Sustainability Innovation

AIChE Sustainability Index

Sustainability innovation considers:

  • General R&D Commitment — corporate commitment to research and development, as evident in the amount of R&D expenditure per net sales
  • Sustainable Products and Processes — development of products and processes with superior environmental, social and economic performance
  • Sustainability Approaches in R&D — use of sustainability considerations and decision-support tools in R&D and innovation processes
  • R&D Effectiveness — results of the R&D investment, as reflected in the number of patents issued and commercialization of new products that enhance environmental and social sustainability.

The wide ranges of the innovation sub-scores reflect the diversity of the chemical industry — from those applying established technologies for the efficient production of commodity materials to those relying on innovative products. Companies engaged in developing sustainable products and processes have largely focused on environmental performance over a product’s lifecycle, especially in terms of the environmental impacts of customer use of the product. Reducing greenhouse gases and improving energy efficiency are the main drivers. A few firms are also engaged in improving customers safety and developing innovations around critical social needs, such affordable healthcare and clean water for the developing world.

Furthermore, several companies have also integrated the use of sustainability approaches into their operations. This includes tools such as sustainability decision checklists, lifecycle
assessment, total cost assessment, and others. These tools, however, are not yet widely used; although most of the major chemical companies evaluated have experience with them, only three of the 11 have integrated them into their formal R&D and design processes.
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