USCIB members took part in a panel discussion at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Regulators Forum on March 30 in Singapore, drawing attention to some of the challenges manufacturers face in many countries with respect to chemicals regulation, which is having an increasing impact on downstream users of chemicals.
For the past several years the APEC Chemical Dialogue has discussed how best to contribute to APEC’s overarching goals of trade liberalization and business facilitation throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Moderating the discussion and speaking on behalf of USCIB was Sophia Danenberg (Boeing)¸ who said the panel was intended to gauge the interest of APEC economies on this topic and elicit thoughts for next steps, if any, for region-wide action.
The discussion was productive, with a consensus among participants that regulating chemicals in articles is a complicated matter, and that further discussion on the topic is needed. It revolved around how various industries are dealing with the need to communicate substances in articles along the supply chain.
Timo Unger (Hyundai) described how complex supply chain communication can be for the automotive industry. A single vehicle, he said, can contain hundreds of thousands of articles, most of which are pre-manufactured, which makes understanding what substances they contain and communicating that information throughout the supply chain a major challenge. As a result, auto companies have created an international database for original equipment manufacturers to manage environmentally relevant aspects of the different parts used in vehicles.
Andrea Fava (Intel), representing the Information Technology Industry Council, shared the electronics industry’s experiences and approach to materials declaration. She said the industry has its own database on material declaration, which is meant to harmonize requirements across the supply chain and improve economic efficiencies. Komei Kimura (Japanese Environmental Management Association for Industry) noted a joint article management consortium established in 2006 by 17 member companies across various industries to develop a system for exchanging information on chemicals in articles across various supply chains.
Matthew Gredley, from the Australian health department, gave a regulator’s perspective on the challenges faced in obtaining information about chemicals in articles. He specifically noted the Australian government’s assessment of diethylhexyl phthalate, a plasticizer used in industrial and consumer products, and the challenges that Australia had in obtaining information on the level of that chemical in articles.
It is clear that both industry and APEC member economies share the goal of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life-cycles. There is a need to share and have access to relevant information regarding the chemicals in articles for a variety of reasons, including to allow economies to assess and mitigate risks to human health and the environment, enable industry to demonstrate compliance to regulatory requirements and inform environmentally conscious design.
Furthermore, while information sharing is crucial, a balanced approach is required that recognizes and respects the important concept of intellectual property and protection of confidential information, as well as consumers need to know.
Staff contact: Helen Medina