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ChemSec hands out sustainability report cards to industry

Nonprofit wants to direct investors to firms making safer chemicals

by Craig Bettenhausen
June 18, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 24


It’s hard to find a chemical company that doesn’t at least talk about sustainability. ChemSec aims to cut through the noise with its ChemScore report cards, which the Swedish nonprofit released this week. ChemSec graded the top 35 chemical companies on the basis of what they make, their efforts toward developing safer alternatives, their transparency about ingredients, and the accidents or other scandals they’ve faced.

Report card

ChemSec ranked the 35 largest publicly listed chemical companies based on production of hazardous chemicals, development of safer alternatives, transparency, and controversies.

1 DSM: B
2 Indorama: B–
3 AkzoNobel: C+
4 Linde: C+
5 Johnson Matthey: C


31 PTT Global Chemical: D
32 Formosa: D
33 Umicore: D
34 Sasol: D
35 Sinopec: D

Note: Based on 2018 revenue

The Dutch life sciences and materials firm DSM topped the field with a grade of B and a score of 29 out of a possible 48 points. DSM produces 10 chemicals on ChemSec’s “SIN” list, short for “substitute it now,” but is working hard on developing safer chemicals and has no significant controversies, according to the report card.

In contrast, the Belgian metals and materials company Umicore was third from the bottom with a grade of D and a score of 7. The firm says COVID-19 prevented it from participating fully in ChemSec’s research. We will “look into the approach and outcome of the study and we will see what learnings Umicore can take on board,” Umicore says.

ChemSec says its main goal with the ChemScore program is to drive investors toward more sustainably minded companies. Pure Strategies, a chemical sustainability consulting firm, applauds ChemSec framing the issue around financial performance. “Chemical companies that have plans and timelines for producing safer alternative materials are clearly long-term better investments,” Pure cofounder Robert L. Kerr says.

Such rankings can be useful to understand companies relative to one another, says David Chichester-Constable of the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute. ACS publishes C&EN. It’s important, however, to understand their methodologies and biases. ChemSec emphasizes transparency, Chichester-Constable says, so the rankings are biased towards the degree of transparency a company maintains.


This story was updated on June 19, 2020, to correct two name errors. The consulting firm quoted is Pure Strategies, not Pure Solutions. Number 31 in the ranking is PTT Global Chemical, not PPT.



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