International chemicals management


While many countries have their own legislation to ensure the safe use of chemicals, there are a number of global initiatives aiming to build capacity for the sound management of chemicals across the world and, where possible, create coherence among national chemicals management systems.

The most comprehensive non-binding global policy framework – the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is administered by the UN. Its role is help countries develop and implement national regulations or policy schemes that would ensure that chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health. The SAICM’s original mandate runs until 2020 and discussions are under way on how this multi-stakeholder initiative could evolve post-2020.

In addition to SAICM, the UN is also administering the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), an internationally agreed standard for labelling of hazardous materials. The GHS provides a basis for harmonisation of rules and regulations on chemicals at national and global level, which facilitates international trade in chemicals.

The chemical industry’s commitment to global voluntary initiatives

The EU chemical industry is an active supporter of global voluntary initiatives promoting the sound management of chemicals and is an active contributor to the SAICM and GHS process.

Our commitment to the SAICM’s goals is demonstrated by participation in industry’s voluntary programmes such as Responsible Care and Global Product Strategy, which promote chemical safety standards often going above and beyond regulatory requirements.

Together with the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), the European chemical industry is also promoting common principles for communicating chemical safety to downstream users. In addition,  global regulatory cooperation is supported through capacity building workshops in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The chemical industry is a global industry and international chemical trade exceeded €3,4 bn in 2018; this is why it is also important for us to promote, where possible and appropriate, a common approach to safety data communication in the supply chain, classification and labeling, as it would further facilitate trade.

Cefic’s position

In our opinion, the SAICM framework post-2020 should include the following elements:

  • should remain voluntary and multi-stakeholder,
  • further build on the existing 11 overall orientation goals and define concrete actions that the industry can take to help reach those goals.

With regard to GHS, Cefic supports the GHS implementation at the global scale. We are also in favour of adding a reference to GHS implementation and strict monitoring of the progress towards future trade agreements between the EU and other regions.