What are the industry challenges for developing a sustainable product strategy?

What are the industry challenges for developing a sustainable product strategy - News

18th March 2021 – 96% of manufactured goods in Europe rely on chemicals, which places the chemical industry at the heart of virtually every supply chain. Chemicals are indispensable to achieving the Green Deal and Economic Recovery. A truly innovative sector, the chemical industry provides the solutions needed. However, with the recent and upcoming changes in legislation, how will the chemical industry fair in this task? 

Sylvie Lemoine homed in the chemical industry challenges during the Chemical Watch Global Business summit

Cefic’s Executive Director for Product Stewardship Sylvie Lemoine represented Cefic during the Chemical Watch Global Business Summit webinar. Sylvie’s presentation homed in on the challenges facing the Chemical Industry in designing a sustainable product strategy. The main challenge? “To make it work altogether” and at the same time “investing into the right technologies, considering climate neutrality, considering the Future Sustainable Products Initiative, considering the new Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, the Zero Pollution Action Plan,  the need to become more circular and building on the opportunities that will be brought with the Industrial Strategy for Europe and the Recovery Plan post pandemic.” Furthermore, as the largest chemical exporter in the world, Europe must remain competitive, Sylvie stressed.   

How is the chemical industry approaching the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability

More than 10 years of discussions were brought together at once with almost 60 changes to chemicals legislations. Sylvie Lemoine noted that, “It is going to be fast. It is going to be massive and we are going to face more than 60 changes to legislation.” However, as Sylvie pointed out, “we share the same goals of the Commission in terms of health and environmental protection and boosting innovation,” and welcomed the holistic approach that combines the different elements needed. However, Sylvie noted that we still question the balance of actions that weighs heavily towards strong regulation versus the innovation needed. Sylvie highlighted that whilst some of the legislation changes have been launched, the innovation pillar is very “vague” with little clarity on the priority programmes and how they will be funded.   Read more about Chemical strategy for sustainabilty.

How will innovation deliver investment, and will Europe remain competitive? 

Sylvie said “If we want to maintain competitiveness, we need incentives, predictability. The decision makers need to have trust that this chemical strategy is a growth strategy.” Sylvie also pointed out that we need to “close the gaps” on enforcement and noted that “we cannot raise the standard in Europe but we leave the holes at the borders so that there is going to be free riding from non-compliant products.” 

Essential Uses, Risk Management, New Hazard classes under CLP

On further challenges, Sylvie highlighted important points including Essential Uses (“what qualifies as essential or non-essential?”), Risk Management (“What are the implications of moving away from a generic risk management approach?”) and the new hazard classes under CLP and departing from UN-GHS (“We are going to face two systems which contradicts the commitment made by Europe to follow the UN GHS.”)  

Sustainability by Design

Sylvie noted that “if done well, this is a tremendous opportunity for designing the new chemistries of tomorrow” as well as “the trend setter for innovation.” Indeed, Cefic supports an expansion of the scope of the Eco-design Directive to increase resource efficiency and circularity but warns against double-regulation. Instead, there needs to be coherence with REACH restrictions and/or product-specific legislation.     

Curious to learn more about some of the new concepts proposed in the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability? Click here to learn more about the concept of ‘Essential Uses’