Message from the Director: The New Office of Sustainability at ACS

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By Adelina Voutchkova, Director of Sustainable Development, ACS

Adelina VoutchkovaAdelina VoutchkovaI had the privilege to join the ACS in the role of Director of Sustainable Development in early June, just as the GC&E Conference was getting underway. During my academic career at George Washington University, I built a robust research program focused on catalysis for a circular economy and helped launch a graduate program in Environmental and Green Chemistry, with a keen eye on developing technologies relevant to greener industrial processes and preparing the future workforce in green chemistry.  I am incredibly proud of the patents, publications, research output, and startup spun from our work, but also deeply aware of the obstacles that slow academics’ ability to fuel the needed growth of industrial green chemical processes. Key obstacles include identifying research gaps in industry relevant to different fields, navigating the landscape to commercialize research products, and quantitatively evaluating the relative environmental impact of technologies deemed as “greener”. With the launch of the ACS Office of Sustainability and the Campaign for a Sustainable Future—a  $15 million investment from ACS—I saw a compelling opportunity to help address these obstacles and contribute to both the ACS mission and the green chemistry community that has nurtured my career thus far.

The ACS Green Chemistry Institute, now part of the Office of Sustainability, celebrates two decades of its mission to accelerate sustainable and green chemistry and engineering adoption through advances in science, education, and industry collaboration. In the coming year, I see exciting new opportunities for the Institute to further advance that mission.

In the education realm, having spent the last decade integrating green chemistry into all levels of the curriculum, I see opportunities for the GCI to amplify the curriculum development project underway through new and continued partnerships with other organizations, such as Beyond Benign. We also hope to formalize the GCI efforts for the professional development of chemists in the workplace.

On the science advancement front, we plan to position the GCI as a central resource for chemists seeking to identify collaborators, quantify the environmental impact of their processes and find industry partners.

On the industry front, the GCI will seek to help facilitate industrial implementation of green chemistry efforts through the work of Roundtables and partnering organizations, such as the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3). An especially important avenue that GCI will seek to expand will be engaging in support of green chemistry startups with promising new technologies, and we look forward to leveraging ACS resources and partnerships to best achieve these goals.

I also want to take a moment to tell you about the new Campaign for a Sustainable Future, also led by the Sustainability Office. This campaign aims to address the urgent need for engaging the chemistry enterprise in addressing the existential sustainability challenges. A key activity planned under that initiative for this year is an international Summit to engage the chemical sciences and engineering community in identifying opportunities and challenges in sustainable agriculture. The summit, planned for November this year, will explore opportunities for discussion, research, and approaches for accelerating progress toward the goal of “Zero Hunger” in the five areas outlined below. It will convene experts from government, industry, academia, and nonprofit organizations to explore a wide range of viewpoints and identify research priorities, innovations, and potential translations. This cross-cutting ACS event will showcase the ability of the Society to mobilize the community to action around this time-critical goal. In addition, this year we plan to catalyze the implementation of green and sustainable chemistries by developing a web-based platform that provides critical research tools and connects researchers, educators, and industrial chemists and engineers to better match innovation gaps with research advances. Currently, the chemistry community lacks a central platform that provides educational and technological information related to green and sustainable chemistry and engineering.

I look forward to nurturing existing and fostering new partnerships with researchers, organizations, and companies that share our mission. Look out for information in upcoming issues of The Nexus about grant opportunities, Sustainable Future initiatives, and the 2023 Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, preparations for which begin in the fall. Please feel free to contact me if you have initiatives for collaboration.