Nature-Positive and Carbon-Neutral Chemistry
Our goal is to achieve a nature-positive and carbon-neutral chemical industry in Finland by the year 2045.
The chemical industry extensively examined its key biodiversity impacts in collaboration with member companies and stakeholders in the spring of 2022. Based on this, our previous carbon-neutral goal received an addition related to biodiversity: nature-positive, carbon-neutral chemistry.
Since everything involves chemistry, and chemistry is everywhere, the biodiversity issue can easily become quite extensive in the context of the chemical industry. On one hand, the chemical industry has detrimental effects on biodiversity and the environment, and on the other hand, the sector is at the forefront of solutions, such as water purification methods and the circular economy. We have identified that, generally, the most significant impacts of the chemical industry on biodiversity are related to climate change. With diverse value chains and products, there are also key effects around other emissions, resource use, and land and water usage.
We have set a long-term goal for nature-positivity and created a roadmap for it. The roadmap focuses on the current decade because, just like in climate actions, nature requires action now. Our short-term goal is that by 2025, 70% of chemical industry companies will have set a nature-related target in their strategy. As an industry, we are also involved in developing international terminology and practices, such as ISO standards, raising awareness on the subject in various forums, and sharing best practices among member companies.
Chemical industry companies aim for carbon neutrality by reducing their carbon footprint and increasing their carbon handprint. In practice, this means reducing their own carbon footprint, i.e., greenhouse gas emissions. It also means increasing their carbon handprint by offering products and solutions that reduce customers’ emissions. In achieving this, new raw materials, technologies, investments, expertise, and the circular economy play a significant role.
The goal is ambitious. Finland aims to become carbon-neutral by 2035 and carbon-negative shortly after. According to the government program, sector-specific roadmaps for low-carbon goals will be developed in collaboration with industry players. The chemical industry’s roadmap was completed in June 2020. The chemical industry takes this challenge seriously. Without chemistry, we will not solve climate change.
To achieve the carbon-neutral goal, three things need to be in place:
- We need emissions-free, reliable, and competitively priced energy. We need a lot of it.
- It is crucial that promising innovations are put into use and scaled to their full export potential. This requires innovation funding, especially for pilot and demonstration projects.
- We need experts who develop and create new solutions. We cannot find these skills only in Finland; we also need international expertise.
Bioeconomy and Circular Economy
Bioeconomy and circular economy are essential means in achieving carbon neutrality in the chemical industry. Developing new raw materials and using by-products and recycled raw materials significantly reduce the carbon footprint of production. Materials (especially carbon) should be kept in circulation as long as possible. According to the chemical industry’s thinking, there is no such thing as waste; there are only raw materials.
Nature positivity means reversing the decline in biodiversity and strengthening it. Practical development work is tied to the chemical industry’s voluntary Responsible Care sustainability program, which already has impressive results.
In chemical industry companies, biodiversity is integrated into decision-making and management. For example, companies take biodiversity into account in investment plans, and when conducting surveys, they also examine the effects on biodiversity and act accordingly.
2045 is closer than we think
This decade will determine whether we achieve the goal of a nature-positive and carbon-neutral chemical industry by 2045. During these years, innovations will be made, and investment decisions will be taken, which can enable the goal to be achieved.
Twenty years is shorter than we might think. It corresponds to just one investment cycle, two innovation cycles, or five maintenance cycles. Roughly speaking, over the next ten years, solutions need to be created that will be accelerated to their full potential during this decade because in energy-intensive industries, emissions reductions have a delayed impact.
Conducted Surveys and Reports
The handbook titled “Sustainable and circular business models for chemical industry,” published in May 2020, is a study and guide commissioned by Chemical Industry Federation of Finland (Kemianteollisuus ry), Business Finland, and Sitra to aid companies in the sustainable development of their businesses. In the chemical industry, achieving carbon neutrality involves looking at business through new lenses. The handbook is intended for companies with a proactive stance against climate change and serves as a tool for creating novel sustainable business models. Within the handbook, carbon neutrality is approached through the lens of five future business models and several examples from various companies.
Download the handbook in english:
We have conducted an investigation into how we can achieve our goal. Part of this effort involves mapping out the necessary technologies, which constitutes a roadmap to carbon neutrality. The investigation consists of two phases. Phase 1, published in January 2020, provides a comprehensive analysis of the initial situation of Finland’s chemical industry and various potential technologies for emissions reduction. The work has been structured around three different scenarios. These scenarios consider factors such as energy requirements, maturity and viability of technological solutions, as well as investment needs.
In the roadmap published in spring 2020, the scenarios were expanded to include not only energy and process emissions but also the raw material flows of the chemical industry and their carbon footprint. Simultaneously, the export potential and footprint of Finnish chemical industry products were examined, encompassing the climate benefits of products, processes, or services. As a result, a toolkit for emissions reduction was collaboratively developed with member companies, charting the course towards carbon neutrality from various perspectives within the chemical industry’s different sectors.
The Chemical Industry Federation of Finland, in collaboration with Aalto University, examined the strategic capabilities and success factors necessary for achieving the carbon neutrality goal within the industry. Effective leadership and management processes can establish a corporate culture conducive to embracing change and fostering innovation, wherein each unit and employee contributes to the advancement of sustainability. Diverse and interdisciplinary expertise is essential.
Based on the findings, the strategic capabilities required for carbon neutrality can be categorized into six interconnected groups: leadership, management processes, corporate culture, multidisciplinary expertise, innovation, and influencing the business environment.
The research was conducted from January to March 2021 through surveys and two rounds of interviews, in collaboration with member companies of The Chemical Industry Federation of Finland. As a result of the study’s outcomes, a self-assessment tool comprising 25 statements was developed to facilitate the progress of companies. This tool enables a rapid assessment of a company’s current capability status at a general level.
The brochure “Cap the Carbon!” published by the Chemical Industry Federation of Finland on April 14, 2021, summarizes and presents both completed and forthcoming measures aimed at achieving the carbon neutrality goal. The brochure also serves as an invitation to engage in comprehensive collaboration where everyone stands to benefit in the pursuit of carbon neutrality.
The “Cap the Carbon!” brochure is a compilation of the studies undertaken between 2018 and 2021 to achieve the Carbon-Neutral Chemistry goal. Alongside corporate examples, the brochure includes expert articles detailing the national and systemic requirements for achieving carbon neutrality.
The brochure emphasizes the need for collaboration to achieve the carbon neutrality goal for the chemical industry and for Finland as a whole. Extensive collaboration is required between the private and public sectors, companies and educational institutions, and across industries. Above all, a national, sustained industrial strategy towards carbon neutrality is essential. The chemical industry is actively engaged in this effort.