New green guidelines for sustainable industry

Industrial processing plants are now armed to improve environmental performance with a new set of guidelines for measuring sustainability.


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“The Sustainability Metrics” is a new publication launched last week by the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) in conjunction with the Chemical Industries Association (CIA). The report lays out a straightforward set of measuring tools to help companies fix targets and monitor the progress of their sustainability performance from year to year. It is intended that the publication will be used to measure the sustainability performance of individual operating units, allowing processing and chemical engineers to specifically address the issue of sustainable development.

A spokesperson from IChemE explained to edie that industrial sustainability is encapsulated by the idea of the “triple bottom line”, covering environmental responsibility, economic return and social development. He emphasized that environmental impact issues were the starting point for the Sustainability Metrics report.

The report lays out a series of environmental indicators against which process engineers can then score how well their plant performs. The environmental indicators include the use of energy, water and land resources plus a detailed coverage of emissions, effluents and wastes. Emissions impacts are divided into atmospheric, aquatic and land impacts, for example the global warming burden of greenhouse gas emissions, ecotoxicity to aquatic life and the production of hazardous solid waste. An itemised list is provided of all chemicals and compounds that have particular environmental impacts, for example the toxic impact of heavy metals on aquatic life.

The IChemE spokesperson pointed out that although the current publication is targeted specifically at the process engineering industries, much of the content of the report is generally applicable to different industries.

The metrics were produced by the IChemE working party on Sustainable Development consisting of leading chemical engineers drawn not only from industry but also from academia and consultancies.

The launch of IChemE’s Sustainability Metrics was welcomed by the Chemical Industries Association, which will promote the metrics to their member companies. The Director General of CIA, Judith Hackitt said: “The metrics will be a valuable tool for assessing where each company is today on the path to sustainability and for measuring progress in the future.”

Robert Lowson, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’s Director of Environmental Strategy also said, “We are very impressed and supportive of this initiative”.

A free copy of the Sustainability Metrics will soon be available on the IChemE website.

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