The global chemistry industry is looking to nature to redefine the way it operates, with a view to becoming a 21st-century model for sustainability.It is not unusual for the word ‘chemicals’ to elicit shudders, so automatically is it associated with environmental contamination, hazard and risk to the biosphere. Such perspectives generally fail to notice that chocolate, flowers, iPhones and even people are made up of chemicals – as is everything that has mass. Monash University’s Professor Milton Hearn says the problem is that, since their modern inception about 200 years ago, chemical sciences and industries have considered chemicals, as well as their production and disposal, in a potent but ultimately narrow way. At the core of this conventional approach to manufacturing is what developmental psychologists call ‘formal operative’ logic – a way of thinking that results in linear cause-and-effect production systems. In industry, this validates a mindset that regards waste as one of those effects, with consequences that are rarely questioned at the product design stage.