NOT CURRENT YEAR
Westlake Chemical produces 5 highly hazardous chemicals. This may not seem so bad, compared to many of the other companies in the ranking, but it is still a portfolio full of problematic substances. On a positive note, 83 percent of the company’s production takes place in the EU and/or the US, where legal requirements for transparency is high, earning the company 7 points in the first category. This means that investors have a more or less complete picture of Westlake Chemical’ portfolio, something you cannot say for many of the other companies in ChemScore. Even if there are no records of the company being involved in any deadly incidents over the past ten years, it is not awarded a full score (3/6) in the Lack of Controversies category, due to several pollution scandals and huge penalty fines. In the remaining categories, the Westlake Chemical’s performance is weak across the board.
Opportunities for improvement
- We have data on most – 83 percent – of Westlake Chemical’s product portfolio, produced for the American and European markets. A further reduction of hazardous chemicals, especially the one on the REACH authorisation list, would have a very positive impact on the company’s hazard score. Westlake’s chemical management lacks strategic outlines. We would like to see a systematic assessment tool for intrinsic hazards of products and the development of safer alternatives. We would also like to see Westlake Chemical phase out the PIC substance it 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.
- A European subsidiary of Westlake Chemical is a partner in an EU project on PVC recycling. Although small, this initiative is a start. It’s also most likely a difficult one, as PVC contains hazardous ingredients and recycling it may pollute secondary material streams. We would like to see a clear circular strategy, with stringent KPIs and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) targets for Westlake Chemical to develop its own circular products and concepts.
- Westlake Chemical’s subsidiary Axiall uses biobased plasticizers derived from renewable resources to produce vinyl compounds. However, biobased feedstock should only be sourced from waste or by-products not competing with food production. This assurance must be clearly communicated in order for the biobased product to be rewarded. Further, to use biobased feedstock to produce hazardous materials is not a good circular initiative either.
Westlake Chemicals produces/uses 5 highly hazardous substances –5 SIN List chemicals, 1 PIC, and 1 HHP – 1 of which is included on the EU’s REACH Candidate List. 1 of these highly hazardous substances is either banned or severely restricted, with set dates when production needs to cease (1 Authorisation Listsubstance, and no POPs). The company produces no persistent chemicals.
Please note that there is no available data for the 17 percent 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.
Westlake Chemical has a method in place to screen and assess the sustainability of its products, but does not include the intrinsic hazards of ingredients in the screening process. Nor does it exclude substances with toxic properties from its new products. Westlake Chemical does not actively market safer alternatives on its own website or on ChemSec Marketplace. The company has no true circular product, process or innovation. Westlake Chemical does not use biobased resources. Nor does it source and treat recycled materials in a sustainable way, which is one of the key elements of a circular economy. Westlake Chemical is not actively reducing the hazardous waste it generates.
The American company does not produce only sustainable products. Nor does it have a phase-out strategy for hazardous substances that go beyond regulatory compliance. It shares chemical safety information on its website and follows a credible code of conduct standard. Westlake Chemical did not respond to ChemSec’s attempts to communicate around its ChemScore ranking. Nor does it share any information about what kind of chemicals it produces in regions with low regulatory demands for transparency (e.g. Asia). Westlake Chemical has no circular economy program in place, thus lacking objective and measurable circular economy targets.
On 30 November 2020, a 350,000 USD settlement regarding the mercury pollution of the Ohio River was made, compelling Eagle Natrium – a subsidiary of Axiall Corporation, which in turn is a subsidiary of Westlake Chemical – to install treatment technology designed to eliminate the violations of releasing more mercury into the Ohio River than allowed under the company’s permit. In July 2020, three workers were injured at a Westlake Chemical plant manufacturing chlorine in Marshall County, West Virginia. On 20 December 2013, 18 people were injured in an explosion in the vinyl chloride manufacturing area of Westlake Chemical subsidiary Axiall Corporation’s plant in Westlake, Louisiana. Additionally, Westlake Chemicals and its subsidiaries have paid close to 4.5 million USD in environmental violation penalties over the past ten years.Download Controversies Westlake Chemical (PDF, 119 KB)