NOT CURRENT YEAR
LyondellBasell takes a massive climb in the ranking this year, from number 29 to number 10. Still, the company only reaches the grade C. It has a very large production of hazardous chemicals – data tells us that it is producing 53 highly hazardous chemicals, including one persistent chemical. This large production of very problematic chemicals is a big reason behind LyondellBasell’s relatively poor score in the Product Portfolio category (two points) and also in the ranking as a whole. In the other categories, LyondellBasell places itself very much in the middle. It does not really excel in any category, but it is not among the worst either. On the positive side, the company stands out as one of the few in the ranking that has a circular economy program with actual, measurable targets in place.
Opportunities for improvement
- LyondellBasell should reduce its hazardous portfolio, which currently consists of 53 banned, severely restricted or SIN-listed substances. Chemical pollution has a harmful impact on human health and the environment, and poses a growing threat. Two million people died due to exposure to hazardous chemicals in 2019, compared to 1.56 million in 2016, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Hazardous chemicals are also key drivers of biodiversity loss, putting entire ecosystems in jeopardy. A good place to start the reduction would be the three PIC substances that LyondellBasell still offers. PIC, short for Prior Informed Consent, is one of the key provisions of the Rotterdam Convention, allowing the export of – often domestically restricted – hazardous chemicals to poorer countries with weaker chemical legislation, as long as the receiving country signs a consent that it understands what it is accepting and has a plan for how to handle it.
- Considering how many hazardous substances LyondellBasell produces, the company should set targets for phase-outs or volume reduction. It should also inform about the deadlines and progress, to make the public aware when products leaving the factory gate are free from hazardous chemicals and the manufacturing process has become cleaner.
- LyondellBasell improved in both categories “Development of safer chemicals” and “Management & Transparency” compared to last year and achieved five out of eight circularity points. It is one of just four ChemScore companies that publicly state their SMART targets on circular economy, mainly focused on mechanical recycling. However, as ChemScore only evaluates technologies that are used in practice and at scale, making an overall contribution to sustainability, we haven’t rewarded LyondellBasell’s chemical recycling. We still miss clearly described products with a circular end-of-life concept, excluding hazardous ingredients, and using technologies that are applicable in practice and at scale.
LyondellBasell produces/uses 53 highly hazardous substances –53 SIN List chemicals, 3 PICs, and 3 HHPs – 5 of which are included on the EU’s REACH Candidate List. 1 of these highly hazardous substances are either banned or severely restricted, with set dates when production needs to cease (1 Authorisation List substances, and no POPs). The company produces 1 persistent chemicals. Persistent chemicals are particularly problematic, since they do not break down, but instead accumulate in humans and the environment. Because of this, persistent chemicals should be of extra concern for investors; substances that are not considered a problem today could become huge liabilities in the future.
Please note that there is no available data for the 35 % of the company’s production that takes place outside of the EU and US. Lower EU/US production means higher uncertainty with regard to the total production of hazardous chemicals, which will have a negative impact on the company’s score in this category.
LyondellBasell has a method in place to screen and assess the sustainability of its products and includes intrinsic hazards of ingredients in the screening. It does not, however, exclude substances with toxic properties from its new products. LyondellBasell actively markets safer alternatives on its own website, but not on ChemSec Marketplace. The company has no true circular products, processes or innovations. LyondellBasell uses biobased resources without occupying extra land or competing with food production. It also sources and treats recycled materials in a sustainable way, which is one of the key elements of a circular economy. LyondellBasell is not actively reducing the hazardous waste it generates.
The Dutch company does not produce only sustainable products, and it does not have a timed phase-out strategy for hazardous substances that go beyond regulatory compliance. It shares chemical safety information on its website and is following a credible code of conduct standard. LyondellBasell responded to ChemSec’s attempts to communicate around its ChemScore ranking, but it does not share any information about what kind of chemicals it produces in regions with low regulatory demands for transparency (e.g. Asia). LyondellBasell does have a circular economy program in place, and it has objective and measurable circular economy targets.
Several of the controversies connected to LyondellBasell regards air pollution violations. A couple of years ago, the company’s Houston refinery endangered millions of citizens when it released over 50,000 pounds of volatile organic compounds in less than one and a half hour due to a leak. There have also been several reports of fires and explosions at LyondellBasell sites around the world. Between 2011 and 2020, LyondellBasell paid over 3,575,539 USD in penalties for 88 environmental violations according to the violation tracker project of Good Jobs First.Download Controversies LyondellBasell Industries (PDF, 123 KB)