Driving Sustainable Futures
March 22, 2022
Sustainability Policies that Yield Change
Walter van het Hof, Global Industry Affairs & Sustainability Leader
Climate change, circularity and sustainability policies play a significant role in how businesses approach their responsibility to reduce their impact on the planet. At Trinseo, we align our business strategy and product portfolio to support sustainability policy ambitions like the European Green Deal through our 2030 Sustainability Goals. These overarching, long-term goals provide structure to guide our internal decisions and policies, so we do not lag on progress or duplicate work across divisions.
However, when we talk about government policies, there is sometimes a disconnect on how to advance legislation that creates movement toward an overarching goal. Many of today's policies are developed within silos rather than collaborating across initiatives toward a united goal based in scientific data that uses shared terminology. To succeed, we need clear, achievable goals to align national policies, so we can retain a balanced and competitive international market.
Science is key to developing sustainability policies. It is the responsibility of our governing bodies to ensure decisions are based on accurate and verified scientific data. Policies should guide us in the right direction because those based on misinformation risk causing harm and do not contribute to a better planet.
On one side, policies that fail to take a strong stance are greenwashing, resulting in little to no progress. Under these standards, companies could feasibly keep the same practices while simply rephrasing brochures or purchasing certifications. On the other hand, very strict policies often impact competitiveness. They can impact profitability, creating an uneven playing field in the global marketplace. Achieving a middle ground can be challenging, but policies based on science help provide the balance to enable equitable opportunities for both corporate sustainability improvement and profitability.
Research and science can also provide an unbiased, holistic overview of our sustainability priorities, helping to avoid overlapping or contradicting legislation. Policies should be cross-collaborative across commissions and initiatives to ensure they work together and align under unified goals. This helps ensure our governments set the right agenda. Ultimately this transparency enables global and regional companies to align their policies and procedures in order to create an orchestrated, sustainable effort while remaining competitive.
Policies are only as good as the science and language they are based on. For sustainability policies, we need a shared language to be clear about our goals and the pathways to achieve them. An example of how sustainability terminology does not align is chemical recycling, which is the terminology Europe uses to define the process by which post-consumed materials are returned to their molecular state for reuse. However, in America, this process is called advanced recycling. By setting a standard for terminology, governments can help harmonize messaging around sustainability and create clarity in goals and policies.
Without science-based policies and clear goals in mind, companies cannot move forward in a productive way. As a global company, Trinseo uses sustainable policies to guide practices, processes, and innovations to meet the material needs of our customers. As we look to the future, we must advocate for common sense policies backed by science that inspire collaboration and provide clarity for the necessary steps to progress.