This year’s Greenbuild Conference & Expo, hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), highlighted the benefits that sustainable buildings can have on occupants and their communities, with much of the educational content tailored to the social, economic, and health and wellness impacts of sustainability in the built environment.
As the foundation of nearly all manufactured products, chemistry has the power to drive impacts in sustainability and enhance health and wellness; and, as an industry that provides nearly 550,000 jobs in the U.S. alone, the chemical industry is uniquely placed to drive social and economic sustainability benefits. That’s why, in 2017, ACC and our members launched our Sustainability Principles, building off the foundation established by the more than 30 years of Responsible Care® – our industry’s commitment to continuously improving the environmental, health, safety, and security performance of our operations.
For those who couldn’t join us last week, here are just a few of the key takeaways from Greenbuild 2019:
Humans are at the Heart of Sustainability
The word “sustainability” may have its beginnings in the environmental field, but growing focus areas for “sustainability” in the built environment are health and wellness and social equity. This was evident during former President Barack Obama’s keynote discussion with USGBC CEO Mahesh Ramanujam, where President Obama noted the connection between sustainability issues and economic inequality, stating, “…it is harder to figure out how we solve sustainability issues and deal with climate change if you also have huge gaps in wealth and opportunity and education. And so, we’re not going to solve the former if we’re not also attending to the latter.” The chemical industry is proud of our contributions to help communities prosper and grow, and we make it a priority to support our neighbors, especially in times of need. ACC and our member companies look forward to driving a more sustainable future with USGBC through human-centric approaches, such as The Living Standard and LEED Positive.
Health & Wellness Makes its Mark
From the show floor to educational sessions and pre-conference workshops, the impacts of the built environment on health and wellness took center stage. Helping product manufacturers, architects, designers, and third-party certifiers understand the impacts of material decisions is key to enhancing the health and wellness of the built environment. That’s why ACC and our members are committed to enhancing transparency, promoting the safe use of chemicals, and accelerating innovation by providing information on the impact of chemicals based on hazards, exposures, risks and lifecycle impacts using best available science and measured outcomes.
Partnership is the New Leadership
Impacts in all three pillars of sustainability – social, economic and environmental – can grow significantly with enhanced collaboration and partnerships. That’s why ACC was thrilled to highlight our own collaborations with the International Well Building Institute and ASHRAE during the opening days of Greenbuild 2019.
As ACC CEO Chris Jahn noted in his blog post leading up to Greenbuild, “The collaboration that ACC is undertaking with USGBC, IWBI and others will help drive measurable results, not only on advancements in sustainability, but also to provide practical solutions that will help improve the health, safety and fulfillment of people in buildings and communities around the world.”
The sustainable building community has excelled at addressing the operational carbon impacts of buildings through energy efficiency measures, energy benchmarking, and other programs. But this year’s Greenbuild made one thing clear – a key goal going forward is accounting for the carbon it takes to produce today’s building materials. Many products derived from plastic can contribute to new products making use of recycled content – this can help lower the embodied carbon footprint while also contributing to a circular economy. ACC member companies Dow and BASF both took part in sessions throughout the week highlighting the chemical industry’s leadership on these critical issues. ACC looks forward to working with all its members on tackling carbon impacts as we work together to support the future of sustainability in our industry.