More Than a Scientific Movement

Socio-Political Influences on Green Chemistry Research in the United States and France


The green chemistry (GC) concept originated in the United States during the 1990s to describe an approach to chemistry that aims to lower impacts on health and the environment. Based on 70 interviews with scientists from France and the United States, I investigated green chemists’ practices and motivations, and the socio-political influences on their attitudes to GC. The results show that GC has a hybrid character, bringing together scientists with different motivations (funding, career, communication, ethical, political). The boundaries of the definition of GC are constantly shifting under the influence of research funding and environmental, industrial and agricultural policies. GC reflects the perfect adaptation of a terminology to the external conditions of chemistry’s socio-political contexts. While this is a strength that gives GC the potential for changing overall practices in chemistry, this might also be its major weakness as it might completely lose its original environmental relevance, depending on the evolution of external drivers.