Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Making Green Pay Off

Chemical makers are ramping up green chemistry efforts, spurred by many factors, including regulation, a desire for renewable feedstocks and materials, and public demand for greener and more environmentally friendly products. One challenge for producers, however, is that customers demand products that cost the same as traditional materials. This makes it tough for producers to cover the cost of development. “Customers want a green product but say I’m not going to pay a penny extra,” Rohm and Haas v.p. and chief technology officer Gary Calabrese, told attendees at a Société de Chimie Industrielle meeting on innovation held in New York last month. “They will take it if it’s free.” Attitudes may be starting to shift, however, he adds. “Things may be changing, but it is still too early to tell how sustainable that really is,” Calabrese says. For now the green label serves as a “tie breaker.” Customers do lean toward green products all else being equal, but it is not clear that they are willing to pay more just yet.
Proponents of green chemistry argue that financial benefits will become clear as development progresses. “Companies realize that now the issues of environment and human health can add to innovation, profitability, and competitiveness rather than being a cost drain,” Paul Anastas, a green chemistry pioneer, and director at Yale University’s Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering tells CW in our cover story this week. Regulations have in the past driven companies to develop environmentally friendly products, but the driver is now changing, he says. “Green chemistry is trying to go far beyond, through innovation, to make these regulations less relevant.”

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