The Chair’s Welcome

Chemistry is both a science and an important industrial sector, including pharmacy. How atoms and molecules react under given conditions we cannot change. However, which resources we use, how efficient a synthesis is and how toxic the product is, we can control. In this sense chemistry is normative and it is up to us to avoid any negative outcomes. However, its not enough just using renewables; they come at a cost too.

We need to design chemical products for a circular economy. Who can do this? It is up to us again, the chemists: we have the knowledge and the only science that is able to transform matter. We as chemists have to bring together resources and knowledge of chemical products to come up with products that can be circulated without regret. Using waste as a resource is a step in the right direction. But shouldn't we avoid waste in the first place? And, using waste and renewables does not unavoidably contribute to the urgently needed reduction of substance, material and product flows in order to save resources and reduce environmental pollution. If it is cheap and easy it might even lead to the contrary. We also have to interact and share our knowledge with product designers which use chemical products for example in textiles, buildings, furniture, cars, electronic equipment etc. The product designers, economists, mangers and engineers have to know which materials can be recycled and which can not.

Circulation of materials needs energy and results in dissipative losses that are unavoidable according to the laws of thermodynamics. We can only work and invest to minimise these losses and have to be aware that they are unavoidable. Therefore, we also have to come up with new ideas on how to deliver a certain service and function with fewer chemicals and may be, in some cases, even without chemicals. We have to better understand why we use chemicals and materials and to consider alternative business models.

This includes also ethics and social science. If we have this broad understanding, chemistry will be a powerful enabler of sustainable development. To meet this goal will be challenging at each level. Accepting this challenge is an intellectual pleasure, an exciting journey and a worthwhile effort, but also essential for humankind. It opens up a bright future for chemists in shaping the transformation of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry to a more sustainable one - including their products.

The annual Green and Sustainable Chemistry Conference - now in its 5th edition - addresses again a broad range of green and sustainability topics on all levels from molecules, materials, products and in different fields such as synthesis, environment, education, politics, and other in its well-established unique interdisciplinary manner.

Science is not working and thinking in splendid isolation. In contrast, it is about communication and exchange. For this adventure the 5th International Green and Sustainable Chemistry conference is the right place. You are cordially invited to explore the next steps of this exciting journey together with others.

A unique aspect of the Green and Sustainable Conference is the Elsevier Foundation's Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge including an entrepreneurial award sponsored by the ISC3. This challenge aims to inspire new ideas and a significant contribution to sustainability brought forward by chemists that can be directly applied to and in the developing world.

I look forward to meeting with you in Bonn next May.

Yours sincerely,

Klaus Kümmerer
Director of the Institute for Sustainable and Environmental Chemistry
Leuphana University Lüneburg,
Germany