The Impact of the EU’s Chemical Strategy for Sustainability
Get caught up on the background of the European Green Deal and what’s changing in its chemical strategy.
Chemical management is a huge component of the European Green Deal. Notably, if a company cannot show verified and complete Chemical Hazard Assessments for their products, they cannot be sold in the European Union.
What does that mean for you?
In 2015, the international community recommitted to achieve the target of a global management of chemicals by 2020. Although much has been done at all levels, the progress remains slow and insufficient and this global commitment has not been met. A real sense of urgency is needed. The EU must play a leading role to champion and promote high standards in the world not only related to safer chemistry but also in achieving the aggressive goals toward carbon neutrality by 2050.
A wide diversity of international, regional, and national instruments and responses associated with the sound management of chemicals and waste are already in place. However, the global governance remains extremely fragmented, and standards and compliance vary widely across countries. For example, as of 2018, over 120 countries had not implemented the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. This fragmentation has hampered the overall impact and effectiveness of existing organizations, programs, and initiatives. A renewed strategic approach to international chemicals management would be important to fully address the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle. It would allow the EU to promote consistent policies and actions under the UN’s 2030 agenda in line with EU’s international commitments. One important aspect of this would be to strive for the adoption of global strategic objectives and targets for the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 to reflect life cycle approaches for chemicals in line with the post 2020 global biodiversity targets. In addition, to also promote together with industry the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals as the means for identifying chemical hazards and communicating them to operators, workers and consumers (GHS is what SciveraLENS uses for CHAs), and to propose to introduce, adopt or clarify criteria/hazard classes in GHS.
For the last two decades, the EU has played a leadership role in tackling the risks hazardous chemicals pose to our health and environment. It has now proposed a new vision for a toxic-free environment and published a strategy for moving the EU towards that goal. These new policies will drive significant changes in the US as well.
Chemical Strategy for Sustainability
The EU chemical regulation footprint is strong in the rest of the world. Several countries in Asia, including China, the world’s largest chemical producer, have developed national chemical programs strongly influenced by the EU design.
As the EU moves toward adopting specific legal and regulatory measures to realize its vision, the government agencies in the US will look closely at the potential for adopting elements of the EU Green Deal. Beyond the regulatory world, many leading companies are already at the forefront of looking to provide safer chemicals, including Walmart, Apple, Ahold and Delhaize (USA). As food retailers, they are likely to move toward adoption of components of the EU Green Deal with ramifications for supply chains and potential competitive benefits in the consumer marketplace.
In October 2020, the EU commission published “Chemical Strategy for Sustainability: Towards a Toxic Free Environment”. To meet this vision, the EU is planning a fundamental change in how chemical regulations can support and improve the production and use of chemicals.
Beyond its direct effects on protecting the health of consumers and reducing toxic chemicals in the environment, the chemical strategy is a key component in the EU’s path towards a circular economy that conserves materials and reduces waste. A critical barrier to circular production models for many products and materials is contamination with hazardous chemicals, either inadvertently added during sourcing or processing or intentionally added to change the product.
Through the chemical strategy, the EU plans to promote safer substitutes or eliminate the need for chemical additives in some products altogether, so they do not end up being circulated indefinitely in commerce.