ChemistryCAN make the UN Sustainable Development Goals a reality

Since 2015, the world has had a framework of goals and targets that set out how we can safeguard the environment, end poverty and deliver prosperity for everyone.  These 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are led by the United Nations but were developed by many contributors and achieving them is a responsibility for all.


A recent publication from the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) illustrates current contributions of the global chemical industry to the SDGs.

As one of the largest and most diversified industries in Europe, we play an important role in helping to achieve the UN’s vision. More than 95% of all manufactured goods are touched by chemistry in some form. Our contributions to economic growth and innovation unlocks the  potential of industry and society to achieve greater economic gains, while at the same time contributing actively to the SDGs.

Business and sustainability are inseparable. In this way, the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), part of its 2030 agenda, are not just a guiding framework for the world and its member states, but for the industry, too. The EU has reaffirmed its strong commitment to the SDGs and the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

By providing a framework for action and dialogue, the Cefic Sustainability Charter will stimulate the mainstreaming of sustainability and contribute towards the UN sustainability agenda. In particular, we in the chemical industry have a significant contribution to make on SDG 7, 12 and 13 aligned with the four focus areas of the charter.

Beyond these, the European chemical industry is actively contributing, either directly or indirectly, in all 17 goals, with major contributions to SDG 2, 3
and 6.


Source: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The chemical industry is a critical partner in the achievement of SDG 7 and SDG 13

We are enabling the transition to a low carbon economy by working hard to change to low-carbon emitting chemical production and by developing products that are playing a major role in enabling other sectors to reduce their own carbon footprints. Our advanced products and materials are making major contributions to increasing the share of the low-carbon energy.

Source: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We have an excellent track record in using our energy in the most efficient way, and in helping other industries to also do so. Innovations within our industry are essential in helping to move towards circular and low-carbon emitting feedstocks, offering materials and energy solutions to our downstream customers based on carbon from waste, biomass and even CO2 and CO from flue gases.

Source: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The chemical industry is also a critical partner in the achievement of SDG12

Chemicals can be resource and energy-intensive to produce, yet we in the chemical industry work  on performance and resource efficiency for others. As we as a society seek to make more efficient use and re-use of our finite materials and energy sources, we can find some answers in an economy  based on circular principles. By considering all material flows as potential resources, the chemical industry can help to achieve a more circular future, while also creating opportunities for companies and economies along the value chain.

The chemical industry has a long history of taking actions to minimise the risk of handling hazardous substances and preventing harm. This is the operational norm for our industry and is also applied to the safe use of substances further downstream. At a global level this commitment is being enacted through collaboration under the UN’s Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

Source: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Working with WBCSD to accelerate performance in achieving the SDGs

The ambitious and time-bound agenda that the SDGs represent goes beyond business as usual. Realising the goals, and leveraging the business opportunities that  they represent, will require collaboration between a critical mass of companies at the industry and whole system level.

With this in mind, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is supporting pioneering efforts among its Chemical Sector member companies who have  come together with leading industry associations including Cefic to produce an SDG Roadmap for the sector.

This roadmap will look to articulate a common vision for how the sector has the potential to significantly contribute to the realisation of the SDG agenda and to establish a collective pathway to accelerate and optimize that level of contribution on the road to 2030.