Abstract: Environmental Responsibility and Industrial Production: German Chemical Enterprises and the Discovery of the Ozone Depletion, 1974-1995

Christian Marx


In 1966, Kenneth Boulding took up position against the idea of the world as an open system. Some years later, the German magazine Der Spiegel used Boulding's metaphor to criticize the international agreement of Montreal (1987) about the reduction of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). The ozone layer was an accessible good, from which all humans benefited due to the shelter from ultraviolet light. In the discussion about the influence of CFC, the tragedy of the commons became apparent. The end of the economic miracle established a climate of eco-political sensibility in Western societies at the beginning of the 1970s. In the case of CFC, economic interests and public interests of health were opposing each other. The state and supranational institutions became key players in this dispute. In the end, public, scientific, and media pressure prevailed over the initiatives of the chemical corporations, and an international agreement regulated CFC emissions from 1987 onward. The presentation will highlight the process from the perspective of Hoechst, a huge German chemical corporation and the largest German producer of CFC, and will connect contemporary environmental and business history.