IOCD presents occasional perspective/comment/opinion articles on topics of current interest related
to the chemical sciences, sustainable development and the broader connections between science and
The views expressed in these pieces are solely the responsibility of the writers and do not
necessarily reflect the opinion or position of IOCD.
This Perspective highlights a paper from IOCD's action group, C4S, which discusses the role of
the chemical sciences in sustainability and illustrates the use of the Systems-Oriented Concept
Map Extension (SOCME) tool in three case studies that explore the sustainability of production,
use and disposal of aluminium, plastics and textiles.
With the world facing a range of massive environmental challenges, planetary boundaries being
exceeded and tipping points approached, achieving sustainability has emerged as one of the most
important goals of the 21st Century and is the central focus of IOCD's action group, C4S. This
Perspective examines the evolution of the concept of sustainability and considers how the
repositioning of chemistry can strengthen its contributions as a sustainability science.
IOCD's action group, C4S, highlights the critical importance of a well-functioning relationship
between science, society and policy as the best protection against threats posed by oncoming
IOCD scientists Henning Hopf and Stephen Matlin reflect on the significance of the 50th
Earth Day, which focuses on climate action. They consider this event in the context of the
Covid-19 pandemic and the critical role of science in combatting such global crises.
Stephen Matlin comments on the significance of the International Women's Day 2020 theme and
the effort that still needs to be made to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in
science. He highlights the work of IOCD's group Chemists for Sustainability to
promote EDI in the chemical sciences.
IOCD's group Chemists for Sustainability (C4S) proposed in 2016 that chemistry
should adopt systems thinking (ST) as a crucial component of reforms needed to revitalise the
discipline and to strengthen its capacity to contribute to sustainable development. In this
Perspective Stephen Matlin summarises work of the C4S group and the progress being made in
incorporating ST in the chemical sciences.
Hype is becoming increasingly common in the publicity surrounding scientific work, in the claims
made for the significance of findings reported in the scientific literature and in the
speculations about potential ‘impact’ that are encouraged in grant applications. The
Chemists for Sustainability (C4S) action group in IOCD has drawn attention to the
dangers this poses — as a first step down the slippery slope that leads from hype and
hypocrisy to falsification and fakery. The Perspective by Stephen Matlin highlights recent work by
C4S on this topic.
Stephen Matlin highlights recent and ongoing work by IOCD's group Chemists for
Sustainability on the need to reduce waste in all its forms and the roles that the
chemical sciences need to play in achieving a post-trash world.
Decisions taken and actions executed by governments, organizations, industries and people
everywhere, in relation to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals and addressing an
unfolding set of planetary environmental crises and emergencies, will have profound effects on the
lives of individuals and the conditions in the planetary environment, both in the immediate term
and for a very long time ahead. Science has immense capacities to help meet these challenges
— and to do so it needs to make its best efforts to deliver evidence, advice and products,
but also to engage effectively with society and policy makers to ensure that sound pathways are
chosen towards sustainable development and the sustainability of the planetary environment. The
Perspective by Stephen Matlin highlights work by IOCD's group Chemists for
Sustainability to examine and promote the roles that the chemical sciences must play in
shaping a sustainable future.
Stephen Matlin reflects on the launch of the Manifesto to Secure a Healthy Planet for All
— A Call for Emergency Action by the InterAction Council, its significance in the
context of the growing planetary climate and environmental crisis, and IOCD's work to enhance the
role of the chemical sciences in sustainable development.
Stephen Matlin celebrates the contributions of Thomas Eisner, born 25 June 1929, as the
‘father of chemical ecology’ and an ardent promoter of biodiversity conservation, the
value of which could be demonstrated through ‘chemical prospecting’. He highlights the
linkages to IOCD's previous and continuing work on the role of the chemical sciences in
IOCD's action group 'Chemists for Sustainability' reflects on the significance of World
Environment Day, 5 June 2019, the urgency of action to reduce the impacts of human activity on the
planetary environment and the role that chemistry must play in achieving a sustainable future.
Stephen Matlin highlights a new publication in Nature Sustainability from a project of
IUPAC, supported by IOCD, which discusses the introduction of systems thinking into education and
demonstrates the use of a new visualisation tool, the Systems-Oriented Concept Map Extension
Stephen Matlin highlights the barriers and discrimination that women continue to meet at all
levels of science, the need to address the challenges in equity, diversity and inclusion in
science and the valuable role that can be played by training in cultural competence.
International Organization for Chemical Sciences in Development
Executive Director: Prof. Federico Rosei
Centre for Energy, Materials and Telecommunications
Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique
Université du Québec, Canada
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