Ecolab shows an upward trend over the past four years, currently holding a C grade with 19 points. The company manages five SIN List substances but is among the few to provide statements on intermediate use for some substances, cutting its hazardous portfolio with 14 substances since last year. However, less than two-thirds of the company’s sold production is registered in EU/US markets, affecting transparency. Ecolab is one of two companies in this year’s ChemScore to eliminate harmful chemicals already in the product design process.
Ecolab markets sustainable solutions and incorporates sustainability and safety into its products’ research and development processes. However, no safer alternative is advertised on ChemSec’s Marketplace. Furthermore, no circular products or processes meeting ChemScore standards were identified in the company’s business. Ecolab adheres to phasing out substances listed on REACH authorisation, but this is seen as regulatory compliance rather than going beyond.
Opportunities for improvement
- Reduce hazardous portfolio
Scientists agree that chemical pollution has crossed a planetary boundary and become an urgent global crisis, threatening both ecosystems and human health. Since Ecolab has 5 hazardous chemicals in its product portfolio, a key improvement point for the company is to reduce this number. Ecolab should therefore identify all uses, as well as publish the share of revenue and production volume of hazardous chemicals (or products that contain them). It should also publish a reduction road map of each hazardous chemical together with an annual progression report. Ideally, the company should commit to having a toxic-free product portfolio within the next decade. If the company decides to continue producing a hazardous substance, it needs to present a rationale for its essential use and prove that no feasible alternatives are available at present. In such a case, the company should also state the share of the R&D budget spent on finding a safer alternative for that particular substance.
- Market safer alternatives
Ecolab does not have any safer alternatives evaluated by independent third parties in its product portfolio. Safer alternatives replace the use of hazardous substances and are crucial in order to put an end to chemical pollution. The company should, therefore, start producing safer alternatives or market existing ones on an independent third-party platform. A good place to advertise is ChemSec’s Marketplace, where buyers and suppliers can find and market safer alternatives.
- Increase circularity
The chemical industry finds itself at the beginning of the value chain. Therefore, it has a responsibility to act fast against the ever-growing scarcity of our planet’s resources. But Ecolab receives zero points for circularity since we were unable to identify any circular products, processes or strategies. Nor did we see a decrease in hazardous waste or increased use of recycled hazard-free feedstock or biobased material. Ecolab should start by identifying its current production and use of circular products and processes, and then specify the share of revenue that is derived from such products. The company should also develop and present a circularity strategy, including a commitment to increase the share of revenue derived from circular products.