InterviewPilot schemes begin as industry gears up for self-policing

12 May 2009 14:18  [Source: ICIS news]

By Will Beacham

GENEVA (ICIS news)--A pilot scheme due to complete in the second quarter of this year will provide data to help finalise a system for data collection and analysis which will be rolled out across the global chemical sector by 2018, a Dow Chemical executive confirmed on Tuesday.

Groups of 5-6 small to medium-sized companies (SMEs) from North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America, are about to start trialling the chemical assessment procedures of the Global Product Strategy (GPS), the chemical industry’s product stewardship plan to harmonize product safety assessment, said Greg Bond, Dow Chemical’s director of product responsibility.

The scheme is being organised by the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), which represents chemical industry trade bodies around the world. It first introduced the scheme in 2006 at the first United Nations-sponsored International Conference of Chemical Management (ICCM). The next phase-implementation – is being discussed this week in Geneva at ICCM2.

SMEs have been chosen for the pilot so that those responsible for implementing GPS will get a good idea of the kinds of challenges facing companies of all sizes as they gather and analyse the data, Bond said.

“It’s about testing if our guidance is workable,” he added. “The process is about screening chemicals to establish which should have a higher priority from a risk standpoint, based on hazard and potential exposure. It can seem overwhelming so we need to find a way to establish which should be the priority chemicals.”

Bond said data was already available for 65-70% of chemicals but that the GPS would see where gaps exist requiring further testing.

Companies will be responsible for taking their own decisions about whether to cease production or remove applications for a particular chemical if proved unsafe.

“It’s not our intention to police it in that regard. Companies should be more transparent about safety assessments. By the end of the process we want companies to publicly share information about safety assessments – by doing that they’ll feel the pressure of public scrutiny,” Bond said

By 2012 all companies will be expected to have assessed their priority chemicals, and by 2018 their entire portfolio should be analysed.

Bond said companies would be expected to put the information on their own websites, though a one-stop web-portal is being planned so the public can easily be directed to information sources.

“We are trying to raise the accountability of the industry. We want to open ourselves up to more scrutiny and more constructive dialogue, to improve confidence. GPS takes product stewardship global. We’re raising the bar, especially in developing countries,” he added.

Bond said national trade associations will work with the industry to help implement the GPS.

Bond is also co-chair of the ICCA team leading the chemical industry’s contribution to the UN’s Strategic Approach to Chemicals Management (SAICM).

This is an attempt by governments to find common approaches to the safe production and use of chemicals by 2020. The GPS is the chemical industry’s main contribution to this process.

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By: Will Beacham
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