Transparent outline for sustainability

Natural-chemicals supplier Cognis has highlighted its long-term commitment to sustainability by creating an extensive 90-page section on its website outlining the company's sustainability achievements and goals.

There, it outlines not only the philosophical underpinnings of its commitment, such as the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and the 12 Principles of Green Engineering, as conceived by the American Chemical Society, but also the detailed steps the company has met and those it intends to make over the coming years.

For instance, Cognis intends to reduce its energy consumption, CO2 emissions and wastewater by 25 per cent by 2012 (as compared with 2002 levels). And by working with locals in places where the company harvests its ingredients, Cognis intends to spread its sustainability goals across the world. It points to the example of the Argan Program in Morocco. Seeds from the Argan tree are harvested to extract oil used in cosmetics products. Cognis partnered with local resources, creating impact studies with Laboratoires Sérobiologiques, which worked with the Moroccan Water and Forests Authorities to set clear guidelines for sustainable harvesting. It also introduced educational programmes for the local population to protect its valuable resource, and allied itself with local women's co-operatives to establish salaries at least equal to the local minimum standards.

According to the site, more than 50 per cent of the company's total raw-material consumption is in renewables, with oils and plant extracts forming the basis for high-performance solutions. Oils from coconut, palm kernel, sunflowers, soybeans and rapeseed make up a large proportion of the raw materials incorporated in Cognis chemicals.

The company established a sustainability council in 2008, headed by Richard Ridinger, executive vice president Cognis Care Chemicals. "Our new sustainability portal pro-actively communicates our stance on key issues such as environmental protection, corporate social responsibility and the management principles that guide our day-to-day activities," Ridinger said in a press release. "It also explains in considerable detail how sustainable innovations can help to achieve a better balance between environmental objectives and commercial success."

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