C&EN Comment from S3G

Document created by Robert Rich on May 12, 2009Last modified by S Airee on Jul 23, 2009
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S3G: Enlisting Chemistry for a Sustainable World


ACS Sustainability Stakeholders Steering Group




Sustainability is all over the news these days. Why is that? People, especially young people, understand we must do things differently if we are to meet the demands of a growing population who deserve the same quality of life we enjoy today. The sustainability challenge must be addressed at the local, regional, national, and global levels. Recognizing that its members are uniquely positioned to lead a sustainability agenda, ACS has made a major commitment to sustainability, acknowledging it as a “level one” challenge.


To support this leadership role through improved coordination and communication among ACS stakeholders and members and support for innovative ideas, ACS appointed the Sustainability Stakeholders Steering Group (S3G) earlier this year. Its members are Martin A. Abraham, representing the Committee on Environmental Improvement; Carolyn Ribes, Committee on Science; Roslyn L. White, Committee on Corporation Associates; Kevin J. Edgar, Divisional Activities Committee; P. Robert Peoples, ACS Green Chemistry Institute; S. K. Airee, Local Section Activities Committee; Dee Ann Casteel, Committee on Meetings & Expositions; E. Ann Nalley, Society Committee on Education; and Robert H. Rich, ACS Staff Liaison.


As a first step, S3G recently completed an inventory of governance and staff initiatives already in place within the Society in order to identify additional internal and external partners and program elements that should be developed. The Society will be able to use this information to share compelling stories, to inform the public of what chemical scientists are doing in the area, to encourage members to take part in various sustainability activities, and to add to the growing knowledge base of how chemistry is improving people’s lives. S3G has grouped these activities into the following five sustainability leadership initiatives, illustrated by examples:

  • Educating for sustainable change: The Columbus Section has published a Sustainability Resource Directory on their website. The Kentucky Lake Section teamed up with the Memphis and Nashville Sections, as well as local Student Chapters, to sponsor two workshops on Green Chemistry supported by Innovative Projects Grants from the Local Section Activities Committee. In addition, students from the University of Texas Tennessee at Martin, received four Innovative Activities Grants from the Society Committee on Education for their green chemistry projects, such as Green Chemistry 101 for Civic Clubs. The Younger Chemists Committee will offer a program on “Careers in Sustainability” at the spring 2010 national meeting.


  • Convening the sustainability dialog with industry: The ACS Green Chemistry Institute organizes Pharmaceutical and Formulators Roundtables. The 13th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference took place on June 23-25, with increased conference attendance and keynote presentations by Len Sauers of Procter & Gamble and Jean-Michel Cousteau of the Ocean Futures Society (C&EN, July 20, page 39). The Committee on Environmental Improvement partnered with the Committee on Corporation Associates to lead a workshop to understand the nontechnical barriers for the adoption of sustainability in industry, and it published a viewpoint article in Environmental Science & Technology outlining the results. At many recent ACS national and regional meetings, technical divisions have programmed symposia focused on sustainability issues, and the theme of the 2010 spring national meeting will be “Chemistry for a Sustainable World.”


  • Developing scientific and technological analysis of sustainability: In cooperation with the ACS International Activities Committee, the Office of International Activities collaborated with the Chinese, German, and Japanese chemical societies and national science funding agencies to organize a symposium on solar energy conversion and storage that took place last month in Kloster Seeon, Germany.
  • Setting a sustainable example: ACS is implementing major initiatives to make operations more “green.” Examples include reducing the impact of printed materials, saving energy, and practicing reduction, reuse, and recycling of materials. The ACS headquarters buildings have recently received EPA Energy Star(TM) certification, and a staff group is working to further green operations. Many local sections, committees, and divisions have migrated to electronic newsletters, agenda books, and ballots. The Committee on Meetings & Expositions and its staff are finding new ways to reduce the environmental footprint of our national meetings. The Division of Organic Chemistry distributed reusable grocery bags to celebrate their 100th anniversary. Many governance units are holding teleconferences instead of in-person meetings
  • Enabling member and community action: The Chemical Information Division has compiled information resources for Earth Day. The Board of Directors has adopted policy statements on green chemistry, sustainability, climate change, and funding for federal research programs related to sustainability. Some Science Cafés organized by ACS local sections, with funding from the Local Section Activities Committee, have revolved around sustainability issues such as biofuels.

We intend our campaign to engage the world’s scientific professionals to address, through chemistry, the sustainability challenges to be as inclusive as possible. Last year, a member survey revealed that most of us are already doing something to advance sustainability through our professional work, through ACS, or in our personal lives. By replicating these examples across the Society, ACS has the power to magnify your role in achieving a sustainable society. It is the mission of S3G to find ways in which the Society can stand with you and support you as you get involved.


The ACS Network is a great tool to let us know what you are doing and what you’d like to do collectively with your colleagues. Please visit https://communities.acs.org/community/sustain-environ and join the discussion on how chemistry can help address this global challenge. If you are interested in becoming a key stakeholder for sustainability, you can also join the Sustainability Stakeholders Group at https://communities.acs.org/groups/sustainability-stakeholders-group.