A study by the Swedish environmental group ChemSec finds that most of the world’s largest chemical companies are taking “little or no action” to reduce their production of hazardous chemicals that are persistent in the environment.
ChemSec ranked the 54 largest publicly listed chemical companies with a score of up to 48 based on their production of hazardous chemicals, development of safer alternatives, transparency, and controversies.
▸ 1. Indorama Ventures 30.0
▸ 2. Air Products 25.6
▸ 3. Johnson Matthey 24.4
▸ 4. Air Liquide 24.2
▸ 5. Yara International 23.1
▸ 50. Wanhua Chemical 6.7
▸ 51. PTT Global Chemical 6.1
▸ 52. Formosa Chemicals & Fibre 2.4
▸ 53. Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical 2.4
▸ 54. DuPont 0.0
Note: Based on 2021 revenue
ChemSec assessed 54 chemical producers making any one of 116 compounds, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and carbon tetrachloride. ChemSec gave the companies a ChemScore of up to 48 points based on their hazardous chemical portfolio (up to 18 points); their development of safer chemicals and circular products (up to 12 points); their chemical management and company transparency (up to 12 points); and their responses to controversies, lawsuits, and regulation (up to 6 points). It is the third year that ChemSec has published the study.
European chemical companies in general are improving and scored more highly than those in North America, where performance is “stagnating,” while most Asian firms are “falling behind,” ChemSec found. The best performer was Thailand’s Indorama Ventures, a producer of petrochemicals and plastics, including polyethylene terephthalate.
Scores for EcoLab and Lanxess improved because for the first time they are stating that they will not use substances of very high concern in any of their new products. “This is a really big milestone,” says Sonja Haider, senior business and investor advisor at ChemSec.
ChemSec rated DuPont as the worst performer. It got a score of 0, partly because, unlike the other 53 companies, DuPont does not publicly disclose its product portfolio. “This is a completely different direction to where we want to go. Society has a right to know,” Haider says.
DuPont rejects ChemSec’s rating. “Over the past few years, we have significantly repositioned and transformed our business portfolio,” the company tells C&EN in an email. “As a result, we do not believe the score assigned by ChemSec is an accurate representation of our business today.”
Science supports the need to phase out hazardous chemicals, ChemSec says, pointing to a study led by Linn Persson, an environmental chemist with the Stockholm Environment Institute (Environ. Sci. Technol 2022, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c04158), that identified hazardous, persistent chemicals as a threat to the integrity of the Earth. The study recommends urgent action to reduce the production of hazardous chemicals. ES&T is published by ACS, which also publishes C&EN.
Investors are also calling on chemical companies to stop manufacturing hazardous and persistent chemicals. In an open letter sent in September, a group of 47 investors with $8 trillion of assets under management or advice called on chemical companies to be more transparent, to publish a phase-out plan for persistent chemical production, and to work on improving their ChemScores.