How To Combat The Chemical Industry’s Bad Rap

April 19, 2017

Our 2017 salary and job satisfaction survey covers myriad topics including salary, hours worked, bonuses and the public’s perception of the work that chemical engineers do.

The survey revealed that more than 45% of respondents say they are bothered by the public’s view of their industry. According to the article that accompanies all the data, “Several incidents and media reports around the globe may play a factor in this 6% increase over last year when less were concerned.”

Respondents even relayed their observations about the public’s perception of the industry. Here are a few more telling tales:

“The public perceive chemical manufacturing and chemicals as ‘bad’ or ‘toxic’ often based on media and celebrity false statements. They fail to recognize their contribution to the very issues raised by the role chemicals have in all their daily activities, clothing, and even the video/internet production.”

“Mostly people don’t really understand what chemical engineers do and how much the chemical industry makes their lives better. They just succumb to pressure from misinformed special interest groups.”

There are oodles of other comments detailing that the public is either misinformed or in cases spot-on about the bad rap of the chemical industry. The survey didn’t want to just query folks about perception, it also asked what can be done to improve the reputation. Many respondents pointed to a simple answer: education.

“Further education in school, understanding of chemistry — people need to understand chemistry is all around us, not just in beakers.”

Others noted the industry itself needs to play a more active role through marketing efforts, such as increasing exposure to how the industry benefits everyone using social media, TV spots, documentaries; …. to addressing community concerns, such as increasing transparency, showcasing safety metrics, developing relationships to providing facts that are easy for non-industry people to relate and understand.

I did a quick search on YouTube to find videos that show how the chemical industry benefits society. One of the more succinct clips comes from the PBS Studios: 6 Chemical Reactions That Changed History.

What are the six reactions: Maillard Reaction, bronze, fermentation, saponification, silicon and the Haber-Bosch process. Check out the short video – or show it to your friends who aren’t in the business to prove the chemical industry is more good than bad.

And if you haven’t read the results from the salary survey, you can download it now.

Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor. She benefits daily from five of the six chemical reactions that changed history. You can email her at [email protected].