Solvay continues its upward trajectory with a C+ grade and 21 points, demonstrating considerable progress over the past four years. The company improves in circular topics and controversies but unfortunately not as much on reducing hazardous substances. This is noteworthy since its chemical portfolio contains 64 SIN List substances, of which 38 are persistent, marking a significant increase compared to the previous year. Only about half of the company’s sold production is registered in EU/US markets, which affects transparency.
Solvay undertakes extensive assessments such as life cycle assessments and intrinsic hazard evaluations. While they have these processes in place, there are no clear design-out plans for harmful chemicals in newly developed products. The company markets a diverse range of sustainable products across different categories and also offers one safer alternative on ChemSec’s Marketplace. As one out of only two companies in this year’s ChemScore, Solvay showcases strong commitment with timed phase-out plans for hazardous substances in its marketed products.
Opportunities for improvement
- Map and phase out persistent chemicals
Solvay produces or uses at least 38 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. Solvay 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 Solvay has 64 hazardous chemicals in its product portfolio, a key improvement point for the company is to reduce this number. Solvay 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.
- Commit to phasing out hazardous chemicals
Solvay tracks the substances within its portfolio. But to further advance its commitment to sustainability, the company should publicly commit to designing out harmful chemicals from new innovations. In addition, the company’s existing phase-out plans need to be substantiated by clear roadmaps and annual progress reports. Well-defined deadlines not only demonstrate determination but also a genuine commitment to progressing in a sustainable direction by prioritising safer alternatives.