Group Issues Guide to Sustainability Metrics

Oct. 20, 2014
Document specifically targets life-cycle assessment of chemical products

In early October, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Geneva, published a guide to help chemical industry customers and other stakeholders compare on a common and sensible basis the environmental footprint of chemical products. WBCSD’s membership consists of around 200 global companies, including BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Eastman and Shell, with combined revenue exceeding $8.5 trillion and 19 million employees.

The guide, “Life Cycle Metrics for Chemical Products,” stems from the collaboration of chemical companies involved in the WBCSD’s “Reaching Full Potential Project” — AkzoNobel, BASF, DSM, Eastman, Evonik, Henkel, Mitsubishi Chemical, SABIC, SCG Chemicals and Solvay. It can be downloaded at The 120-page document is termed “a guideline by the chemical sector to assess and report on the environmental footprint of products, based on life cycle assessment.”

It details 13 categories of potential impacts to be considered when assessing a chemical’s environmental footprint. These include eight that must be covered, e.g., photochemical ozone formation, resource depletion, and human and eco-toxicity; three that should be, e.g., land use; and two that may be, e.g., water scarcity/availability. The guide also discusses data sources’ requirements and quality management; the main methodological choices including allocation rules for co-products; and key information to be provided when communicating the results of the evaluation. It includes numerous appendices, including one that offers a report template, and another that shows the decision tree on the impact categories to communicate and recommended assessment methods.

“Our industry is committed to addressing our environmental footprint and to combating climate change in order to create a more sustainable world. With this clear guide, which we have developed collectively, we are taking the next step,” notes Feike Sijbesma, CEO of DSM and co-chair of the Reaching Full Potential Project.

“This is an extremely valuable document that will enable us to provide credible information about how chemical value chains impact on and contribute to sustainability,” says Peter Nieuwenhuizen, director of innovation and partnerships at AkzoNobel.

“Developing a common guide for the environmental assessment of products is an important step forward in the continued progress of the chemical sector activities at the WBCSD,” adds Peter Bakker, the group’s president and CEO. “This will allow chemical sector companies to communicate with a common language to companies downstream, and help scaling up solutions to enable greater sustainability in value chains.”

Companies in the Reaching Full Potential Project currently are developing a guide for assessing the impact and benefits of chemical products from a social perspective. Work began early in 2014; the guide should be ready by late 2015.

The project already has published “Guidance for Accounting and Reporting Corporate GHG Emissions in the Chemical Sector Value Chain,” and “Addressing the Avoided Emissions Challenge.”

MARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can e-mail him at [email protected]