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Sustainability scan for chemical products to next phase

18 Oct 2017

A simple tool that nonetheless provides a reliable estimate of the sustainability performance throughout the entire life cycle of a chemical product. That's the Sustainability Hotspot Scan. To demonstrate the tool, TNO held a workshop for chemical companies at the VNCI. They were so enthusiastic that TNO and MVO Nederland will now be establishing a Community of Practice.

On Wednesday 4 October, the sector association of the chemical industry, the VNCI, held a Responsible Care day for chemical companies. To celebrate the 25th year of the Responsible Care programme, the day included events such as a workshop on the Sustainability Hotspot Scan.

Reliable estimate of sustainability performance

“We wanted to show how the tool works,” tells project manager Elise Boukris of TNO. “Because we link all the relevant indicators to databases that are publicly available, companies get a reliable estimate of their sustainability performance. So if you have limited time available or lack a large department handling the life cycle cost analysis (LCA), this tool can offer a way forward. For example, we heard from a participant that he does an LCA for some of his products, but has insufficient capacity to do the analysis for all his products. When faced with limitations like this, the scan offers an easy way of getting through the entire portfolio.”

Cooperation

TNO and MVO Nederland plan to apply the tool in a Community of Practice. Boukris: “To start with, companies will receive joint training. We will then hold a meeting for each company at which they can examine their own results. Finally, a follow-up day will be held at which the participants can share their results and experiences. It may be that there's a particular issue that unites the SMEs or that the scan reveals is a common problem. They'll then in a position to tackle that jointly. Cooperating is something that the Dutch chemical industry is good at.”

Insight into the international chain

TNO developed the tool at the request of MVO Nederland, which in turn had been asked by the small and medium-sized enterprises Baril Coatings and C. Kornuyt BV. TNO decided to call on the expertise of RIVM. “When you want to move towards more sustainable product development, it is important that your business matters are in good order,” says Elsbeth Roelofs, programme manager at MVO Nederland. “Are there good regulations in place for the working conditions at your raw materials supplier? Are your customers complying with environmental requirements? Having more insight into the entire international chain and possible hotspots gives you the opportunity to make other choices. In a manner that is relatively simple, the scan provides that insight.”

Complying with OECD guidelines

The tool also offers a good starting position for complying with OECD guidelines, which describe what the OECD countries expect of both large and small companies that do business internationally. Roelofs: “The scope of the regulations is continually developing. As of this year, legislation on Conflict Minerals has been adopted in the EU. This enquires into the origins of a number of minerals. Both the US and the UK already have legislation that requires companies to show that slavery isn't occurring in their chain. If you are already 'practising' with this TNO tool, you can anticipate legislation and, for example, rapidly track down the answers to difficult questions about raw material supplies. In this way, it is also a tool for managing risks. TNO calls it a quick scan. But it draws on so much data and expertise that the first insight you gain is really well substantiated.”

Free

The tool is available at no charge, so in principle you can complete the scan yourself. Boukris: “We are really keen to hear of any problems that companies run into using the tool, so that we can continue to improve it. Chemical companies wishing to join the Community of Practice are welcome to get in touch.”

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