NOT CURRENT YEAR
Sherwin-Williams has a relatively large production/use of hazardous chemicals and data tells us that it is producing/using 18 highly hazardous chemicals, including two persistent chemicals, which is on par with last year. The large production/use of very problematic chemicals is a big reason behind Sherwin-Williams’ poor score in this category (5 points) and also in the ranking as a whole. One the positive side is the fact that 91 percent of the company’s use/production take place in the EU and/or the US – the highest of all companies in ChemScore – where legal requirements for transparency is high. This means that investors have a more or less complete picture of Sherwin-Williams’ portfolio, something you cannot say for many of the other companies in ChemScore.
Opportunities for improvement
- Sherwin-Williams should reduce its hazardous portfolio, which currently consists of 18 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 PIC substance that Sherwin-Williams 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.
- Sherwin-Williams has started a circular economy partnership with Knoll on creating a powder coating using 25 percent pre-consumer recycled plastics, but we are missing a clear circular strategy with relevant KPIs and SMART targets.
- The company still struggles to get safety processes to minimize or eliminate pollution and contamination in place, and faces litigations with severe fines. Sherwin-Williams should invest in safety process improvements and employee trainings.
Sherwin Williams produces/uses 18 highly hazardous substances – 18 SIN List chemicals, 1 PIC, and 3 HHPs – 6 of which are included on the EU’s REACH Candidate List. 2 of these highly hazardous substances are either banned or severely restricted, with set dates when production needs to cease (2 Authorisation List substances, and no POPs). The company produces 1 persistent chemical. 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 9% 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.
Sherwin-Williams has a method in place to screen and assess the sustainability of its products and includes the intrinsic hazards of ingredients in the screening process. It does not, however, exclude substances with toxic properties from its new products. Sherwin-Williams actively markets safer alternatives both on its own website as well as on ChemSec Marketplace. The company has at least one true circular product, process or innovation. Sherwin-Williams does not use biobased resources. However, it does source and treat recycled materials in a sustainable way, which is one of the key elements of a circular economy. Sherwin-Williams is actively reducing the hazardous waste it generates.
The American company does not produce only sustainable products, and has no 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. Sherwin-Williams 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). Sherwin-Williams does not have a circular economy program in place, thus lacking objective and measurable circular economy targets.
In January 2019, the South Coast Air Quality Management District sued Sherwin-Williams for 30 million USD over claims that its paints violate air pollution standards. According to the lawsuit, the company supplied solvents, wall coatings, paint thinners, sealants and adhesives to businesses and its own retail outlets in Southern California that exceeded allowable levels for certain smog-producing compounds. Other penalties imposed over the past decade include violations involving hazardous waste storage, hazardous material transportation, contamination of soil, water and air, and providing misleading information to consumers.Download Controversies Sherwin-Williams (PDF, 142 KB)