While the European chemical industry plays a strategically important role for its economy providing materials and solutions to virtually all of its segments, its global market share has shrunk significantly since 1998.
In terms of value added (VA) at factor cost, the European (EU27) chemical enterprises contribute directly €130 bn to the European economy. The indirect contribution of the European chemical industry is estimated to be three times higher due to activities supported in the industry’s broad supply chain. More than half of the EU chemicals (56%) are sold to downstream users in other industrial sectors. Germany is the largest chemicals producer in Europe generating 35% of the European value added, followed by France (15%), Italy (10%), the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium (7% each). The EU holds a strong position in basic chemicals.
As a consequence of a traditional reliance on fossil resources and energy- and waste-intensive production, the chemical industry has been one of the causes of the associated environmental problems. However, the modern chemical industry has been increasingly seen as part of the solution to many environmental challenges. Its contribution to sustainability is particularly evident through the development and use of renewable bio-based materials as well as provision of technologies that help reduce waste, raise energy efficiency and improve production processes. However, new bio-based materials still play a minor role in the European chemical industry contributing only 1.5% to its total turnover.