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The Impact of Green Chemistry in Commerce With Focus On The Drive To Sustainability

One of the concepts we stress when instructing classes in either the traditional or online MBA program is the concept of sustainability. The 3 Ps (People, Planet, and Profit) are the fundamental building blocks toward a sustainable organization but more on that in future posts. Tied closely to sustainability is the need to exploit the practice of Green Chemistry. Exactly what does that mean? Anastas, Warner (1998) defined Green Chemistry as the “utilization of a set of principles that reduces or eliminates the use or generation of hazardous substances in the design, manufacture and application of chemical products” (p.11). Now that is quite a mouthful!

Many of our commercial industries either produce or consume various products that are either derived from fossil fuels or synthesized using hazardous substances. This results in by products that must be handled as hazardous wastes requiring some form of treatment. The costs associated with treatment or disposal impacts the firm’s bottom line. Business leaders must take these issues into consideration when evaluating total product life cycle costs. Critical analysis must be deployed to capture total costs of ownership for these products rather than simply using general accounting principles. Taking a proactive approach to mitigate future impact of the 3Ps should be a critical component of the business strategy. That said, the need exists on a global scale as Anastas, Warner (1998) shared “the goal to make a chemical product or process “environmentally benign” is a mere statement of the ethic of continuous improvement more than it is a metric by which to measure improvement” (p15). This means that affected industries can use Green Chemistry as a tool to drive competitive advantage. To look within their product portfolio and determine how future designs may be less impactful on the value chain’s 3Ps. The objective of reducing the total cost of ownership for not only the firm but customers as well. What better way to increase market share as well as potentially open new markets?

So why is this important? Why would future MBA students be interested? As an industrialist I see the changing landscape in relation to environmental health and safety. There are new and evolving government regulations in different parts of the world. The need to proactively review the firm’s current product fit is critical. Chemistry deemed as “acceptable” in the past is now in question. The transition to less impactful products will gain momentum. Firms that fail to heed these changes will face an obsolete product line. Therefore MBA students should invest some time and effort into the benefits of Green Chemistry and how if deployed properly would serve as a tool to competitive advantage.


Anastas, P. & Warner, J. (1998). Green Chemistry Theory and Practice, New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.

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About the Author

Pete Papantos is an operations director at a Fortune 500 company. He is responsible for the global execution of their strategic plan and driving operational excellence using lean methods. In addition, Pete is a graduate instructor with emphasis in operations and strategic management — both in traditional and online settings.