Unfortunately, i agree with the representative of the soft drink company. The materials behind the soft drink container won't move people as much as the soft drink or as much as the right sponsorship or cause. Remember though that you are trying to sell to the soft drink manufacturer, not the consumer. What will motivate him? Price? Safety/health? Performance? Sell the soft drink manufacturer. If he sees a benefit to his customer, i assure you he will sell it!
Another approach is for you to go directly to the consumer and get her to demand "greener" products. If she demands greater sustainability from the soft drink manufacturer, he will provide it.
Regarding part 2 of the question. I think the cost of internalizing externalities is important for all kinds of environmental issues. Externalities makes development of any kind of cleaner technology more difficult. I don't have a specific recommendation on what role chemists can play in this. But I do think there is a role for the advocacy community to work with businesses and with chemists to ID where the externalities are and how to overcome them. The issues are not specific to green chemistry. Petroleum subsidies is one example. Perhaps chemists can support carbon fees or similar activities. I think they would bring a new voice to the conversation.
Green chemistry in practice very much needs a multi-discipline approach, while I have found (in academia) that we tend to segregate chemists and chemical engineers from other majors once they become sophomores. For example, life cycle analysis is a key aspect of green product design, yet this is typically only taught to civil engineers (who get very little chemistry background). Product design is a key feature of green chemistry as used by the private sector, yet we typically only teach product design to mechanical engineers (who receive almost no chemistry training). Ethnography is a key feature of product design, yet this is taught to anthropologists primarily. So, for me, step 1 is to work with colleagues from other departments to create a course or courses that will mix disciplines where green chemistry is one among several key tools needed to bring greener chemical products to the fore – the chemistry students will get an novel view on how their science relates to others, and the other disciplines will receive, possibly for the first time, help in dealing with “things molecular”.
Metrics are an important but difficult nut to crack. We define green chemistry as the 12 Principles, but what if a company is only practicing one or two of them, are they green chemistry? What if environmental attributes are improved on some but not others? Should it include health indicators? Number of jobs? Reduction in toxic chemicals? The GC3's Agenda to Mainstream Green Chemistry discusses some of the issues relating to metrics. The GC3 also commissioned a landscape analysis of metrics, and, along with the American Sustainable Business Council, sponsored research by Trucost into making the business case for green chemistry. One of the GC3's goals in the next year or two is to identify what the priority metrics should be to measure green chemistry and how we can start collecting them.
Two good questions! No, we do not have enough cost-effective feedstock and technologies to replace non-renewable chemistries. Case-in-point is palm kernel oil for the soap and detergent industry. We are creating an unsustainable although biobased feedstock with palm kernel oil. We need renewable feedstocks that are less damaging to the earth. Algal oil, perhaps?
Biorefineries will be pivotal to the adoption of biofeedstocks. This is how we will create a robust source of biomaterials for a robust green chemistry.
You have hit the nail on the head. Products based on green chemistry have to offer more than just improved sustainability. At the outset of the emergence of green chemicals, the focus was on 'drop-in' products that performed the same as incumbent products based on traditional chemistry. With the challenges this raised, as you point out in your questions, the focus has moved to innovation and performance as the more important focus, to ensure there is a 'bottom line for business'. See my response to Monica Beckman that reflects this. It needs more than improved sustainability. We have found that the key is to have a unique combination of performance, sustainability and economics, and this requires much more than chemistry; mainly marketing focus (to define where the highest intensity of need lies), and where the best 'fit' to the new green products exists, applications development, to formulate new products that offer not only technical performance but also differentiation/innovation, and promotion of all of this as a USP. It is possible to get corporate buy-in in novel ways...I cannot comment on labelling specifically. That could be better addressed by coalitions like Sustainable Packaging, Apparel etc. However, we have just seen the start of some large retailers, like IKEA, committing to new technology based on green chemistry up-front. This is a great move, and hopefully a sign of better things to come, meaning OEM's, brands and retailers buying into green chemistry to create market demand and adoption. This will really help accelerate the progress of green chemistry.
Our key products are our students and our science – while I won’t downplay the value of our science, I want to also emphasize the value of our students as products and the influence they can have on the use of green chemistry in practice (look, for example, on the influence of millenials on the use of social media by business!!!). As I noted in another reply, chemists and chemical engineers tend to be segregated from other disciplines once they become sophomores; this is not the case for other majors. Aside from chemists and Chem Eng’s, very few other majors (business to design to various engineering majors) get any exposure to chemistry, much less green chemistry. Indeed, the attitude of these other students towards chemistry is that it’s something that will kill you if you're not careful. So, one way to accelerate green chemistry is to create classes that deliberately mix disciplines with the goal of creating greener products that are based on molecular designs – the chemists get an exposure to the world of creating products and businesses, while the others see chemistry as more than “creating things that might kill you”.
I heard a VC a while ago say that green chemistry investments have too long a payback for VC. If that is the case, we either need to educate them about why the investment will still pay off, or find and engage investors who are willing to take the longer view. I'd like to see the green chemistry community get out of our own circles and make presentations to investment conferences and meetings not just about specific companies, but about the field as a whole.
Re developing chemists with broader perspectives, there are numerous programs in existence that bring freshmen together to attack problems (UMass, for one, but there are many others) -- this allows students to see problems from multiple viewpoints before they become bound by their disciplines.
I agree with Babette- I think having some visible successes will help generate attention -- from CEOs and from policy-makers