Over the last decade, the majority of people engaging with ChemSec have been based in the US. The largest group reading our newsletter? Americans. Searching the SIN List? Mostly Americans. Visiting our website? Last year, 30 percent of them were Americans.
So, we thought it was about time we headed west and took in environmental veteran Daryl Ditz, based in Washington DC, as a consultant. His new role as Senior Business Advisor entails growing the ChemSec PFAS Movement in North America, as well as promoting Marketplace, and guiding companies in the US and beyond on chemical safety.
Q: Welcome, Daryl! You have extensive experience working with sustainability issues: municipal wastes in New York, policy and practice of industrial pollution prevention in Europe and India, and global progress on the manufacture and use of safer chemicals. What key aspects of your past experiences do you think will benefit you – and ChemSec?
A: One benefit of three decades of experience is finding similarities across different problems. I’m familiar with the political machinery of bureaucracies and parliaments. I appreciate the importance of credible evidence. And I know the power of vibrant coalitions that speak truth to power. As the United States prepared for its own battle for chemical reform, it was hugely valuable to witness the debates on EU REACH legislation, for inspiration and cautions.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking to companies – asking hard questions, with the purpose of nudging them onto a better path. Early in my career, I worked with major chemical, oil, and electronics companies, and a team of accountants to discover how sophisticated companies routinely ignored environmental costs, even when they could save money. That was a real eye-opener for me.
“I’ve spent a lot of time talking to companies – asking hard questions, with the purpose of nudging them onto a better path”
I also feel genuine sympathy for companies that rely on chemicals, the so-called “downstream users.” They are caught between the promises of chemical makers and the growing concerns of customers, workers, and investors. That’s a perfect spot for ChemSec!
Q: What drew you towards working with – or rather against – hazardous chemicals?
A: I’m a chemical engineer, so that’s how I got started. I went to graduate school in Pittsburgh, a major industrial region and focused on how US and European companies approached the legacy of past pollution, and how to avoid it in the future. This early interest has stayed with me and helps me in this new challenge.
We compared the REACH legislation to US law and realized that our laws on chemical safety were broken and ineffective. So I found ways to change that. I learned a lot from ChemSec and European NGOs, and I made similar arguments in the US debates.
Q: You’ve worked with large NGOs, like WWF and WRI (World Resources Institute), with large staffs and lots of resources, but also with some small NGOs. I guess ChemSec is roughly in the middle of that scale. What do you look forward to the most, as a new member of the ChemSec team?
A: From the very beginning, I was attracted to ChemSec’s distinct DNA. There are no diva tendencies or internal competition. ChemSec has been a terrific partner for NGOs across Europe, and around the world, inspiring others to engage creatively with companies and policymakers. We’re not in it for the glory or the headlines, but for the sake of chemical safety and making the world a better place. I think that’s why ChemSec is so appreciated here. I am very fortunate to continue this work and broaden its impact.