tions to the issue of ensuring GCI’s long-term stability brought with them a trade-off in terms of freedom of action and nimbleness. This trade-off has presented itself multiple times, and has been at the core of the challenge faced by both ACS and GCI in their “merger.”
GCI, for the large part, has always been run and driven by the people doing the work. This has changed from a volunteer membership to a permanent staff. For a long time, it could be categorized as “controlled chaos—but productive.” In the past year, it has been less able to seek out, or become involved with, new projects and partnerships than it has in the past. The pace of its activities have been slowed through human resource and organizational constraints. This should change in the near future, with the arrival of the first full-time director in over 18 months, who began working at GCI in March, 2008.
Looking back over the history of GCI, its success can be seen as mixed. There are some areas in which they have been extremely effective. This includes the creation of a large and vibrant international network, the production and dissemination of educational materials and opportunities, and in outreach to the larger community. However, the structural challenges have also provided significant barriers. At the outset, GCI’s effectiveness was limited by funding and staffing constraints; most of the work fell onto a handful of partners. While they were certainly dedicated, this limited the reach of the Institute. When GCI gained stability from its merger with ACS, it also lost its ability to react quickly to the needs of the community it was trying to serve. It has become less of a partnership, and more of a traditional NGO—and in reality, one relatively small (though high profile) piece of a much larger, highly visible organization. It is no longer clear what niche GCI fills. In terms of overall impact, and the ability to take advantage of leverage points that would allow it to be a real catalyst for change, it faces serious competition from some of the newer institutes belonging to the high profile green chemistry champions like John Warner and Paul Anastas.
The effectiveness of GCI may have fluctuated over time, but from all appearances, its goal of promoting green chemistry is increasingly successful. Over the past few years there has been a marked increase in attention to green chemistry on the part of industry, academia, and even the general public. This is likely related to an overall increase in environmental awareness and concern in the United States. But the technologies are maturing, and many now have had time to prove themselves to be effective and profitable in a range of industries. Changes in the financial situation, especially rising energy prices, as well as regulatory changes in the EU (REACH) and other major markets, have also been stimuli for green chemistry. GCI’s work over the past decade has helped to make sure that green chemistry was available as a key response to these challenges. But as environmental concerns become a part of core strategies for many firms, it also increases