PPG Industries has shown progress in recent years and scores a C- in ChemScore 2023. The company produces 29 SIN List substances and four persistent chemicals. Only about half of the company’s global production is known.
The sustainability methodology that the company uses is commendable but there is a lack of strict cut-off criteria for hazardous substances in new products. PPG Industries actively markets sustainable products, which now comprise 39 per cent of sales. The company has implemented some circular processes but needs to declare the absence of hazardous substances. PPG Industries has a Restricted Substance List but has not yet made it publicly available. Neither has the company made public a global hazardous portfolio and the revenue percentage of products containing harmful chemicals. While it has elements of a circular economy policy in place, more dedication and clear circular metrics are needed.
Opportunities for improvement
- Map and phase out persistent chemicals
PPG produces or uses at least four persistent chemicals. These substances are known as “forever chemicals” due to the fact that they do not break down in nature. These chemicals — which are linked to many negative health effects — instead build up over time, creating consequences that are becoming increasingly detrimental. Not only for human health and the environment but also for investors.Companies reliant on such chemicals risk stranded assets now that the regulatory speed is accelerating. They are also exposed to significant liability risks since more chemical companies are being sued for contamination and bodily injury. PPG should therefore identify all uses, as well as publish the share of revenue and production volume of persistent chemicals (or products that contain them). The company should publish a time-bound phase-out plan for each persistent chemical and a realistic road map with clear KPIs to track progress.
- 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 PPG has 29 hazardous chemicals in its product portfolio, a key improvement point for the company is to reduce this number. PPG 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.
- Prevent further controversies
Over the last five years, PPG has been involved in incidents leading to liabilities of over US$ 6 million and should re-design or dramatically improve its Environment, Health and Safety strategy. This would help the company to better avoid incidents and make sure that controls – functioning even when human errors occur – are in place. If an accident or spill should happen, it is important that PPG identifies the cause and publishes a document on strategies that will be implemented to avoid similar occurrences in the future. It is possible to prevent human suffering and environmental pollution when producing chemicals, but it requires a thorough Environment, Health and Safety system.