Nov. 25, 2021

Establishing the Green Chemical Business Development Team as an organization devoted to environmental business and investing in Cemvita for carbon recycling

In May 2021, Sumitomo Corporation established the Green Chemical Business Development Team within the Basic Chemicals & Electronics Division to create environmental businesses. The Division deals with a range of products, including petrochemicals, inorganic/performance chemicals, and electronic materials. The Development Team will collect knowledge and information from the departments of the Division to encourage a circular economy and contribute to the reduction of environmental impacts. It will enhance cooperation both within and outside the company to promote the development of specific new businesses to create new value.

In October 2021, Sumitomo Corporation acquired shares of Cemvita Factory ("Cemvita") as the first investment made through the Green Chemical Business Development Team.

Cemvita manufactures ethylene from carbon dioxide

Cemvita is a startup based in the United States. By making use of the microbial decomposition of carbon dioxide (CO2), this startup has developed a technology for manufacturing ethylene from CO2 and is conducting R&D to commercialize it.

In recent years, society has been accelerating the trend toward discontinuing the use of plastic materials. Japan is no exception, and the country has promoted measures such as charging for plastic bags that used to be distributed for free at stores, and introducing paper straws at restaurants. However, plastic materials are still indispensable for the manufacture of various products, such as automobiles and home electric appliances, as they are light and easy to process. Accordingly, demand for ethylene, a petrochemical product that is used to manufacture plastic materials, will continue to be brisk. Under these circumstances, requests for carbon neutrality are increasing also in the petrochemical field. There are expectations for the development of petrochemical product manufacturing processes that do not emit CO2 and for systems that collect and use emitted CO2 to reduce the emissions into the air to zero.

Sumitomo Corporation aims to make its environmental impact reduction and contribution to decarbonization compatible with meeting the demand for ethylene by helping Cemvita establish the technology to manufacture ethylene by using non-fossil fuels and by utilizing the startup’s knowledge and know-how. Moreover, Sumitomo Corporation will consider cooperating with Cemvita also in fields other than the petrochemical field, as the startup has multiple technologies that make use of microorganisms.

Cemvita aims to commercialize the ethylene manufacturing technology within several years.

Making use of environmental impact reduction technology and the Sumitomo Corporation Group’s strengths to create a recycling society

Yutaka Takamura, Leader of the Green Chemical Development Team

Last June, in order to enhance its sustainability management, the Sumitomo Corporation Group identified six key social issues, including "circular economy," and set long-term goals for the Group. Specifically, by working to encourage recycling, the adoption of resource-saving technologies and products, and the sustainable procurement of natural resources, the Group aims to contribute to the creation of a resource recycling society. As chemical materials support all industries as materials indispensable for the manufacture of automobiles, home electric appliances, consumer goods and more, we need to optimize the value chain of chemical materials as a precondition to achieve carbon neutrality in a true sense.

The Green Chemical Business Development Team will promote three types of innovation (for recycling, resources and products) to bring about solutions to social challenges for people’s affluent lives and the creation of a sustainable society, while also accelerating the achievement of the Sumitomo Corporation Group’s long-term goals through the creation of new businesses.