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Part 2 of our series: Evaluating the EU’s Chemical Strategy for Sustainability

May 29, 2024
Part 2 of our series: Evaluating the EU's Chemical Strategy for Sustainability

Is it a Real Green Deal?

The European Union’s ambitious Green Deal sets out to reshape the continent’s economy with a focus on sustainable practices and achieving a zero-pollution future. Integral to these efforts is the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS), but does it truly support the overarching goals of the Green Deal? A recent critical review suggests that while the strategy has notable aims, significant gaps and ambiguities may undermine its effectiveness in addressing broader environmental challenges.

The EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) has been a topic of significant debate among scientists, policymakers, and industry stakeholders. This critical review aims to evaluate the CSS’s effectiveness in addressing sustainability issues and its alignment with the broader goals of the European Green Deal.


Part 2 of our series: Evaluating the EU's Chemical Strategy for Sustainability


Highlights of the CSS

  • Focus on Hazard Over Risk: The CSS predominantly focuses on the hazard to human health from individual industrial chemicals, often at the expense of a more comprehensive risk assessment that includes exposure data.
  • Lack of Clarity on Sustainability: The linkage of the CSS to major sustainability issues, such as environmental pollutants, remains unclear. The strategy does not adequately address the lifecycle impacts of chemicals.
  • Proposed Improvements: The authors suggest several building blocks to enhance the CSS, including a more integrated assessment framework that considers hazard, exposure, and risk information.


The Core of the CSS

Some argue that the CSS focuses primarily on human health risks from individual chemicals, neglecting comprehensive risk assessment that includes exposure levels and broader environmental impacts. The authors advocate for an integrated strategy that addresses the lifecycle of chemicals, promotes innovation in sustainable chemistry, and includes clear definitions and methodologies for evaluating chemicals. The article suggests that the current CSS lacks scientific justification and fails to effectively tackle major sustainability issues such as pollution and waste management.

An alternative option would be more rigorous assessment framework emphasizing pollution reduction, resource recovery, and sustainable product design. Global cooperation and the harmonization of regulatory practices to achieve a truly sustainable approach to chemical management are key. Better utilization of existing data, improved exposure assessments, and the development of new methodologies to address the complex challenges posed by chemical pollution and sustainability.


The Missing Links to Sustainability

The strategy’s narrow focus on the hazard aspect of chemicals without integrating exposure and risk assessments is seen as a scientific oversight. Notably, the CSS lacks clarity in its connection to major sustainability issues such as the management of environmental pollutants, which are critical to achieving the EU’s sustainability goals. This gap highlights a potential disconnect between the CSS’s operational framework and the broader objectives of environmental protection and resource conservation as outlined in the Green Deal.


Innovations and Proposals for Improvement

The critique of the CSS does not just point out its flaws but also suggests building blocks for enhancement. These include a more integrated assessment framework that encompasses the lifecycle impacts of chemicals and fosters innovation in chemistry-based approaches to tackle key sustainability issues. Such reforms could ensure that the strategy contributes more effectively to the EU’s sustainability agenda, particularly in addressing the well-documented challenges of pollution and chemical management.


Conclusion: A True Green Deal or a Missed Opportunity?

The current CSS falls short in providing a robust strategy for chemical sustainability. It focuses too narrowly on human health hazards and does not adequately address environmental impacts or the full lifecycle of chemicals. A more scientifically justified and comprehensive approach is essential for the CSS to contribute effectively to the EU’s sustainability goals.

Executing and implementing the Strategy is a formidable challenge that requires the European Commission to have sufficient resources for swift action. Delays from over-analysis must be avoided to prevent the Strategy from becoming mere wishful thinking. This effort necessitates internal coordination with other EU policies and consistent international standards. EU Member States must support implementation, ensuring transparency in decision-making.

Chemical companies face a choice: resist progress or innovate for safer chemicals. Proper implementation will position the EU as a global leader in chemical management, whereas failure will erode trust and prioritize corporate interests over health.


C-suite Sustainability ESG training opportunities with CSE:

For the past 19 years, CSE has been actively welcoming registrations from leading chemical companies worldwide. If you wish to join an exquisite cohort this June register now for the Certified Sustainability ESG Practitioner Program, on June 13-14 &17  and get certified as a Sustainability ESG Practitioner.

The program will naturally gravitate toward the chemical sector. Anderson Development, BASP, Bayer, Dupont, Chevron, ExxonMobil and many others send regularly attendees to our training.

From May 27th to June 5th, enroll in any of our courses at a reduced price. Simply use the promo code “earth25” at checkout to claim your discount. Don’t miss out on this chance to advance your knowledge and skills while supporting the environment. Act now and make a positive impact! Enroll today and lead change!

Reach us at [email protected] for seat reservations and at [email protected] for group discounts and in-house training opportunities!


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