Why chemicals management is no longer a siloed issue

As part of our third webinar in our Global Outlook series, Global Outlook for chemicals & chemical products in Europe, Middle East and Africa, European managing editor for Chemical Watch News & Insight, Leigh Stringer, discussed the transition of chemicals management from a siloed issue to a more holistic concern.

Chemicals management as a siloed issue

Previously, chemicals management was solely the concern of chemicals management professionals and leading industry experts. However, due to the growing presence of chemicals in products, this has since changed – more and more, discussions are taking place in non-chemicals management environments.  

Why is this an issue now?

Chemicals are emerging into the fore of public consciousness, amid growing concerns about the potential harm of PFAS and plastics in our food, packaging, clothing, cosmetics, medicine, toys, and electronic equipment.  

Popularly known as ‘forever chemicals’, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manmade chemicals resistant to heat, grease, and water that are unable to biodegrade in the environment or human body. The dangers of PFAS to our health and planet is now a trending topic, with research also demonstrating some of the risks of continuing to manufacture products containing plastics. Consequently, new regulations are being implemented to moderate the production and distribution of these substances. 

As the public becomes more aware of the hidden dangers in everyday products, and environmental agencies around the globe publish stricter regulations on chemicals management, these issues are brought to the attention of politicians. Chemicals are suddenly appearing in legislation where they hadn’t previously, such as the UN Triple Planetary Crisis regarding pollution.  

The EU Green Claims Directive 

The EU Green Claims Directive proposal, published in March 2023, aims to combat greenwashing – unverified claims on a product’s sustainability – by controlling products that contain hazardous chemicals (except where they are deemed ‘essential’ for use in society). The effort to gain more information on the manufacture or production of certain products, to ascertain how safe they are for the public, means chemicals are being scrutinized more than ever before. 

In addition to the growing worry over PFAS, there is also a desire to protect consumers from misleading claims about the safety of products – which is where the Green Claims Directive comes in, compelling businesses to have their products’ sustainability verified by a third party. All of this brings discussions on chemicals management into broader conversations.  

EU Taxonomy Regulation 

The EU Taxonomy Regulation aims to direct investments towards projects that contribute towards reaching green deal objectives, by establishing a framework to identify economic activities with sustainable credentials. Creating a common classification system for such business activities will provide clarity on which investments would be most beneficial for the health of the planet.  

Additionally, leading industry experts are recommending criteria for investors to consider sustainable investment in the production and use of chemicals, pushing businesses to monitor their choices and their impact more closely.

Environmental Crime Directive 

Introduced in 2021, the Environmental Crime Directive has recently added new offences to its list of environmental crimes punishable at the EU level. Included on the list is a serious breach of chemicals legislation likely to cause damage to the environment or our health, with a potential sentence of up to ten years in prison. 

What does this mean for chemicals management, compliance and product safety?

With discussions on chemicals and chemicals management broadening into more and more areas, more sectors are becoming aware of the potential risks, hazards, and global impacts of their manufacture and usage.  

Recently published legislation is generating new rules for businesses and manufacturers that produce or distribute products containing chemicals. This could potentially cost companies thousands in recalls or in restructuring how they manufacture products like electronics, toys, and packaging. Additionally, meeting new expectations or rules on compliance could generate further obstacles for companies around the globe.  

Elsewhere, these discussions will inevitably increase public awareness of the possible hazardous chemicals in their food, packaging, clothing, and other goods. This may translate to more eco-friendly shopping habits. Organizations will need to stay at the forefront of consumer changes, which means more products going to market will most likely be made with less problematic chemicals and verified for sustainability by a third party, ultimately making our goods safer and better for the planet.  

2024 Global Outlook

The above was just one of the topics covered in the 2024 Global Outlook webinar on chemicals and chemical products in EMEA. Watch the webcast now. You can also find out more about the full Global Outlook series here, including links to other on-demand webinars and how to access Global Outlook articles.  

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