Chemours CEO talks Teflon and local weather change

Leadership Next Mark Newman Chemours

On this week’s episode of Fortune‘s Leadership Next podcast, co-host Alan Murray speaks with Mark Newman, the CEO and president of Chemours (No. 502 on the 2022 Fortune 1000). They focus on the chemical firm’s dedication to righting its environmental wrongs; its continued funding in Teflon, certainly one of many chemical compounds referred to as PFAS which were linked to critical well being issues; and the way the corporate will assist cope with local weather change.

Later, co-host Ellen McGirt continues the dialog about PFAS with Dr. Maria Doa, the Environmental Protection Fund’s senior director of chemical compounds coverage. Doa explains why “well being and security and a inexperienced financial system aren’t mutually unique.”

Hearken to the episode or learn the complete transcript under. 

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Alan Murray: Management Subsequent is powered by the oldsters at Deloitte, who, like me, are tremendous targeted on how CEOs can lead within the context of disruption and evolving societal expectations.

Welcome to Management Subsequent, the podcast concerning the altering guidelines of enterprise management. I’m Alan Murray, and I’m right here with my favourite co-host, Ellen McGirt. Ellen. Good to see you.

Ellen McGirt: You’re my favourite co-host too, Alan. Good to see you. It’s good to be right here. And I’m actually excited about immediately’s interview. It’s with Mark Newman, the CEO of the chemical firm Chemours. I couldn’t make it to this one, which was actually a bummer, as a result of I had a bunch of questions for Mark. You’ll hear me on the B-side of this, nonetheless, however I’m assured that you simply’ve lined a number of floor. 

Murray: Yeah, it’s an interesting firm, Ellen. Chemours spun out from DuPont in 2015. It produces a number of completely different chemical compounds. It’s most likely greatest identified for producing Teflon, that chemical coating that’s largely related to nonstick surfaces on pots and pans. But it surely’s additionally used to waterproof clothes, to make automotive paint good and glossy, fortify photo voltaic panels. It has prior to now typically has been considered an environmental drawback, however the fascinating factor about Chemours, that we’ll discover out on this episode, is that they’ve actually shifted to focusing extra on environmental and local weather options.

McGirt: Sure, I’m excited about studying extra about that. Teflon, after all, can be the good metaphor of selection for our legislators who by no means get caught, by no means get into bother. So it’s actually a useful gizmo. I’m actually interested by how Chemours goes about producing these chemical compounds. As a few of our viewers could know, Teflon is taken into account a polyfluoroalkyl substance, and I simply struggled to discover ways to pronounce that phrase. Polyfluoroalkyl substances are higher referred to as PFAS—spelled P F A S—they usually’re a category of chemical compounds thought-about endlessly chemical compounds, that means they don’t break down within the setting. And naturally, the ingestion of PFAS both straight or by means of contaminated water has been linked to some fairly critical stuff like cancers or different well being issues. Now I do know that Chemours is continuous to spend money on PFAS, and I additionally know that they suppose they will achieve this responsibly. Did you get an opportunity to speak to him about that?

Murray: Yeah, I did, Ellen, and I feel you’ll be impressed with what he needed to say. Mark is definitely solely the second CEO of Chemours. He took over in 2021. And since then, he has personally been very vocal concerning the firm’s dedication to each righting its previous environmental wrongs and enjoying a productive position in coping with local weather change. We spent a number of time speaking about that, about the way it will transition to turning into a clear firm with out avoiding public expenses of greenwashing. That is the kind of purposeful however tough management by means of transition that made Mark such an fascinating Management Subsequent visitor.

McGirt: I agree, and it’s essential to dive proper into these actually powerful topics. So I’m stepping into with an open thoughts though I’m all the time on the proverbial ledge. However I additionally wish to study PFAS typically—their makes use of, their influence, and the way they are often deployed safely. So later on this episode, I’m going to speak with Dr. Maria Doa, the senior director of chemical compounds coverage on the Environmental Protection Fund, and attempt to get my questions answered.

Murray: I’m wanting ahead to listening to from Dr. Doa, Ellen, and I’m wanting ahead to you listening to from Mark. So with none additional ado, right here is the dialog with Mark Newman of Chemours.

Mark, thanks a lot for being right here and having this dialog.

Mark Newman: Alan, nice to be right here immediately. Love speaking to you.

Murray: I’ve been actually wanting ahead to this, since you run a chemical firm, a chemical firm that makes merchandise which have prior to now been accused of despoiling the setting, however you might be clearly dedicated to creating it an organization that helps remedy our environmental issues. And I wish to spend a while speaking about what that transition seems to be like and the way you talk it to folks and keep away from expenses of greenwashing. All of these issues. However earlier than I do any of that, inform us what Chemours is and the place it got here from.

Newman: Okay, effectively, Chemours is a chemistry firm. Chemours is 6,600 workers sturdy. We’re about $7 billion in income. About 4,400 of our workers are right here within the U.S., the remaining world, and we’ve three trade main companies. Our largest is Titanium Applied sciences. Suppose titanium dioxide that goes into coatings and laminates and plastics. Our Thermal and Specialised Options are actually targeted on sustainable vitality or thermal administration. After which our Superior Efficiency Supplies or fluoropolymers, as they’re typically known as, is absolutely targeted on a number of very high-value end-use purposes. 

I wish to begin although, by speaking about our imaginative and prescient, as a result of I feel that is what’s thrilling and energizing our workers. Our imaginative and prescient is that collectively, we create a greater world by means of the ability of our chemistry. And so our basic perception is we are able to make the world higher because of Chemours merchandise, our folks, and the way we run our operations. And that inherently, sustainability is a key facet to our company technique. So in our TiO2 enterprise, our purpose is to be probably the most sustainable Tio2 enterprise on the earth. And we only in the near past launched a product which, for plastic producers, will scale back their vitality price or vitality utilization by 6%. That is kind of a brand new grade that we simply launched. In our thermal administration enterprise, we’re driving a lot decrease world warming potential in our refrigerants. We’re driving a number of work-around vitality effectivity, whether or not that’s in warmth pumps to switch fossil fuels, or warmth pumps in electrical automobiles to enhance battery vary. After which lastly, I imply, in our superior efficiency supplies enterprise, our merchandise are getting used at present in a big selection of merchandise, together with your cell phone. However we’re going to allow increased speeds in knowledge, which is nice for commerce and nationwide safety. We’re enabling EVs. I used to be simply speaking to you about a few of the advances in in EV battery expertise, which our chemistry is supporting. After which lastly, the entire vitality transition or vitality diversification with hydrogen, our Nafion membrane is on the heart of an electrolyzer that makes hydrogen from renewable electrical energy, but in addition in a gasoline cell that converts that hydrogen again to electrical energy for mobility or different industrial makes use of.

Murray: And I wish to go into all of these, I significantly wish to go into Nafion and the promise of hydrogen as a solution to our local weather and world warming issues. However permit me simply to return for a minute, as a result of Chemours was born out of DuPont. 

Newman: Right.

Murray: Spun out in?

Newman: 2015. So we’re seven years outdated. 

Murray: Previous to that point, earlier than you bought there, merchandise like Freon had been accused of contributing to the degradation of the ozone setting, Teflon was endlessly chemical compounds, these items which are going be round endlessly. There have been a number of complaints about their impact on the setting. And a few folks nonetheless say that every one all the pieces you’re speaking about is simply greenwashing. You’re simply making an attempt to make up for the sins of the previous. And we’ll go into the element of what you’re doing. However simply broadly talking, how do you reply to that? 

Newman: Yeah, clearly there are legacy points, a few of which, as you mentioned, predates the formation of the corporate. And we’re addressing these legacy points, you recognize, within the communities by which we function. However we’re very targeted on this isn’t about greenwashing. In reality, it’s about sustainability in each the merchandise that we make and the way we make them. So, for instance, we’ve dedicated that almost all of our merchandise by income, will contribute to UN sustainability improvement objectives. We’re, as of final yr, about very near 50%. We’ll be past that this yr, with the expansion that we see in Nafion membranes and low world warming refrigerants. And so sure, you recognize, there’s a historical past of those merchandise, you recognize, not being as sustainable as they’re immediately. That’s historical past. And, in actual fact, you recognize, to your touch upon Freon, that was, you recognize, that was phased out below the Montreal Protocol, you recognize, which was within the Nineties. In order that’s not current historical past. However sure, it’s a part of the legacy of, these are merchandise that are actually far more sustainable.

Murray: Does it frustrate you that you simply nonetheless must dwell with that legacy?

Newman: It does, to be trustworthy. One of many irritating issues, although, that you simply talked about, is that the entire dialogue on fluorine chemistry, there’s two large components which are lacking, and also you touched on one already. The primary is, a number of the problems we’re discussing immediately must do how with how the merchandise had been made or used a long time in the past. Let’s put it within the context of, all of us wish to get higher, and there have been issues prior to now that had been lower than the place we’re immediately. That’s one. The second is very often, particularly with fluoropolymers, folks suppose this is a matter about Teflon frying pans, as a result of that’s what they keep in mind, that is what they affiliate the model with. However with out with out fluoropolymers, you gained’t have a U.S. semicon trade. We make a fluoropolymer known as PFA, the acronym, the place we’re the one U.S. producer of this product. And we’re certainly one of two or three on the earth that make a excessive purity PFA, which is required for the newest semicon fabs. As I discussed, our fluoropolymers are in anode and cathodes in EV batteries. Your cell phone doesn’t work with out fluoropolymers. Excessive-speed knowledge doesn’t occur with out fluoropolymers. In reality, in fluorochemicals, we’re engaged on immersion cooling, the place we are able to immerse the whole server in a cooling fluid to cut back the vitality load of knowledge facilities. So, so pay attention, I feel after we consider the following financial system, you recognize, a number of speak within the final week about A.I. A.I. is about high-speed knowledge. That’s fluoropolymers. A number of discuss nationwide safety. That’s high-speed knowledge. I imply, so that you simply take into consideration how trivialized we’ve made the dialogue about pots and pans. It’s not about pots and pans, it’s concerning the future financial system.

Murray: So, let me ask you, you’ve already given numerous examples of merchandise that Chemours is making that you simply consider will assist us remedy our local weather drawback or environmental drawback. We talked about EVs, the essential position you have got in EVS. We talked about carbon-friendly refrigerants. We talked about Nafion, the membrane that helps make hydrogen gasoline. And there’s so many I don’t know, it’s so thrilling. There are too many to go after. Inform me the one which excites you most? Yeah, you need to choose amongst your youngsters.

Newman: Properly, let me simply say the place I’ve spent probably the most time lately, within the final yr. And when you take a look at the headlines over Chemours, it’s on hydrogen. And why is that? As a result of there are a number of scientists who consider there’s no path to net zero with out hydrogen. So we as an organization have dedicated to a 60% greenhouse gasoline discount, absolute discount by 2030. However we all know the trail to web zero goes to be much more tough, from the 60% to web zero. Hydrogen, as an industrial vitality supply provides a number of potential. And you recognize, I feel there was a research by McKinsey that by means of 2050, 80 gigatons of CO2 shall be eradicated by means of hydrogen. 

Murray: If we succeed. 

Newman: If we succeed. By the way in which, we’re an enormous a part of the provision chain that should develop. And so that you’ll know we’re investing to develop our Nafion membrane capability considerably.

Murray: Yeah, so speak concerning the Nafion membrane. Then what’s it that your product does to make hydrogen gasoline nearer to a actuality? As a result of the reality is, it isn’t a commercially viable gasoline in the meanwhile, proper?

Newman: In the intervening time, though I might say the Inflation Discount Act stimulus will, I feel, result in a number of improvement. That the subsidy or the tax incentives within the invoice will actually you recognize, deliver a number of hydrogen capability and produce scale to the trade that may make it extra price aggressive. The Nafion membrane, to begin with, these are membranes which are concerning the width of a human hair. They sit between two electrodes often run at, you recognize, 880 volts. So these are high-voltage electrodes changing water to hydrogen and oxygen. Proper. And so the advantage of our membrane is—and once more, as a result of it’s a fluoropolymer—it may possibly face up to warmth, it’s non-conductive, nevertheless it permits protons to circulation throughout the membrane as you break up the water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. So we’re working primarily on two issues. How can we scale back the ohmic loss within the electrolyte, so throughout our membrane, one, and the way can we considerably enhance sturdiness? The opposite factor we’re engaged on, clearly, for the electrolyzer producers is the price of manufacturing.

Murray: If we efficiently make this transition, and if hydrogen is a vital a part of the answer, don’t these membranes change into like semiconductors? They change into core to the brand new financial system. 

Newman: We wish to say we’re on the coronary heart of the hydrogen financial system.

Murray: Yeah. So clarify, clarify to me why hydrogen is so essential to the local weather resolution, like the place is that this? When you crack the economics, you make it cheap sufficient to be commercially viable. What issues is it going to resolve for us? The place’s it going for use first?

Newman: I consider there are vital purposes in trade, proper, the place you have got giant consumption of vitality. And in reality… 

Murray: Pure gasoline first.

Newman: Precisely. In reality, we had been named as a participant within the ARCHES2 hydrogen hub utility in West Virginia. And we’re already how we rework our steam technology at our crops in West Virginia to include as much as 20% of hydrogen within the gasoline supply. So you are taking a pure gasoline boiler that’s used to make steam for course of steam within the chemical industries, an enormous vitality use. We consider we are able to convert these boilers to take as present design with a slight modification, 20% of the gasoline may be pure hydrogen, which has has no carbon signature to it. So I feel this may support the vitality transition.

[Music starts]

Murray: I’m right here with Joe Ucuzoglu, the CEO of Deloitte and the sponsor of this podcast for all of its seasons. Thanks for that, Joe. 

Joe Ucuzoglu: Thanks, Alan. Pleasure to be right here. 

Murray: Joe, everyone knows that what will get measured will get managed. Of us like your colleagues at Deloitte have spent a century build up metrics to maintain observe of shareholder return. However how will we measure stakeholder return?

Ucuzoglu: That is nonetheless all about measuring attributes that do in actual fact drive shareholder worth. As a result of over the long run, if you’re driving indicators that signify worth creation to your stakeholders, that may translate into premium returns to your shareholders. So what that is actually about is lengthening our horizons. It’s a mixture of quantitative and qualitative metrics. There’s an infinite quantity of labor to be completed, however you’re seeing an actual sense of urgency round this. 

Murray: I feel that’s a very essential level. That in the long run, over years, a long time, the pursuits of shareholders and the pursuits of the stakeholders converge. However within the brief time period, they will typically go in several instructions. 

Ucuzoglu: They definitely can. However what you see is main traders encouraging the businesses they spend money on to make sure that they’re constructing and main sustainable enterprises with the target of maximizing shareholder worth over a very long time. 

Murray: Joe, thanks for being with us. 

Ucuzoglu: Alan, it’s an actual pleasure.

[Music ends]

Murray: Let’s go to the battery problem. Everyone knows that’s an enormous problem. I imply, General Motors says it’s solely going to make EVs by 2035. California has mentioned they’re solely going to let EVs on the highway by 2035. Yeah, that’s a number of batteries. What drawback is Chemours fixing for us there?

Newman: To start with, batteries are going to increased voltage and better cost density. One of many virtues of fluoropolymers is their dielectric properties. And so the identical properties that make it an amazing membrane make it an amazing electrical insulator. So if in case you have cables to allow excessive velocity charging, you’re going to wish a fluoropolymer to cope with the warmth and {the electrical} load in these circuits. The efficiency of the electrical automotive is is all about how effectively the motor works and the way effectively {the electrical} infrastructure works. In reality, a number of the work occurring now in EVs is how do you make {the electrical} infrastructure extra environment friendly so that you simply want much less lithium—you are able to do with a smaller battery dimension? After which as I used to be mentioning to you earlier, we’re very concerned in type of the following technology of battery expertise, which is a way more sustainable, decrease price, decrease vitality utilization manufacture of the battery itself, when it comes to our fluoropolymer being components within the battery producer. So we’re very concerned within the ecosystem of an electrical automobile from begin to end.

Murray: You’ve already given us two very compelling circumstances that present what you might be doing is actual. It’s arduous to accuse investments and actions of that dimension as being greenwashing. However however was there some extent? When did you personally or how did Chemours and DuPont earlier than it make the flip? When did you personally say, Hey, we’ve acquired to cease enjoying protection, which they spent a number of money and time and attorneys and many others, enjoying protection, we’ve acquired to cease enjoying protection and begin enjoying offense on environmental issues. How did that transition occur?

Newman: Our firm was fashioned, as I mentioned earlier, in 2015. In 2018 we realized that, look, we’ve a number of legacy that comes when it comes to how we had been fashioned. However the place will we wish to go going ahead? And so in 2018 we got here out with what we name our company accountability commitments. In that dedication was a dedication across the merchandise we had been making, when it comes to UN SDG objectives [sustainable development goals], in addition to this dedication to a better than 99% discount in fluorogenic compounds, and the 60% greenhouse gasoline discount. So in 2018, it felt fairly novel versus a number of trade friends, however we felt like that is what we have to do. By the way in which, once you’re witnessing the influence of legacy selections that weren’t sustainable, you have got a deeper stage of conviction of what you wish to be going ahead. 

Murray: And what you don’t wish to be. 

Newman: Precisely, yeah. Once I turned CEO in 2021, I mentioned, you recognize, the truth that we name them company accountability commitments, it appears like they’re not integral to our technique. We get pleasure from taking that basis now and combine it into this imaginative and prescient that we wish to create a greater world by means of the ability of our chemistry.

Murray: And the way has that call modified your organization?

Newman: I really feel it’s, I really feel it’s actually struck a chord with our workers and with our clients. I genuinely really feel that that is who we’re and who we wish to be. And it’s, it’s actually pushed a number of enthusiasm and drive within the firm, even supposing we’re nonetheless engaged on, as you mentioned, you recognize, legacy points associated to how we had been fashioned. And we’re additionally coping with a problem that there are a number of narratives round fluorine chemistry, which are incomplete. 

Murray: However on the legacy points, it doesn’t change the way in which when someone says, Oh, however right here’s one thing you’ve been doing for years and years that isn’t constant together with your new imaginative and prescient. What do you do about that?

Newman: We’re engaged on previous points and addressing them neighborhood by neighborhood. And so we proceed to dwell as much as the commitments we’ve made round remediation because it pertains to legacy points. So we deliver folks again to say, we agreed to do that and we’re doing it. However look, we offer nice jobs on this neighborhood and we offer an answer for lots of future issues that we would like right here in America.

Murray: So, let’s speak slightly bit about your private story and the way that formed your management fashion. You grew up in Jamaica? 

Newman: Sure, I grew up on a farm in Jamaica. 

Murray: So what I imply, inform us how you bought from rising up on a farm in Jamaica, to working this large world chemical firm? 

Newman: Properly, it’s a protracted story, however I’ll maintain it brief. Pay attention, I grew up on a farm. I feel rising up on a farm retains you grounded, no pun meant. And I had the privilege, due to my mom being Canadian, to be educated in Canada, and ended up working for Common Motors. They introduced me to the U.S. And you recognize, my profession with GM accelerated and ultimately, I turned a public firm CFO, and was requested to hitch the Chemours workforce, after they had been being spun out of DuPont in 2015, because the CFO. You already know, I’ve all the time had this need to steer, and I like main. And and so, you recognize, when Mark Vergnano determined to retire, you recognize, I definitely was very within the prospect of main Chemours. I felt like I used to be one of many founding fathers of a brand new firm, and actually had a number of ardour round what we may do with Chemours.

Murray: Massive query: You’re a lot nearer to the science than I’m, or definitely than most individuals are. You perceive the place the expertise is and the place the expertise isn’t. Are we on a path, in your view, to get to web zero by 2050? Is {that a} affordable purpose, given what you recognize concerning the expertise?

Newman: So, I’d say in truth, based mostly on what we all know immediately, the trail to web zero past significant reductions in greenhouse gasoline remains to be a little bit of a query mark. I feel everybody realizes it’s the correct aspiration to have, that we have to have this sort of aspiration.

Murray: I’m undecided it’s everybody. However we’re getting there.

Newman: I might say, sure, I might say most, possibly I might say most CEOs, yeah, as a bunch, understand that the longer term when it comes to the local weather, and our environmental signature must be higher than it’s immediately. And we have to discover a path to get there as rapidly and as sustainably as potential. So I consider within the energy of chemistry, and I consider we’ll, you recognize, our historical past is stuffed with human endeavor that, you recognize, to resolve issues that then appeared unsolvable, however in hindsight, have been solved. Given the human situation, why will we consider that this someway is an unsolvable drawback?

Murray: So that you’ve been CEO for a yr and a half. Over that interval, I might say, during the last three years, we’ve seen an enormous enhance within the variety of CEOs who’ve dedicated to web zero 2050. And we’ve additionally seen CEOs pondering in another way about their jobs and their duties [inaudible]. It’s type of the parallel to what you had been saying about taking company social accountability, which type of feels like one thing you retain in a facet workplace and go to each from time to time to creating it core to their methods. Do you see that occuring? And why do you suppose it’s occurring? And can it proceed to occur? And the final piece is, how do you cope with the political pushback, significantly right here within the U.S., to that improvement?

Newman: Yeah. So I might say the very first thing is, that is about making a sustainable future, a sustainable future for the corporate, its workers and society at giant. So I feel when you take a look at it by means of that lens, that’s that’s a really useful to say, is what we’re doing going to make the longer term higher than it’s immediately? And secondly, is it true to the values we espouse as an organization? So very often we are saying we take a look at, you recognize, what we’re doing within the ESG area to say, effectively, how does that align with the values that we discuss day-after-day, when it comes to the tradition of the corporate? As a result of in the event that they’re not in a position to really feel very dissonant to workers. And I might say to the final a part of your query, we attempt, or at the least I attempt in my position as CEO, to not make this a platform for a quote-unquote social agenda. As a result of there are lots of people utilizing completely different elements of the social agenda for various causes. So, you recognize, whether or not it has to do with transgender rights or ladies’s reproductive rights, I feel there’s a means of constructing the corporate open and out there and secure for everybody, with out essentially utilizing it to advertise a social trigger. And I feel, as a CEO, I really feel such as you’re very often placed on the spot to advertise a social trigger. And fairly frankly, I really feel the, I consider, the core accountability of a CEO is to say, am I doing the correct factor for this firm and for its stakeholders? And is is the way in which I’m approaching this problem in step with that initiative or that purpose? In addition to the purpose of being true to what you promote your self to be?

Murray: Yeah, I feel that’s very effectively put. Mark Newman, thanks a lot for spending time speaking to me. 

Newman: Thanks, Alan. Nice to be right here.


McGirt: Dr. Doa, thanks a lot for being with us immediately. That is such an advanced chemical query. So that you’re the right individual to assist us kind it out. Can we begin by simply understanding slightly bit about what you’re doing at EDF?

Maria Doa: I’m engaged on extra accountable use of chemical compounds and decreasing exposures and dangers to chemical compounds, exposures to all of us. And importantly, exposures to these susceptible, those that reside close to services which have increased publicity to chemical compounds, and people which are extra inclined to chemical compounds reminiscent of pregnant ladies, youngsters, the aged.

McGirt: Let’s break it down for our listeners, as a result of it will get, as I discussed, fairly sophisticated fairly rapidly. What’s a working definition of PFAS that the typical individual may perceive and the place do we discover them? What merchandise do we discover them in?

Doa: Properly, PFAS are a bunch of associated widely-used, very long-lasting artificial chemical compounds. Meaning they’re artifical. They’re appropriately known as endlessly chemical compounds, as a result of they final for therefore lengthy within the setting and are very tough to destroy. Additionally, many PFAS can accumulate and final a very long time in people. Some, for years. They usually have many traits that make them helpful in merchandise, they usually’re utilized in many issues from nonstick cookware, waterproofing for clothes, stain resistance for furnishings. They’re additionally utilized in firefighting foam.

McGirt: So that they’re helpful, they’re fashionable, they’re a aggressive benefit in enterprise. So I can see why they’re all over the place now. However what influence have they got on folks and the setting?

Doa: Due to their widespread use, and due to their persistence within the setting, they’re discovered within the blood of individuals and animals everywhere in the world and all through the setting. For instance, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention has discovered that PFAS are within the blood of 97% of Individuals, which may be very uncommon for chemical compounds to be that prime.

McGirt: So what does it imply that they’re in our our bodies? That they’re round us? What are the impacts?

Doa: Many PFAS have been recognized to trigger dangerous results, significantly when you’re uncovered to them over a protracted time frame or uncovered throughout sure vital life levels, like throughout being pregnant and in growing infants. So as well as, they could enhance the chance of some cancers reminiscent of kidney and testicular most cancers, they usually can harm the liver.

McGirt: I feel what Chemours’ large argument is, is that every one the issues with these chemical compounds are prior to now. Can PFAS in your understanding ever be manufactured safely and responsibly?

Doa: Properly, to begin with, it’s not all prior to now. And plenty of of those PFAS are nonetheless getting used. Chemours, for instance, switched from a PFAS referred to as PFOA, which is massively problematic, and we’re nonetheless coping with that, into one other PFAS known as GenX, which they marketed as a alternative for PFOA. I feel the difficulty of whether or not they are often manufactured responsibly, there’s a number of historical past that reveals it’s very tough to do this given the widespread contamination and a few of it associated to the manufacturing of those PFAS or the usage of these PFAS, reminiscent of within the manufacture of plastics. So I feel the difficulty is what’s wanted is innovation. And modern corporations take a brisker, broader take a look at what chemical compounds can meet the wants of their clients, reasonably than shifting from one PFAS to a different, and those who transfer from the sooner PFAS to different substitutes, merely made modifications across the edges, and simply must introduce different problematic chemical compounds, as I simply talked about with PFOA and GenX.

McGirt: We’re out of the blue listening to about PFAS all over the place. Without end chemical compounds is a very highly effective strategy to body what they’re within the creativeness of the general public, too. Why do you suppose we’re out of the blue listening to a lot about this? And what ought to the general public learn about how to consider regulating their use?

Doa: Properly, I feel we hear a lot about them as a result of we’re discovering them all over the place, you recognize, together with folks. And so that you may be uncovered to not only one or two however a number of. And naturally, as you mentioned, I imply they’re they simply final so lengthy within the setting. Even within the setting, it’s slightly little bit of a whack-a-mole, they transfer from like, soil to groundwater, it’s simply arduous to wash them up. In order that’s why I feel we’re listening to a lot about them. And likewise as a result of we as a society are spending some huge cash to wash them up extra so than for different chemical compounds. And these prices are being socialized throughout, you recognize, society. 

McGirt: And it’s additionally I’m struck with the poignancy of this, you recognize—I’ll offer you an instance simply from Chemours. They manufacture chemical compounds which are going for use in EV batteries. You already know, I’ve talked about the fluoropolymer membranes. And it simply kind of strikes me is that we would like an electrical automobile future. You already know, we wish to have a future that contributes to getting off carbon painlessly and effectively and in time to avoid wasting the planet. For those who’re utilizing problematic chemical compounds to do it, it simply appears like such a poignant commerce off. How can we take into consideration that?

Doa: Properly, I don’t suppose that well being and security and shifting to a greener financial system are mutually unique. You’ll be able to definitely do, you are able to do that. And to the extent that one thing is, you recognize, a vital use the place it’s wanted, like for EV batteries, and there are not any good substitutes, and once I imply, good substitutes, I imply, there’s not one thing that may do the identical job, say for an affordable, an affordable price, not that it’s simply vital in my backside line. However you recognize, to that extent, you are able to do it and do it in such a means that you’ve limitations in place, that you simply’re not exposing of us to this chemical that may, you recognize, that may hurt them and that should be cleaned up later. So once more, simply to reiterate, well being and security and a inexperienced financial system aren’t mutually unique.

McGirt: I all the time really feel like that is fodder for science fiction, you recognize, somebody falls right into a sewer, they’re surrounded by endlessly chemical compounds, they usually change into, you recognize, the monster from the sewer type of factor. So, thanks a lot, Dr. Doa. Is there something that you can inform us that may assist us actually, actually body the potential problem of getting these chemical compounds within the setting and in our our bodies?

Doa:  It’s an enormous problem, and I feel that people are modern sufficient and might transfer to substitutes. It’s like, we should always cease specializing in landlines and know that the expertise has moved to smartphones, and I feel a few of these PFAS are just like the outdated landlines, you recognize—they had been most likely supported for too lengthy.

McGirt: Hello, everybody. It’s Ellen once more, after my interview with Dr. Doa. Like good journalists, we requested Chemours to touch upon her remarks. They requested to make clear one component specifically in reference to characterizing GenX as a alternative to PFOA. Chemours responded “GenX just isn’t a chemical compound, however a patented expertise utilized by Chemours to help within the manufacturing course of for 4 forms of fluoropolymers.”

Murray: Management Subsequent is edited by Alexis Haut. It’s written by me, Alan Murray, together with my superb colleagues Ellen McGirt, Alexis Haut, and Megan Arnold. Our theme is by Jason Snell. Our government producer is Megan Arnold. Management Subsequent is a manufacturing of Fortune MediaManagement Subsequent episodes are produced by Fortune‘s editorial workforce.

The views and opinions expressed by podcast audio system and friends are solely their very own and don’t mirror the opinions of Deloitte or its personnel. Nor does Deloitte advocate or endorse any people or entities featured on the episodes.

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