acceptable list of chemicals and substances produced by the industry that are known to be harmful and then work to eliminate them -- I can also relate to his dog barking in the background. No worries, David – what you said was spot on and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who has to keep dog treats nearby in case the canines get crazy.

The Future of Sustainable Chemistry is the third virtual conference in The Future We Create series. The first and second virtual conferences, The Future of Women in Chemistry and Science and The Future of Water took place earlier in the year as part of Dow’s efforts to help encourage interest in chemistry among young people.

Check out the The Future of Sustainable Chemistry by visiting

Traci Purdum
Senior Digital Editor