There is no one correct indicator for sustainable chemistry. A complex issue and holistic approach call for a suitable indicator set. In this newsletter, we present two indicator sets: Chemie³, a joint initiative of industry and trade unions, published an indicator system based on the sustainability of the chemical industry in a country or association. 

With the PSC – Parameters for Sustainable Chemistry – the Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environment Agency) developed criteria against which companies which produce or process chemicals can check the sustainability of any measures they (plan to) implement.


The German chemical industry makes sustainability measurable

Sustainability is measurable: With 40 indicators, as developed by the sustainability initiative Chemie³ of the chemical-pharmaceutical industry in Germany, the progress of a sustainable development can be measured for the first time in the sector. Chemie³ is a joint initiative of the German chemical industry association VCI, the Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE) and the German Federation of Chemical Employers’ Associations (BAVC). The indicators cover economic, environmental and social criteria. The alliance partners have agreed on 17 indicators which are solely dedicated to social progress. This gives a pioneering role to chemistry in German industry as a whole – like three years ago when the “Sustainability Guidelines for the Chemical Industry in Germany” were introduced.

A list giving an overview of all indicators as well as a full description of all indicators is available from the Chemie³ website


The German Environment Agency developed an indicator set “Parameters of Sustainable Chemistry” (PSC)“

The indicator set “Parameters of Sustainable Chemistry” (PSC) enables the assessment of specific sustainability measures applied in enterprises. The target group for the application of these indicators is enterprises which produce or use chemicals.

The PSC indicator set covers all major topics pertaining to Sustainable Chemistry. It is based on six core criteria: (1) climate footprint, (2) impacts on the environment, (3) product design, (4) risks to health, (5) economic benefits and (6) transparency, training, social standards, dialogue and inter­national cooperation.

The indicators should provide an initial assessment as to what extent companies dealing with chemicals have already implemented sustainability aspects, and reveal the existence of need for action. The indicators particularly address the level of the individual enterprise. They do not primarily have the objective of reflecting the trends prevailing in an entire industry branch.

An investigation using the indicator set can be applied to six different areas:

  • products (substances, preparations, materials, articles)
  • processes and services
  • other activities (such as trade in chemicals and chemical products)
  • single site of an individual company or the entire company

The evaluation will focus on companies which work with chemicals, be it in production, processing or trade. The company takes measures that have positive implications on sustainability aspects. On the basis of the indicator set, companies can determine the current level before and after implementation of the action.

The PSC indicator set can be used to concretize at business level several of the sustainability objectives set out by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).



Core Criteria[1]   Indicator[2] Target unit[3] (if necessary, adaptable to a specific application)
1 NC 1 GHG emissions kg CO2 equivalents over life cycle (ideally, GWP100 according to LCA)
2 NC 2 Raw material consumption kg;
can also be expressed in terms of loss potential(WPKRA) according to LCA
2 NC 3 Raw material intensity/ productivity kg raw material/kg product or kg product/kg raw material
2 NC 4 Percentage of renewable raw materials for material use % of total raw material input
2 NC 5 Energy expenditure kWh or MJ (taking into account all energy resources, i.e. renewable and non-renewable ones (upper calorific value)

can also be expressed in terms of loss potential (WPKEA) according to LCA

2 NC 6 Energy intensity/productivity kWh/kg product or

kg product/kWh

2 NC 7 Total water requirements m³ / also conceivable as water scarcity potential (WVP m² H2Oe) according to LCA
2 NC 8 Percentage of recovered water % of total water consumption
2 NC 9 Pollutant emissions into the air amount/year (e.g. µg/a or µg/kg product),

can also be expressed in terms the sum indicator “acidification potential” (kg SO2 equivalents) and toxic injury caused by fine dust (AFP) kg PM10 equ. according to LCA

2 NC 10 Pollutant emissions into water and into soil amount/year (e.g. µg/a or µg/kg product),

can also be expressed in terms of the sum indicator „aquatic and terrestrial eutrophication potential” (EP) (kg PO43-e) according LCA

2 NC 11 Waste volume t/a or t product
2 NC 12 Percentage of hazardous waste % of waste emissions
3 NC 13 Sustainability information on production % of product mass
3 NC 14 Percentage of hazardous substances (as indicator for substitution of hazardous substances) % in product mass and classification according to CLP and further hazardous characteristics (such as PBT, endocrine disruption); calculation of environmental hazard and health hazard potential (such as Freshwater Toxicity (CF); Human Toxicity Potential (HTP cancer, HTP non-cancer; or hazardous substances potential (HSP)[4])
4 NC 15 Work-related accidents total/year
4 NC 16 Occupational diseases % of persons employed
5 NC 17 Economic benefits through sustainable action €/year
5 NC 18 Intensity of capital expenditure to protect the environment and/or resources % of total investment and € per year
5 NC 19 Market presence Market share in % (sales enterprises divided by sales market)
5 NC 20 Share of suppliers and contractors audited for their compliance with human rights and environmental aspects % of all suppliers and contractors (along the entire value chain)
6 NC 21 Certification according to ISO, EMAS etc. List of certifications
6 NC 22 Staff training and education h/employee/year (related to the spatial system boundary)
6 NC 23 Total percentage of women % of persons employed (related to the spatial system boundary)
6 NC 24 Percentage of women in management positions % of employees in managerial positions (related to the spatial system boundary)
6 NC 25 Persons, covered by labor agreements % of persons employed (related to the spatial system boundary)
  Other benefits Non-quantifiable

[1]      (1) climate footprint, (2) impacts on the environment, (3) product design, (4) risks to health, (5) economic benefits and (6) transparency, training, social standards, dialogue and inter-national cooperation

[2]      Direct + indirect effects of sustainability tools

[3]      If possible, per t of product mass, alternatively per annum, for example

[4]     The hazardous substances potential (HSP) is calculated from the “impact potential“ of hazardous substances and the level of pollution in the product, applying the indicator “monoethylene glycol equivalents (MEG equ.)“ (Bunke and Graulich 2003). The determination of the hazardous substances potential comprises three steps: determination of the impact factor W for the hazardous substance (on the basis of R phrases using an allocation table according to TRGS 440); comparison of the substance with the reference substance (monoethylene glycol); accounting of the quantities actually used. An adaptation of the new H phrases under CLP is planned.