Leaders and laggards
This year’s average score is just 14.3 out of a possible 48, up a single point from last year, showing just how progress is still needed.
Some companies made significant positive changes, mostly by providing more information about their chemical management. They were led by SABIC, which tops ChemScore 2023 with a score of 31, having climbed 13 points. It is one of only 5 firms with a public strategy to quit hazardous chemicals, scores highly for its circular economy practices, and nearly top marks for its health and safety record, plus it publishes extensive details of production globally. Its transparency exposes the general excuse given by the sector (trade secrets) for lack of disclosure.
SABIC CEO Eng. Abdulrahman Al-Fageeh said: “SABIC is proud and honoured to be named leader of the 2023 ChemScore ranking. We believe our culture of continuous improvement, which includes strong product stewardship, hazardous chemicals management, circularity and Environment, Health, Safety and Security performance provides a solid foundation for Chemistry that Matters™.”
Apart from SABIC, rapid progress has also been made by Shin-Etsu, rising from 8 to 15, and Wanhua Chemical, rising from 7 to 13 points.
Some companies show sustained progress. These include Eastman (11 in 2021 to 12 in 2022 to 16 in 2023), Ecolab (14 to 14 to 19) Evonik (13 to 14 to 17) Lanxess (12 to 19 to 22), Nutrien (14 to 15 to 17) Sasol (6 in 2020 to 11 to 13 to 17) Solvay (11 to 8 to 16 to 21) Yara (15 to 16 to 23 to 26).
Improvements are mainly through better assessment practices, chemical management policies and circular activities. Some firms have though hit a ceiling and will only maintain momentum if they decrease their hazardous portfolio.
Consumer-facing companies achieve mixed results. Avery Dennison, Akzo Nobel and Covestro are ranked 7th, 8th and 10th respectively, compared to DIC ranked 46th, 3M ranked 42nd and Sherwin-Williams ranked 20th.
The world’s largest chemical producer by revenue, BASF, failed to show much leadership in 2023 and its score remained static, at 14 points overall. Its hazardous production count grew to 135, including 27 persistent chemicals and it failed to publish details of safer alternative substances it claims to make and market. The company scores well on circular topics but picked up zero points for its record of controversies. The market leader should be more transparent and step up substitution efforts dramatically, starting with its persistent chemicals, which bring huge risks.
Seven firms went backwards in 2023, falling in the rankings. These are Westlake (losing 6 points), Teijin (losing 4), Asahi Kasei (2), Umicore (2), Hanwha Solutions (1), Sika (1), and Johnson Matthey (1). Westlake saw the biggest fall due to having grown its portfolio of hazardous chemicals year on year, from 5 in 2021 to 19 now. The firm is far from transparent and its subsidiaries have been slapped with a $111 million air pollution fine.
DuPont (US) again comes bottom of the ranking after having removed all details of its North American production portfolio from public view in 2022. This year it failed to respond to repeated outreach by ChemSec. It was the first company to be assessed as “impossible to rate”.
Category 1 – hazardous chemical production
The inclusion of many PFAS substances to the SIN List meant that ChemScore added four new companies this year: Chemours, Honeywell, AGC and Daikin.
Category 2 – development of safer and circular chemical products
There has been little sign of companies accelerating their work to develop safer chemicals over the last year. 13 companies (up from 11 last year) are advertising safer alternatives at ChemSec Marketplace or with gold or platinum certificates on the Cradle-2-Cradle platform, the two third-party platforms that do not allow highly hazardous chemicals. Eight firms offer just one product.
But in a positive development, circular economy scores are up by 20%. Two-thirds of companies now report circular economy policies, but only a third have performance indicators in place to measure circularity. Six companies fail to score even a single circularity point: Ecolab, Chemours, Daikin, Resonac, Hanwha Solutions and Wanhua Chemical.
Most of the plastic-producing companies are developing chemical recycling technologies. However, this is not rewarded in ChemScore because it risks being used as a cover for greenwashing. Companies claim products are made of recycled plastics when they are entirely from virgin fossil feedstock. Chemical recycling often takes place at a location with no physical connection to the claimed recycled product, with only a certificate that changes owner.
Category 3 – good management and transparency
A growing number of companies recognise the need to report on the environmental and human health footprint of their operations to investors and the wider public. Five more companies responded to information requests from ChemSec this year: Chemours, Bayer, Resonac, Shin-Etsu, and The Mosaic Company, while two companies stopped responding: Asahi Kasei and DuPont, bringing the total number of companies cooperating with ChemSec to 34.
Companies are much clearer in their reporting and are aligning with ChemScore’s scoring system. The most open firms this year remain Eastman and Lanxess, which openly published details of their global production. SABIC joined their ranks this year too, but went much further by publishing its entire global production portfolio including locations, volumes and uses, an outstanding step. Braskem and Arkema picked up a point for partial transparency. Lotte Chemical now publishes chemical management details, where once it was a closed book.
Overall though, there is still too little information on chemical management and what is available is hard to find. The worst such performer is DuPont, which continues to be a black box in terms of public disclosure. It has not explained its reasons other than claiming its right to silence in the US. There is speculation its position relates to rising PFAS litigation.
Only five firms publish a strategy to phase out hazardous chemicals production: Indorama Ventures, SABIC, Yara and Solvay, joined this year by 3M.
Category 4 – Controversies, lawsuits and regulation
Some of the companies have accumulated a long list of controversies, especially PFAS producers (notably Chemours and 3M), while some companies have none. Twelve firms got lower scores: PPG Industries (-3), Westlake (-3), Nitto Denk (-2), Yara (-2), Avery Dennison (-1), Covestro (-1), Johnson Matthey (-1), NanYa Plastics (-1), Resonac (-1), Sika (-1), Teijin (-1), Toray Industries (-1). Meanwhile, 13 companies got higher scores: Wanhua Chemical (+6), Nippon Paint (+6), SABIC (+5), Solvay (+4), Evonik (+4), The Mosaic (+3), Shin-Etsu (+2), Sasol (+2), Eastman Chemical (+2), Sherwin-Williams (+1), Mitsubishi Chemical (+1), Lanxess (+1), Ecolab (+1).
Most positive changes noted above are due to a change in the scoring system this year; to stop counting events older than 5 years.
A breakdown by world region shows that Asia has improved the most, though only from 10.7 to 13.1 points on average. This is largely due to overall top scorers SABIC and Indorama Ventures pushing up regional results, and because some low-ranking firms were removed from ChemScore for becoming too small and/or difficult to rate.
Europe is up slightly, from 17.7 to 18.1, with all European companies except one placed in the top half of the ChemScore ranking this year. North America continues to stagnate, slipping slightly from 12.6 to 12.4 points on average. There is a wide variation between leaders and laggards in all parts of the world.
Asia accounts for nearly half of the firms in ChemScore, with 21 companies, including 13 in Japan. The overall winner SABIC scores 31 out of 48 points, an impressive improvement on last year, largely propelled by its internal push on increased transparency.
Thailand’s Indorama Ventures comes in as Asia’s second-best performer, with a score of 26.6. But the average score across Asia’s companies, 13.1, is weak, even if it is better than last year. 20 Asian firms are ranked in the bottom third of the overall ChemScore ranking, including 9 from Japan.
Two firms decreased their hazardous portfolio (Wanhua Chemical and Sumitomo). Data on chemical production is missing for many Asian chemical companies, which leads to lower scores across the region. Some Asian companies have described their chemical management in more detail though (Indorama Ventures, LG Chem, Mitsui Chemicals, SABIC, PTT Global Chemical). Only eight Asian companies actively engaged with ChemScore: SABIC, Indorama Ventures, LG Chem, Mitsui Chemicals, DIC Corporation, Shin-Etsu, Nippon Paint, and Resonac.
Europe leads the rest of the world, with an average 18.1 score coming from 13 companies. Yara (NO) and Johnson Matthey (UK) are the regional leaders, ranked 3rd and 4th overall, scoring 26 and 23 out of 48 respectively. All European companies are in the top half of the ChemScore ranking this year except Umicore (BE), which ranked 30th with 12.9 points. All European companies except Sika (CH) have actively engaged with ChemScore this year.
Companies here continue to stagnate, scoring an average of 12.4. Avery Dennison (7th) is the regional leader with 21 points, followed by Ecolab (9th) and Canada’s Nutrien (13th), with 19 and 16.8 points respectively. Without legislative incentives or major legal action beyond PFAS, there is little to drive a transition to more sustainable chemical production. Nine of the 13 US companies are in the bottom half of the table. Despite this, all North American companies engaged with ChemScore, except Honeywell and DuPont.
ChemScore is the only independent ranking of companies producing hazardous chemicals and their efforts to transition to safer alternatives. Production of hazardous chemicals increases corporate exposure to regulation, litigation and shifting consumer sentiment, making ChemScore an authoritative guide to medium and long-term investor risks and opportunities stemming from these threats.
Company report cards include a detailed report which benchmarks numerous factors summarised above. ChemScore is updated in the last quarter of every year. This is the fourth annual update. Visit ChemScore for more detailed information.