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Companies Work with Suppliers to Reduce Chemical Impact and Develop Safer Products
LOWELL, Mass. ߞ; The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell has released a new report and case studies describing how three leading companies ߝ Nike, Hewlett-Packard and SC Johnson ߝ are working to reduce their chemical impact while innovating safer products.
The report, titled “Gathering Chemical Information and Advancing Safer Chemistry in Complex Supply Chains: Case Studies of Nike, SC Johnson, and Hewlett-Packard,” documents how these large companies track down information on chemicals in the materials or components they procure from suppliers, evaluate the safety of these chemicals and use this information to develop safer alternatives.
“We undertook this project to provide insight and inspiration to other companies seeking to be leaders in advancing green chemistry and safer products,” says Associate Prof. Joel Tickner at UMass Lowell, who facilitates the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) in which all three companies participate. “The GC3 provides a forum for these leading companies to exchange ideas and share best practices.”
Chemical regulations such those in California and Europe’s RoHS (Restrictions on Hazardous Substances in Electronic and Electrical Products) and REACH (Registration Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) are driving companies to cut back or eliminate toxic substances from products. Other drivers include green consumerism, green certification programs, and consumer demand for more information on chemicals used in products.
“While many larger companies are just beginning to restrict a handful of known toxic chemicals from their products, these three companies are moving well beyond this by seeking to identify all of the chemicals in their products and determining whether those chemicals are safe,” says Monica Becker of Monica Becker & Associates Sustainability Consultants, the primary author of the case studies. “This paves the way to designing products that are truly safe for consumers and the environment.”
How the Companies Overcame Lack of Information from Suppliers
In the study, Nike, HP and SC Johnson reported a number of obstacles to getting chemical information from supply chains for their green design programs: unwillingness of some suppliers to provide chemical ingredient information, concerns over confidential business information, and the inability of suppliers to get information from their own suppliers.
All three companies have developed innovative strategies to overcome these barriers in pursuit of safer products. Nike relies heavily on chemical testing of supplied materials, components and products. SC Johnson overcame barriers related to confidential business information by requiring suppliers to provide toxicological information on supplied ingredients rather than specific ingredient names. HP trains suppliers, provides detailed written guidance and Web-based portals for chemical data entry.
Innovative programs that are described in each company’s case study help translate chemical data into greener products.
Nike’s Considered Chemistry evaluation system is used to evaluate chemicals in products to develop environmentally preferred materials and to add new chemicals to its already lengthy restricted substances list. SC Johnson uses its Greenlist™ system to rate and compare raw materials based on impact on the environment and human health. HP is building a database of the location of toxic chemicals in the supply chain which will facilitate any future efforts by the company to restrict those chemicals and to work with suppliers to find safer substitutes. The reports can be accessed at the Green Chemistry in Commerce Council Web site: http://greenchemistryandcommerce.org/projects.php
About the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3)
The GC3, facilitated by the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, provides an open forum for business-to-business dialog to advance the development of safer chemicals and products. Through working groups, GC3 participants initiate projects to advance green chemistry and design for environment policies. For more details, visit www.greenchemistryandcommerce.org.
About the University of Massachusetts Lowell
UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 13,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.