Discussing sustainable chemistry with the European Commission

We asked the European Commission to share their views on how sustainable chemistry is changing. Here are important insights from the Commission’s spokesperson.

Sustainable chemistry is the bedrock of a green, circular economy. We asked the European Commission some key questions around how chemicals management will play an important part in the coming years for sustainability.

How urgent is it to get the ‘right’ chemistry in industry – what is changing today that needs to be addressed by businesses?

Accelerating our green transition is essential to tackle the climate and environmental crises and to strengthen our economies, our security, and our resilience. Moving towards a zero pollution ambition for a toxic free environment, including by switching to production and use of safer and more sustainable chemicals, is an integral part of this transition. At the same time, the transition must promote an innovative and competitive European chemicals industry that can supply safe and sustainable chemicals in Europe and export its clean technologies and products. The EU is working intensively within the existing framework of chemicals legislation (e.g. REACH restrictions on microplastics (recently adopted) or PFAS (broad restriction under preparation)), with non-legislative initiatives such as the Transition Pathway for the Chemical industry and the Recommendation for ‘safe and sustainable by design’ chemicals and materials, with the revision of the CLP regulation, and with the preparatory work for a revision of the REACH Regulation.

What are the biggest issues today with chemicals?

Chemicals can contribute to resolving many key challenges for society, and are indispensable for many of the technologies required for our green and digital transition. Thus, a healthy and competitive chemicals industry based on the principles of safety and sustainability is key for Europe.


Chemicals can contribute to resolving many key challenges for society, and are indispensable for many of the technologies required for our green and digital transition. European Commission

Key issues are…

In terms of chemicals safety: Tackling the risks, and where possible phasing out, of the most harmful chemicals, including persistent substances and endocrine disruptors, when not essential to society, and in particular in consumer products. The addition of new hazard classes in CLP for identifying those substances is an important achievement in this respect.

In terms of competitiveness of the EU industrial ecosystems producing and using chemicals: Ensuring fair international competition, and ensuring that the EU does not import unhealthy and unsustainable products made from chemicals in other parts of the world, where standards pertaining to sustainability and other values may dissonate with those of the EU.

Is PFAS really upsetting industry and do we need safeguards against this at the manufacturing level?

It will be important to tackle the challenges of PFAS substitution in a broad but differentiated way. Where uses of PFAS can be easily substituted, this should be done as soon as possible. Where, on the other hand, use of PFAS is not substitutable and needed for essential societal uses, such uses should remain possible until a suitable alternative can be implemented, and strict risk control measures should then apply. At the same time, the EU supports research and innovation efforts to find and scale up safer alternatives.

What are the targets and goals for sustainable chemistry in the EU and can we meet them?

Sustainable chemistry contributes to the green and digital transition, to tackling the climate crisis, and to strengthening our economies, security, and resilience. As indicated in the Bonn Declaration of ICCM5, sustainable chemistry should “prevent exposure to harmful chemicals, and phase out the most harmful ones, where appropriate, and enhance the safe management of such chemicals where they are needed”.

Do businesses need to understand the urgency of changes in laws, for choosing the right chemicals in processes?

Many businesses are already investing in clean and sustainable solutions, thus assuming responsibilities beyond mere regulatory compliance. Changes in legislation are one element among many that can contribute to safer and more sustainable chemicals and use of chemicals. There is an urgency to act on the most harmful chemicals, both under existing legislation and through the revision of the existing framework. At the same time, it is important that those initiatives achieve the right balance between objectives, and create win-win situations both for increasing health and environmental protection and for generating a competitive advantage for European companies.

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