How 3 UK Chemicals Organisations are Accelerating Innovation in Green Chemistry
Heightened environmental concerns are reshaping consumer priorities and spurring on the growth of green chemistry in the UK. Between 2018-2021, 50% of specialty industrial and consumer chemicals manufacturers have seen a double-digit demand increase for green chemicals. While the concept of green chemistry, where chemical products and processes are designed with sustainability in mind, is far from new; 80% of chemical leaders today are placing as much emphasis on sustainability, environmental, social and governance actions as on revenue growth. To help guide the chemicals policies and regulations surrounding this growing field post-Brexit, upcoming Chemical Strategy plans from the government this year are set to pave the way forward for sustainability in the UK’s chemical industry. These plans will incentivise and promote green chemistry considerations across the scope of chemical production – making 2023 a pivotal year to work in green chemistry. In this article, I will highlight three UK chemicals organisations who are actively investing in green chemistry to power sustainability and preserve our planet’s future. Read on to learn more about: Three leading organisations pursuing green chemistry Skills for green chemistry career success How to accelerate your career in green chemistry Three leading organisations pursuing green chemistry Unilever With over 100 years in producing consumer goods, Unilever are established innovators in the chemicals industry. In 2022, Unilever was recognised by a number of professional bodies for its work in corporate sustainability leadership, mitigating climate risk, protecting forests, and enhancing water stewardship, among many other environmental, social and governance criteria. Their dedication to invest in green chemistry was hallmarked last year by their innovative foray into a new range of renewable and biodegradable surfactants to replace traditional carbon-intensive ingredients. In 2022, Unilever purchased a surfactant known as NextLab linear alkylbenzene, which is made using green carbon from biomass. This biodegradable and renewable surfactant will be used to create linear alkybenzene sulfonate (LAS) – the world’s largest-volume synthetic surfactant. As the first chemicals organisation to use this ingredient, Unilever pave the way forward in actively incorporating renewable and circular techniques into industrial practice. Johnson Matthey Johnson Matthey (JM) provides a range of renewable and sustainable products to replace fossil raw materials to the wider manufacturing industries. JM is well recognised for its work across environmental and social governance, and has received a Platinum rating from Ecovadis, placing the organisation in the top 1% of all companies assessed, and in the top 3% of chemicals companies by the global index provider FTSE4Good. JM’s commitment to green chemistry is reflected by their work with Pestorp Group to provide the ground-breaking initiative Project Air with the methanol license and engineering services. Project Air will substitute all the fossil methanol used by Perstorp in Europe to create chemical products using sustainable methanol. Alberto Giovanzana, Managing Director of Catalyst Technologies at Johnson Matthey reflected on the initiative in a press release: “The chemical industry has often depended on fossil-based raw materials to produce products. Moving away from fossil feedstock at the beginning of the value chain is crucial to reduce the overall carbon footprint of end products. “Project Air demonstrates how JM’s low carbon solutions technologies can create more sustainable chemicals on a large-scale, significantly reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing.” Croda Croda are committed to be the most sustainable supplier of innovative ingredients across life sciences and consumer care. Croda’s array of awards reflects its efforts to reach being climate, land and people positive by 2030. Croda’s pioneering work in developing 100% biologically-based and 100% renewable non-ionic surfactants highlights its position in the industry as proactive innovators. Croda’s sustainable surfactants were the product of the organisation’s significant investment in an ethylene oxide plant at Croda’s US, Atlas Point manufacturing site, which supports the reinvention of many of Croda’s active emulsifying agents to improve sustainability without sacrificing performance. Croda’s commitment to sustainable innovation is most recently reflected in their acquisition of Solus Biotech, a biotechnology-derived beauty active producer. This acquisition will enable Croda to access Solus’ naturally derived ceramide and phospholipid technologies alongside its emerging capabilities in natural retinol. Croda are set to attend the UK process and chemical industries expo this year, where they will be represented by Phil Ruxton. Ruxton’s presentation will delve into the intersection between biotechnology and chemistry and explore avenues towards more sustainable practice. He explains in his presentation’s summary, “conceptually biology has a lot of sustainable benefits to offerover chemistry, however biotechnology does not always and directly equate to a more sustainable end product. Our vision for the future is not one where synthetic biology has replaced synthetic chemistry, but where the right molecules, with the right performance and the right environmental and societal impacts are produced in the most efficient and effective way”. Skills for green chemistry career success 77% of chemicals professionals working in both academia and industry say that it is ‘very important’ to link sustainability to chemicals science education. However, over a quarter of chemicals professionals say the current chemicals curriculum is inadequate at supporting students establish careers in sustainability. This misalignment in education is fuelling a chemicals skills gap, that can be daunting to overcome when entering the field. In terms of green chemistry positions specifically, 68% of practising chemists say there is a significant skills gap. In this section, I will outline three key skills to focus on building to improve your success rate when looking for a job in green chemistry. Key skills for green chemistry careers: - Strong synthetic chemistry – Synthetic chemistry is the foundation behind greener chemical processes. - Knowledge of common raw materials – Research petrochemical derived raw materials and what the green alternatives are. - Process chemistry – Process chemistry is integral to working in green chemistry. Understanding how processes change across different scales is a vital skill that can be overlooked in some chemical degrees. How to accelerate your career in green chemistry SRG work alongside innovative chemicals organisations to place professionals throughout their career journeys into rewarding opportunities. We work with leading global organisations that are driving the future of sustainability and innovation in chemicals and can connect you with the opportunity you’re looking for in green chemistry. Click here to view our latest opportunities in chemistry About the author: Faye Allison is the Head of Sector for Chemicals Recruitment at SRG and runs a team who specialise in finding scientists, engineers and technical talent for the chemical and materials industries. Supporting start-ups and spin-outs, as well as SMEs and multinational business, Faye's team recruit across a huge range of technical roles and disciplines all across England Connect with Faye Allison on LinkedIn to learn more about our opportunities in the field.
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