The chemical industry is watching and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, the next round of the global targets for development, which are due to be formally adopted at a Sept. 25-27 summit at the United Nations in New York City.
It certainly has the potential to have a big impact on the plastics industry, as it charts the broad outlines for global development for the next 15 years.
Economically speaking, spreading development more fairly around the world will mean opportunities for businesses.
Just look at the numbers of plastics business people who travel to plastics shows everywhere in the world, with the hope of boosting sales, and you can see how the focus on development to improve lives is global, and really transcends ideologies.
One of the 17 key goals specifically talks about substantially increasing industry's share of employment and GDP, and sets a goal to double industry's role in the economies of the least-developed countries.
Equally important, the 17 goals of the SDGs also have a big focus on the environment. They lay out in broad terms how that development should take shape (or at least how governments wants it to take shape).
Sustainable industrialization, climate change and reducing environmental impacts are heavily discussed, with a forceful nod to the need to better balance GDP and environment.
One of the 17 sections, for example, is devoted to the health of the oceans.
The headline bullet points don't specifically talk about plastic, they seem material neutral, but of course with the attention already on ocean pollution, it reinforces ideas that expectations are going to continue to be high on the plastics industry to do more to reduce plastics in the marine environment.
More sustainable industrialization gets a lot of attention in the general summaries, as does the need to “substantially” increase recycling and reduce waste generation.
Areas that have less to do with industry, like reducing poverty and ending gender inequities, also are talked about.
I think it could be easy to be dismissive of these plans, and say these are just nice-sounding words from a gathering of global bigwigs. It will be a gathering of bigwigs, I'm sure, but personally, that may miss the point.
I've been to plastics conferences in places like India, listened to presentations and talked to company executives about how they were helping to meet the needs spelled out in the previous version of these SDGs, the Millennium Development Goals.
One example was in combating open defecation, still practiced by nearly 1 billion people worldwide because they do not have access to toilets. India's plastic rotomolding industry was very keen on looking at opportunities in new designs of plastic toilets, for example.
The SDGs will attempt to go further than the MDGs, I've read. Cefic, the European Chemical Industry Council, calls the SDGs a “convincing plan of action.”
“The chemical industry recognizes these issues as huge societal challenges and strives to contribute in most of these areas with suitable offers,” Cefic said, adding that the 169 specific SDG targets seek to “balance the bottom-line of sustainable development in respect of economic, social and environmental needs.”