Development of Safer Chemicals

Better and less-toxic products are needed to protect human health, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and stop pollution as well as the degradation of biodiversity. A circular economy can only be truly sustainable when products don’t contain hazardous ingredients.

For these reasons, chemical companies need to have full control of their product ingredients, and know the answers to how their products serve society and a more sustainable world. Companies need to walk their talk by ensuring safer products right from the design stage and actively market them.

The approach to these issues is paramount to create a foundation for healthy profits in the future, as well as avoid costly last-minute substitution forced by regulation.

To transition from the extraction of resources and depletion of natural capital to a circular economy, the chemical industry needs to make sure it can deliver safer alternatives, as well as make increased use of renewable resources, while also reducing its waste generation.


Definition of a truly circular product

To be eligible for points in ChemScore, a truly circular product must first and foremost not contain any hazardous chemicals.

Second, the product must either have an end-of-life concept – like reuse or recycling – or it must be what we call an enabling technology, making it possible for customers (downstream users) to produce circular products. Concrete examples of such products are:

  • Additives to facilitate mechanical recycling
  • Additives or coatings extending the lifespan of reuseable products
  • Adhesives that will allow easy separation of different materials at end of life

Additional characteristics of circular products, including the use of bio-based or renewable materials and recycled feedstock, are evaluated separately.


Bio-based and renewable resources rationale

To achieve a circular economy, moving away from take-make-waste is key. One way to move away from the use of fossil fuels and close the carbon loop is to increase the use of bio-based feedstocks. Generally speaking, using bio-based and/or renewable resources is better than using fossil-based ones.

However, since there are no standards yet – and to avoid other environmental and social problems – it’s important that the biobased or renewable feedstock isn’t competing with food production, or involved in non-sustainable farming practices or land-use. Therefore, only bio-based sources based on food waste, crops cultivated on otherwise barren land, and forest products have been rewarded in this year’s ranking.


Where does the data come from?

The sources we have used to collect data for this category are the companies’ sustainability reports and websites, as well as Marketplace – ChemSec’s platform for safer alternatives.

We have also conducted internet research, using search words such as “product stewardship”, “hazardous”, “SVHC”, “product assessment”, “GreenScreen”, “substitution”, “green products”, “alternatives”, “eco-friendly”, “energy-efficient”, “water-efficient”, “circular”, “recycling”, “bio-based”, “renewable”, “bio-mass”, “recycling”, and “recyclate”.


Criteria in this category

  • The company has a method in place to screen and assess the environmental sustainability of its products
  • The assessment method or screening includes the intrinsic hazards of the company’s products
  • Application of strict cut-off hazard criteria for the development of new products (SVHC criteria)
  • Active marketing of self-proclaimed greener, eco-friendlier sustainable products on website
  • Active marketing of less-toxic alternatives, evaluated by ChemSec or other independent third parties
  • Offering of circular end-products or processes, enabling circularity
  • Using biobased/renewable resources (as input to the company’s production or processes)
  • Using or producing recycled feedstock free from hazardous chemicals
  • Reduction of generated waste