Sustainability and surfactants


Scientific advisory board of HPC Today – TKS Publisher


In the early years of the synthetic surfactants the surfactants industry had a large and generally negative impact on sustainability. Because of their purpose surfactants are sacrificial, and as such represent a challenge. Moving from petrochemical to bio-based raw materials is an illusory solution. Reducing wastage along the entire value chain on the contrary produces permanent and positive results and optimizing the technical performance of individual surfactants and their formulation play a fundamental role. This demands a quest for true innovation, development of formulation skills and a close collaboration between industry, academia and the regulatory. 

In these days of confinement, I had plenty of time to reflect to what extent the concept of sustainability has become pervasive in our social and economic environment and how deeply it is affecting an amazing variety of economical and of behavioural patterns, from the raw materials used, to the production technologies, to the distribution of goods to the consumption trends.


Two questions popped-up in this meditation. First: what is in reality sustainability; and second: how are surfactants impacting on it, positively or negatively.

Etymologically the word sustainability can be described as the process(es) by which something is kept at a certain level. In another interpretation sustainability could be seen as “the possibility that humans and other forms of life on earth will flourish forever” (1).


The reality is that there are many different viewpoints on this concept and on how sustainability can be achieved. Conversely “sustainable development” has a universally agreed definition of “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (2).