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Vol. 29 No. 3
May-June 2007

The Chemical Industry and Sustainable Development: The Role of ICCA and SAICM

by Irina Dumitrescu

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management1 (SAICM)—a policy framework for international action on chemical risks—is well on track one year after the “Dubai Declaration.” Mandated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and endorsed by the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002,2 this approach is aimed at ensuring that—by 2020—chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

Adopted by the International Conference on Chemicals Management on 6 February 2006 in Dubai, SAICM affords plenty of opportunities. These range from rational, science and risk-based regulatory policies and programs to greater consistency in national regulatory requirements worldwide to cooperative partnerships between the public and private sectors to improvements in chemical-handling capabilities worldwide. SAICM comprises three core texts:

  • a High Level Declaration, known as the “Dubai Declaration,” embodying the political commitment of governments and stakeholders, including the private sector
  • an Overarching Policy Strategy comprising key long-term strategic elements and principles to achieve the Johannesburg goal 2020
  • a Global Plan of Action developed as a working tool and guidance document for national governments to set priorities in chemicals management

ICCA, the International Council of Chemical Associations,3 is the recognized voice of the global chemical industry. It is a trusted leader in international advocacy and a leader of world-class performance initiatives. The purpose of the ICCA is to exchange views and coordinate actions among its members and to help present the industry’s case to international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, International Maritime Organization, United Nations Environment Programme, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Commission on Sustainable Development, and the International Organisation for Standardisation.

ICCA is concerned with policy issues of international significance to the chemical industry. These include health, safety, the environment, the safety of international transport, intellectual property, and trade policy.

ICCA’s Contributions to SAICM Implementation
The global chemical industry makes a significant contribution to many UN chemicals-related activities. It has launched a number of voluntary actions to help achieve the World Summit on Sustainable Development’s goal of safe global management of chemicals.

Two major chemical industry initiatives—the Responsible Care Global Charter and the Global Product Strategy—were launched at a side event in Dubai,4 and have become important contributions to SAICM implementation. The Global Product Strategy and Responsible Care are consistent with SAICM and are built upon the chemical industry’s long-standing record of improving product stewardship.

Another example, which was presented as an ICCA initiative, is the Long-range Research Initiative. This initiative commits the industry to improving chemical safety throughout the supply chain and to learning from scientific progress as well as from public perception to update its knowledge and adapt its practices. The industry also committed to improving public access to chemical information to build confidence in chemicals and chemistry, building on the High Production Volume Chemicals Initiative.

A Global Commitment

The Responsible Care Global Charter—a commitment to improve environmental, health, and safety performance—is to be signed by chief executive officers of chemical companies that are members of industry associations. The charter extends and builds upon the original elements of Responsible Care5 and focuses on new and important challenges facing the chemical industry and society, including sustainable development, effective management of chemicals along the value chain, greater industry transparency, and greater global harmonization and consistency among the national Responsible Care programs. The charter further expands the global chemical industry’s implementation of the environmental principles of the United Nations Global Compact.6

Improving Product Stewardship
The Global Product Strategy is designed to improve the product stewardship performance of global industries by recommending measures to be taken by ICCA and its members along the chemicals value chain, while allowing for considerable flexibility in recognition of the different cultural and national regulatory arrangements. It recommends a broad range of actions, including voluntary industry actions, cooperative efforts with industry groups and companies that are customers and suppliers to the chemical industry, a potential role for partnerships with international organizations and other stakeholders, and a common global position on principles of regulation for the sound management of chemicals.

These two complementary initiatives—Responsible Care Global Charter and Global Product Strategy—can make a substantial contribution to the SAICM implementation in terms of risk reduction, knowledge/information, and capacity building/technical cooperation.

A panel discussion at the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Dubai in February 2006. Panelists (L to R) are Larry Washington, corporate vice president of Sustainability, Environment, Health, and Safety at Dow Chemical; Guilherme Duque Estrada de Moraes, director general of the Brazilian association Abiquim; Masami Tanaka, vice chairman and director general, Japan Chemical Industry Association; Udo Oels, a member of the Board of Management, Bayer AG; Peter Elverding, DSM Board chairman, and ICCA chairman; Kiyo Akasaka, deputy secretary general of OECD; Alain Perroy, director general, Cefic, and ICCA secretary; Nance Dicciani, chief executive officer of Honeywell Specialty Materials, and member of the ACC Board of Directors; and Pieter Cox, chairman of Sasol.

Replacing Misinformation with Scientific Data
The chemical industry’s contribution is by no means confined to these two initiatives. An equally significant voluntary initiative relates to research. The Long-range Research Initiative has become one of the industry’s signature programs, a long-term voluntary effort to improve the scientific basis for understanding the impacts of chemicals on public health and the

The ultimate goals of the Long-range Research Initiative are to fill the knowledge gap that is distorting public debate; replace misinformation with scientific data; increase the knowledge of the potential impacts that chemicals may have on the health of human and wildlife populations and the environment, especially sensitive sub-populations; replace decisions based on hazard alone with decisions based on risk; address issues such as bio-monitoring, methodologies, and endocrine disruption; and develop alternatives to animal testing and persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances.

Engaging in “Peer Review”
Another major program of the chemical industry is the High Production Volume Chemicals Initiative. Launched through the ICCA in 1998 in cooperation with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), this global program builds on early cooperative work of chemical companies with the OECD Chemicals Programme. Under the program, co-producers of chemicals work together to share health, environmental and safety data, assess chemicals, and engage in a “peer review” of their assessments with government experts of OECD member countries and nongovernmental organizations.

At the end of November 2006, the number of ICCA substances accepted by OECD was 465. It is expected that by April 2007 this will be close to 600. With the European Union’s new chemicals legislation, called REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals), set to enter into force in June 2007, there was some concern that data collection standards under REACH would exclude data collected under the High Production Value program. However, it now seems likely that the data collected within the program will be recognized under REACH.

ICCA’s Cooperation with Intergovernmental Organizations

ICCA has worked closely with UNEP, UNITAR, the OECD, and other international organizations and nongovernmental organizations in the past, particularly in developing SAICM and its own new initiatives. The global chemical industry is now further developing its cooperation to ensure that the implementation of its Global Product Strategy contributes effectively to SAICM implementation and the global improvement of chemical safety. In this respect the main focus for ICCA is capacity building.

ICCA has nominated a SAICM Focal Point as contact with UNEP Chemicals. ICCA is a member of the Executive Board of the UNEP Quick Start Programme on capacity building. The ICCA capacity building Task Force is currently developing project proposals for further cooperation with UNEP.

ICCA is continuing its High Production Volume Chemicals Initiative with the OECD Existing Chemicals Program. Just after Dubai, the OECD 22nd Substance Information Data Set Initial Assessment Meeting was a success, bringing the number of finalized substances to 414. ICCA member federations are providing financial support to ensure continuation with the OECD New Chemicals Programme and in kind support for further development of the Global Data Portal.

Is the Industry’s Contribution Recognized by Governments around the World?

At the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, Responsible Care received the World Summit Business Award, given by the International Chamber of Commerce and UNEP. In the run-up to the International Conference on Chemicals Management, organized by UNEP in Dubai from 4–6 February 2006, ICCA President Peter Elverding and ICCA Council Secretary Alain Perroy received a personal letter from United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, warmly congratulating them on the launch of the Responsible Care Global Charter and the Global Product Strategy. Both of these initiatives were unveiled at the conference. In his letter, Kofi Annan stated how impressed he was with the two initiatives, expressing the hope that the chemical industry would be successful in attracting interest in both projects. These he described as “inspiring models of voluntary self-regulation for other industries to consider following.”

In Dubai, there was clear recognition of the added value of Responsible Care and the Global Product Strategy by UNEP’s Executive Director Klaus Töpfer.

A number of agreements exist with regulatory agencies in Canada, UK, USA, and some emergent countries. In the USA, for example, the American Chemistry Council has an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help Responsible Care members qualify more easily for membership in EPA’s Performance Track Program. This can reduce the number of environmental inspections for companies that participate because Responsible Care companies are used to thinking in terms of systems, measurement, and performance improvement.

ICCA membership includes the national chemical associations of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, USA, and Uruguay.

Lastly, the results of Responsible Care commitments have been discussed with many national governments (and NGOs) in the context of reducing emissions (air, water, waste, and greenhouse gases).

ICCA aims to position the chemical industry to offer solutions to sustainable development and to demonstrate that the industry cares, is acting responsibly, and is managing risks effectively. It strives, moreover, to increase awareness of the positive contributions of chemistry to everyday health, quality of life, nutrition, and protection of the environment, and to show that the chemical industry is proactively listening, understanding, and responding to societal concerns. Last but not least, it seeks to engage in constructive dialogue and concrete partnerships with society and stakeholders, and to ensure global coordination of communications efforts and consistency of the messages of the chemical industry on global issues.


Online References


Irina Dumitrescu is Communications Officer for Build Trust & Communications, European Chemical Industry Council.

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