Over the past four years, SABIC has shown notable progress in its ChemScore ranking, improving from 12 points in 2020 to 31 in 2023, resulting in a B rating and this year’s top position.
SABIC has taken a step towards transparency by publicly disclosing its full production of hazardous chemicals, even in sites outside of the EU and the US where it is not mandatory to do so. It is the only Asian-based chemical company with 100 per cent of its sold production accounted for, an achievement in itself, and this move provides a comprehensive view of the company’s chemical inventory. Amidst this progress, it’s important to note that SABIC still produces 25 SIN List substances, which is a slight increase from last year. The count of persistent chemicals remains steady at one. Additionally, while they voluntarily aim to reduce or avoid chemicals of concern beyond global regulations, they lack strict cut-off criteria for SVHCs in newly developed products, resulting in no points awarded in this area.
Overall, SABIC’s progress in the realm of sustainability is notable. They have made significant strides in transparency and chemical management, though certain areas such as strict cut-off criteria for SVHCs and hazardous waste production warrant attention.
Opportunities for improvement
- Map and phase out persistent chemicals
Sabic produces one persistent chemical. 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. SABIC 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 SABIC has 25 hazardous chemicals in its product portfolio, a key improvement point for the company is to reduce this number. SABIC 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
SABIC 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.