How to start with chemicals management
Defining your footprint is an important prerequisite, but is only there to enable you to protect and improve your business situation. Knowing your toxic “hot spots” gives you the base for a better position with opportunities and controlled business risks.
Your second step is to setup a priority list of chemicals. In this process you need to look for external and internal factors that make certain chemicals more of a priority than others.
– External factors
There might be some obvious reasons for you to act based on external pressure. This refers to things such as laws that forbid you using a certain chemical or consumer pressure around a specific product of yours.
Chemicals that are already banned or restricted for your particular purpose need your immediate attention. Substances that are listed for priority attention (e.g. on the EU Candidate List) give you more time, but you should initiate the search for alternatives as soon as possible. Substances having a harmonized classification and labeling for being hazardous should also be prioritized. This information should be provided by your supplier in a safety datasheet. The SIN List by ChemSec has been set up to help you also avoid substances which may be regulated in the future.
- Supply chain
Your customer or others in the supply chain might ask you to avoid certain chemicals or tell you that a specific chemical will be unavailable in the future. In these cases you need to agree the timeline for phasing out with the other party.
- “Hot” chemicals and consumer preferences
Some chemicals gain extra attention in the media and consumers become aware and ask for alternative products that are free from them. It is wise to be prepared by monitoring which chemicals are being discussed and highlighted by campaigning NGOs, otherwise your brand may be hurt.
– Internal factors
For those chemicals where there is no external pressure, you need to set your own priorities according to company policy. When considering a phase out, you need to take several things into consideration. The following aspects may be of relevance:
- Chemicals used in products intended for children.
- Other types of products that are especially “close” to the consumer: items related to food and feeding, bed linen, underwear etc.
- The type of hazard in relation to the product. Sensitizers, for example, are of very high concern when in contact with the skin, while substances with environmental hazards are particularly problematic when they have low wash fastness on textiles.
- Chemicals that are extensively used in high volumes.
- “Flagship products” of particular importance to the company and company reputation.
- Chemicals for which alternatives are easily available