Sustainability initiatives have been at the forefront of corporate strategies for years now. Whether it be transitioning to renewable energy, lowering CO2 emissions, or saving water, businesses all over the world are realizing the importance of—and consumer demand for—greener practices. However, a key component of sustainability usually goes overlooked and undiscussed. Green chemistry is a vital piece of this puzzle that greatly affects both people and the planet.
Why has green chemistry not been a greater part of sustainability conversation? Simply put, complexity. It can be difficult to measure the effects of chemicals themselves, how they interact with other chemicals, etc. In contrast, it is much easier to measure the amount of water it takes to create something. However, here is the key reason chemistry has to be a part of the sustainability conversation. Let’s say that you have a chemical that allows you to use less water to create a product. That sounds great, but is that tradeoff worth it if the chemical has known carcinogenic properties?
It’s deeper questions like this that deserve the time and consideration of brands, manufacturers, and consumers. With regards to the latter, since chemistry is a deep and complicated subject, there has been a general lack of public knowledge and understanding about it. This, in turn, has translated into a lack of urgency in the past for companies to switch to greener chemicals. However, from mommy blogs discussing the toxicity of products to global awareness campaigns of the carcinogenic effects of chemicals like BPA and PFAs, that lack of understanding is waning and instead, concern over product safety is growing quickly with sustainably-marketed products representing more than half the growth in consumer packaged goods and the green chemicals industry having a projected CAGR of 6% from 2020-2030. Simply put, safe and circular products—products designed with safe chemistry from the start—are the present and the future.
So how can you help your company bring green chemistry into its sustainability conversations? Here are some ideas:
- Checking RSLs to rule out widely known problematic chemicals. Are you already doing this? Great job! List-checking is the first step toward greener chemistry. However, not all known problematic chemicals are currently on RSLs. This means that—even if it isn’t on any list—a chemical may be carcinogenic, have a negative impact on the water or environment, or be problematic in another way. This leads us to…
- Utilizing Chemical Hazard Assessments. CHAs are thorough investigations into a chemical’s properties and its effects on 23 different endpoints including things like water and air quality, reproductive health, and carcinogenic potentials. Understanding and employing CHAs will allow you to have the fullest understanding of what is in your product.
- Finding safer alternatives. If you come across a problematic chemical—whether through an RSL or CHA—look for safer alternatives to replace it with. CHAs are a great way to learn more about chemicals to find a suitable replacement.
- Encouraging the whole Supply Chain to be greener. Request and deliver reports of chemical safety information throughout the supply chain. There are ways to do this such that the supplier’s IP is protected while passing along the chemical information that others need.
- Getting green chemistry certifications. Certifications like Screened Chemistry provide third-party validation that shows your supply chain and potential customers alike that you are serious about green chemistry.
Not sure how to start? Chemical software—like SciveraLENS(R)—can check RSLs, provide CHAs, generate redacted reports to allow for chemical health information to be sent up the supply chain, and help find safer alternatives to chemicals of concern. Find one that will help your organization meet its sustainability goals, and if you have questions, we’re here to help!