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Big Chem company: It’s a no-brainer to move away from the worst substances

Chemical Industry

Big Chem company: It’s a no-brainer to move away from the worst substances

Published on 08 Dec 2022

Continuing to use or produce the most problematic chemicals is associated with great risk – not only for human health and the environment, but also for company finances and the investors. Still, the largest chemical producers refuse to make public statements to not develop any new products containing the worst substances. Except for these two.

ChemScore 2022 offers few reasons for patting the chemical industry on the back. Only a few companies have made significant positive changes and around half of the 54 ranked companies score worse than they did last year.

There are, however, a couple of industry milestones. German-based Lanxess – which has made a big score leap this year – and Ecolab, based in the US, are the first companies in the ChemScore ranking to explicitly state that they will not develop or market any new products that contain substances of very high concern.

Calculated business decision

According to Teresa Bernheim, Manager Chemicals Policy at Lanxess, this was not only the right thing to do, but also a calculated business decision.

“It was more or less a no-brainer for us. If we keep developing new products containing substances of very high concern, we’ll be ruined when those substances eventually become restricted or banned”, she says.

Along with US-based Eastman, Lanxess is also one of just two companies in the ranking that are completely transparent about the hazardous content of their entire product portfolio.

This means that Lanxess is part of setting two standards for what should be expected of global companies: full hazard transparency, and designing out substances of very high concern from new products.

“Once everyone was in agreement, we were able to move very quickly”

Teresa Bernheim has the following advice for companies who want to follow suit and make sure their new products are free from the worst chemicals:

“We gathered representatives from all departments and discussed how to do this. Once everyone was in agreement, we were able to move very quickly. We also involve our toxicologists at a very early stage in the design process to make sure the chemicals we use don’t have the characteristics of substances of very high concern.”

A powerful message to other companies

With their ChemScore 2022 grades of C and C- respectively, it’s clear that both Lanxess and Ecolab have a significant amount of work left to do before they can refer to themselves as grade A companies in terms of chemical management. The fact that Ecolab’s portfolio contains 18 hazardous chemicals – that we know of – and Lanxess’ 80 shows that both companies really need to reduce the use of harmful substances in existing products.

There is, however, no doubt that they are pioneers when it comes to keeping the most toxic substances out of new products.

“This decision is a significant move away from the worst chemicals and sends a powerful message to other companies. Although the overall results of ChemScore 2022 leaves much to be desired, the progress on transparency and design-out of the most problematic substances that Lanxess, Ecolab, and Eastman have made, makes me hopeful for the future”, says Sonja Haider, Senior Business and Investors Advisor, and one of the main experts behind ChemScore.