The global chemical industry is working to create the products that help make sustainability possible while improving the energy efficiency of our operations and reducing emissions.

Chemistry and the Global Climate Agreement

At the 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), world leaders agreed to a global action plan known as the Paris Agreement. The Agreement is designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions and mobilize global political will to address the climate change challenge. Successful implementation of the Paris Agreement hinges in large part on contributions from the private sector. For global chemical manufacturers, that means continuing to do what we do best: innovate. Innovation requires a consistent, supportive policy and regulatory environment to reach its full potential and to allow industry to develop and implement solutions to address global sustainability challenges.


Chemistry is the backbone of energy efficient products and technologies that help enable a more sustainable future. Although greenhouse gas is emitted in the manufacture of chemical products, the use of the products downstream and in other sectors can help save more energy and emissions than what is required to produce them. To that end, ICCA has developed multiple energy technology roadmaps and life cycle assessment tools to help businesses up and down the value chain realize new gains in energy efficiency while reducing the environmental footprints of their operations.


Innovations that Enable Sustainability

The products of chemistry help make possible new energy efficient technologies and materials needed for sustainable construction and urban mobility, including new insulation, adhesives, sealants and lightweight materials used by both the construction and transport sectors. Nearly all renewable energy sources and technologies – wind, solar, natural gas and new vehicle technologies – depend on innovations in chemistry to become more efficient, affordable and scalable. Chemistry also helps revolutionize energy storage with advanced battery technology.
See Key findings from a technical report by Ecofys


Roadmaps to a Cleaner, More Efficient World

ICCA’s Building Technology Roadmap describes how the increased use of chemically derived building products could help the residential and commercial buildings sectors achieve significant reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A second technology roadmap, Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes, outlines several ways in which catalysts can be used to reduce energy use for high-volume manufacturing processes while curbing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.


Tools For Tracing Our Impact, Start to Finish

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool that chemical manufacturers use to systematically evaluate the environmental, social and economic impacts of our products over their entire life cycle. ICCA’s Avoided Emissions Guidelines demonstrates how companies can employ LCA to quantify the environmental impact of their products from production, to use, to safe disposal. Five case studies accompany the report, illustrating how companies have used the guidelines to calculate the amount of emissions saved by their products across the value chain.


    A sustainable, green economy demands a new energy future, driven by the development of new products that can help maximize the world’s diverse, but limited, energy resources.

A Net Gain in Emissions Savings

According to a groundbreaking 2009 study by McKinsey & Company, Innovations for Greenhouse Gas Reductions, a world without chemistry would be a world with significantly higher – up to 11 percent higher – GHG emissions.

That’s because, for every one unit of CO2 emitted in the manufacturing of the products of chemistry, two units of CO2 are saved through the energy savings enabled by those products. By 2030, the GHG savings-to-emissions ratio could increase from 2:1 to 4:1.

Below is a list of some popular energy-saving products and technologies which chemistry helps make possible.

The use of advanced insulation foams in buildings saves 2.4 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year. Efficient insulation can also reduce energy costs by as much as 60 percent. PVC water pipes can help reduce the amount of energy consumed in pumping water by as much as 200 percent.
Modern, compact fluorescent light bulbs offer more effective lighting and have a longer life than incandescent bulbs. They use 70 percent less energy than conventional light bulbs and save 700 million tons of GHG emissions annually.
The use of more efficient automotive technology like lightweight plastic parts, tires that create less emissions and gasoline and diesel additives that reduce fuel consumption helps save 230 million tons of GHG emissions.
The chemistry of detergent enzymes, one of the largest and most successful applications of modern industrial biotechnology, has reduced the amount of electricity needed to do a load of laundry by 30 percent while at the same time reducing water consumption.

Beyond Innovation, Our Actions Contribute to Sustainability

The global chemical industry is best recognized for creating the products that help others improve sustainability. For decades, however, we’ve also been hard at work improving energy efficiency and reducing GHG emissions at our own operations – even as production has increased.

The European chemicals sector emitted 49% less CO2 equivalent in 2009 compared to 1990, even as production increased 60% over the same time
The Japanese chemicals industry reduced absolute GHG emissions by 17% between 1990 and 2007 while improving energy efficiency by 16%
The U.S. chemicals sector reduced absolute GHG emissions by 16% between 1990 and 2008 while improving energy efficiency 53% since 1974

    ICCA’s technology roadmaps outline how governments and industry can work together to accelerate the implementation of chemical products and innovations to improve sustainability around the globe.

Building Technology Roadmap

Of all the energy that is used around the world, nearly one-third is consumed by the buildings sector. ICCA’s Building Technology Roadmap explores the potential energy and GHG savings from five chemically-derived building technologies: insulation, pipe and pipe insulation, air sealing, reflective roof coatings and pigments, and windows. According to our technology roadmap, combining ambitious building efficiency improvements with lower-carbon fuels could lead to a 41 percent reduction in energy use and a 70 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2050.

Catalytic Processes Roadmap

ICCA’s Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes is a technology roadmap that explores how the chemical industry can harness catalysis and other related technologies to boost energy efficiency in production processes. By increasing the rate of a chemical reaction, catalysts can effectively improve the energy efficiency of the reaction. The technology roadmap describes a combination of several pathways that could help cut energy use by 13 exajoules by 2050 and curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rates 1 gigatonne of CO2 equivalent.


    Chemical manufacturers use life cycle assessment tools to systematically evaluate the environmental, social and economic impacts of our products over the course of their entire life cycle.

The Value of the Life Cycle Assessment

Conducting a life cycle assessment (LCA) means taking account of the environmental, social and economic impacts of a product over its entire life cycle.

ICCA members employ LCA to evaluate these impacts throughout a product’s entire lifespan, from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacturing, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and eventual disposal or recycling.

We’ve found that, over the course of their lifespan, various chemical industry products emit fewer GHG emissions when compared to conventional products or the market average. For that reason, LCA is critical to assessing – and ultimately improving – the sustainability of chemical products.

ICCA’s executive guide, How to Know If and When it’s Time to Commission a Life Cycle Assessment, is a primer on life cycle thinking and how companies around the globe can use LCA to quantify the important contributions their products make toward creating a more sustainable economy.

Helping Others Become Champions Of Life Cycle Assessment

ICCA has developed a set of guidelines that employ life cycle assessment to help companies and their value chain customers achieve a better understanding of the avoided greenhouse gas emissions of their products.

Addressing the Avoided Emissions Challenge

ICCA’s Avoided Emissions Guidelines are designed to help make the process of managing, conducting and communicating life cycle assessments more consistent.

The guidelines enable companies to compare greenhouse gas emissions along the life cycle of two products of equal benefit to users.

With a more accurate picture of a product’s environmental performance, businesses along the value chain can be more confident in the sustainability of their purchasing decisions.

Avoided Emissions Case Studies

ICCA’s avoided emissions case studies exemplify the use of the Avoided Emissions Guidelines. Each case study is intended to reinforce the importance of using a consistent, harmonized and methodical approach when calculating avoided emissions. The case studies also highlight the chemical industry’s commitment to enhancing transparency and improving the sustainability of chemical products.


Achieving ambitious sustainability goals requires that industry, governments, academia and others work together. Our partners in sustainability have played a key role in helping industry improve the way we assess our environmental performance, and they have helped us better identify and communicate the vast potential chemical products hold in helping countries meet and exceed their sustainability objectives.



The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a CEO-led organization of forward-thinking companies that helps drive debate and policy change in favor of sustainable development solutions.

ICCA and the WBCSD first joined together in 2012 for a chemical sector sustainability project called Reaching Full Potential. The aim of the project was “to help the chemical sector harmonize approaches to sustainability measurement and define collaborative value chain solutions in order to scale up sustainable business solutions across the sector’s value chains.”

Our first objective was to develop practical guidelines to improve consistency in the assessment and reporting of avoided emissions. WBCSD drew upon existing life cycle assessment studies, company presentations, and expertise from participating chemical companies. Our work culminated in the ICCA and WBCSD’s Avoided Emissions Guidelines, released in 2013.


The International Energy Agency (IEA) is an international energy forum comprising 29 industrialized countries under the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD). IEA’s overarching goal is to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its member countries and beyond.

ICCA teamed up with IEA to develop our 2013 technology roadmap, Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes. Around 90 percent of chemical manufacturing processes use catalysis, and ICCA’s partnership with IEA helped us further explore how the chemical industry can use catalysts and other related technology to boost energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions in manufacturing processes.

We also joined IEA for a Global Industry Experts Dialogue Workshop at their Paris headquarters in 2014. There, we helped to explore the role of catalysis and other game-changing innovations can play in meeting climate targets of the Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 project.

IEA logo
Return to Top