INSIGHT: The challenge of a global product strategy

20 March 2009 16:42  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nigel Davis

LONDON (ICIS news)--We live in a world where partnerships matter and where the regional and global view is as important, if not more so, than the local one.

Take chemicals management. It is not only European companies that are directly involved and worry about Reach, the EU’s regulatory scheme for chemicals.

Any company or trader selling a chemical in the EU must comply with the Reach rules. The regulation has raised the bar on chemicals control.

Raising the bar internationally is basically what the upcoming ICCM2 chemicals management meeting in Geneva on 11-15 May is all about. It gives participants the opportunity to help set the agenda globally for better chemicals management. It has arisen from efforts to achieve the 2020 goals of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002.

Arising from Johannesburg and the global chemicals management mechanism, SAICM, has been the chemical industry’s Global Product Strategy, or GPS, which runs alongside its Responsible Care Global Charter.

We are going to hear more of these initiatives in the coming weeks.

The chemical industry says that the GPS “provides new momentum for unprecedented improvement in the industry’s product stewardship performance by defining measures and actions for ICCA (International Council of Chemical Associations) and membership associations and their member companies while allowing for considerable flexibility in recognition of the differing cultures and national regulatory arrangements”.

That may be a mouthful but the key phrases are “unprecedented improvements”, “defining measures and actions” and “recognition of the differing cultures and national regulatory arrangements”.

The GPS has to encompass a great deal and pull many companies and trade associations into the fold. It pushes the industry globally, however, to respond to the call for more effective product stewardship: it opens the door to more effective industry self-regulation.

The sector is bringing to bear in the GPS work from the High Production Volume (HPV) chemicals programme and the Long Range Research Initiative as well the global chemicals management policy.

A great deal of work has been done over the past 18 months to build a framework that is acceptable to the industry globally. A base set of risks, exposures and data has been defined. Guidelines have been prepared and timetables put into action.

The work is designed to encompass the differing viewpoints of the Europeans, North Americans, Japanese and others on chemicals control.

The EU has Reach; the US the Toxic Substances Control Act (TOSCA) and the industry-sponsored CHAMP programme. Companies are providing chemicals use and exposure data under Reach, the extended HPV programme in the US, and through Japan’s Challenge Program, which involves industry and government.

The goal with the GPS is to harmonise industry effort and rally its resources so as to have a process for gathering and reporting data available by 2018.

Looked at in the broadest sense, SAICM, Reach and the industry’s GPS are working along similar timelines.

Under GPS, the industry says, companies will characterise the risks of their chemicals in commerce along ICCA developed guidelines.

There is little doubt that the industry needs to develop this common purpose. The global approach to better chemicals management adopted with the SAICM dictates that.

The progress made with the industry’s GPS will be presented in Geneva on 14 May at the same time as the ICCM2 meeting. It is a chance for companies and the industry associations that represent them to show just what can be achieved. It is an important enough event to involve 10 sector company CEOs.

The industry has no option but to put a high priority on chemicals management and, as has increasingly been shown by product scares, on global product stewardship.

The GPS is a challenging programme but is essential in an increasingly global chemicals environment.

The sector now has to ensure that it has the resources, through the ICCA, the regional and national associations and the major producing companies to make the GPS work.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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