An Investor Forum, which took place on the sidelines of the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5), sought to promote sustainable chemistry through sustainable investment and support. Other side events focused on recent research on chemicals with significant health, economic, and environmental impacts, and on the chemical industry’s role in managing chemicals and waste.

The International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3) fifth Investor Forum invited 18 startup companies from around the world to showcase their innovative work contributing to sustainability and a circular economy and to link with potential investors. During the event, Thomas Wanner, ISC3, Germany, highlighted ISC3’s Global Start-up Service to support young companies. 

Startup companies pitched their products, focusing on: their vision, operations, and products; market structure and competition; technology roadmap; contribution to sustainability and the SDGs; market dynamics and competition; and required seed capital. 

A panel discussion themed, ‘Creating an International Ecosystem for Sustainable Chemistry Innovations – Promoting Sustainable Investments and Support Frameworks,’ discussed how the road to innovation can be sustainable. Panelists highlighted, among other issues:

  • lack of the necessary infrastructure in many developing countries to support startups, especially in the chemicals sector;
  • efforts to incorporate physical and transitional risk, and the need to incentivize industries to make the necessary transition;
  • the imminence of a sustainable revolution, which will make sustainable investments the most profitable ones; and
  • the importance of instilling sustainability into companies’ DNA, including everyday activities, incentives to employees, and protocols with customers.

During the Innovation Challenge Final, which had ‘Sustainable Chemistry and Agriculture’ as its 2023 theme, five sustainability principles for food and agriculture were highlighted: increased productivity and enhanced quality; protection of natural resources; improved livelihoods fostering inclusive economic growth; increased resilience of communities and ecosystems; and adaptive governance to new challenges. Out of 182 applications, 113 fulfilled the criteria, and eight finalists were selected to pitch their products. ‘Sustainable Chemistry and Textiles’ will be the topic for the 2024 Innovation Challenge.

The World Bank sponsored an event on the theme, ‘Managing Chemicals and Pollution: The economic costs of failure, and what can be done about it? Panelists focused on recent research on lead, cadmium, asbestos, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), highlighting the need for more studies to further our collective understanding of the cost of chemical pollution, and findings from the World Bank’s ongoing research on the health and economic impacts of unsustainable chemicals management and solutions for previously unaccounted-for global annual mortality from lead, cadmium, and NO2. The also noted that:

  • blood lead levels are three times higher in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) than in high-income countries (HICs), affecting children’s cognitive ability and lifetime productivity;
  • over 20% of deaths worldwide are estimated to be from five environmental risk factors, causing 11.35 million deaths in LMICs in 2019;
  • all countries need to emplace systematic chemicals frameworks and legislation, highlighting the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) expansion into cost-benefit assessments to incentivize governmental action; and
  • while lead is responsible for 20% of the educational gap between low- and high-income countries, the international community only spends USD 10 million annually to address lead compared to billions spent on air quality. 

Another event focused on the theme, ‘The Beyond 2020 Instrument Post-ICCM5: An Ambitious Future for the Chemical Industry.’ Chemicals industry representatives shared their perspectives on chemicals management as well as their ambitions for 2030. The event acknowledged that with global production capacity of chemicals set to increase, pressure is on the industry to raise its standards.

Noting that the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) covers 90% of global chemicals sales, Chris Jahn, American Chemical Council (ACC), announced the ICCA’s new ambitions to, by 2030:

  • make all available data accessible concerning the safety and sustainability of their products;
  • assisting 30 countries in implementing effective chemicals management systems, via building a capacity-building hub and helping match those needing and those providing support; and
  • steer product portfolios and their processes towards sustainable solutions under the SDGs and regularly report on progress.

Inger Andersen, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, said the world is not doing enough to ensure a safe, healthy, and sustainable future so industry must make critical inputs and “will be held to a very high standard.” She called on industry to ultimately become a USD 10 trillion industry with no negative impacts, noting ICCA members have the financial power. Steffi Lemke, Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUV), Germany, noted the production capacity of the global chemical industry doubled between 2000-2017 and will double again by 2030, with rising global population and living standards.

Industry speakers:

  • reported that ICCA’s Responsible Care capacity-building support in many countries on managing risks and hazards led to its new proposal for a tangible in-depth capacity-building platform with a matchmaking function and the ability enable capacity building in small developing states;
  • described the ICCA’s transparency ambition as starting with the need for public, transparent data on product safety; and
  • questioned whether a decline in global population is better than striving for food preservation processes using continually improving chemicals production. 

ICCA organized the event.

The side events summarized in this story convened on 28 September 2023. In the morning of 29 September, at the invitation of Christiane Rohleder, State Secretary, German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection, high-level representatives from all stakeholder groups around the world gathered for a high-level breakfast to discuss the many linkages between chemicals and gender and how gender-smart solutions can support the sound management of chemicals and waste.