Ethical Performance
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Chemicals sector criticised for making little progress

January 2010

Sustainability performance is ‘at a standstill’ in the chemicals industry despite technological advances, says an investment research provider.

In a sectoral analysis assessing 24 of the world’s largest chemicals companies, the German ratings agency oekom concludes that the industry has made ‘scarcely any progress’ on sustainable business practices during the past four years.  

Only three of the companies analysed met oekom’s minimum requirements for the sector and were awarded the ‘prime’, best-in-class status. The average industry rating, on a scale from A plus (top score) to D minus, was a C, far below that of many other sectors.

The oekom analysis emphasizes the industry’s failure to tackle issues such as transparency about toxicity and the use of renewable raw materials, despite technological developments that could easily aid sustainability in these areas.

Oliver Rudel, oekom’s research director, said: ‘Chemical corporations are still hesitant in their approach to the social and environmental challenges we face. Problematic substances are still replaced by more environmentally friendly substitutes too seldom and too slowly [and] very few companies can point to comprehensive guidelines and measures aimed at the sustainable cultivation of renewable raw materials.

‘While a number of companies are doing well on climate protection, much still needs to be done in terms of product and chemical safety.’

A previous oekem analysis of the chemicals sector, published in 2005, had similarly criticized the industry for a ‘lack of transparency’ and failure to manage environmental risk responsibly (EP7, issue 6, p7).

The best overall rating went to the German BASF company with a score of B minus, followed by the gas companies Praxair (US) and Linde Group (Germany).

oekom | Global | Benchmarking

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