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Safer chemicals are good for business, creating jobs and growth

A major US-based study has found that producing and using safer chemicals is good for business, and recommends that companies that are not already evaluating the potential of safer chemicals should do so. The study estimates that the market for safer chemicals has 24 times the growth potential of the worldwide conventional chemicals market , and that job creation in safer goods and services is well ahead of the conventional chemical industry.

The Green Chemistry & Commerce Council and the American Sustainable Business Council commissioned the report, entitled “Making the business and economic case of safer chemistry“. The aim of the report was to further understand the business and economic value of moving from  harmful chemicals to safer “green” chemicals. Such safer, greener, chemistry focusses on the reduction of human health and environmental impacts, and the creation of safer products.

The report, compiled by the consultancy Trucost, clearly shows that market growth, capital flows and market demand of safer chemicals have been increasing during the past 5 years. Large chemicals companies, such as Dow and DuPont, are showing higher sales growth of “green chemistry” compared to other sales.

It’s not just big businesses benefiting from producing safer chemistry. The report also reveals that smaller, emerging companies, whose business is based on safer chemistry, have demonstrated continued growth. Despite this, the report found that though safer chemistry’s potential for creating business and economic value is promising, it is not yet fully realised.

The study also points out the important role of environment, health and consumer organisations, who have helped create a demand for safer products, including personal care items, baby products, apparel and footwear, healthcare, electronics, building materials and furnishings.

The research identified examples of sizeable business risks posed by traditional chemistry that safer chemistry could alleviate. These include expanding regulations, continued activism by non governmental organisations and shareholders, loss of access to major markets, and chemical mismanagement.

It focusses on US companies, though it points out the important global role of EU chemicals regulation:

“The analysis and inquiry focused on examples of business and economic risk and opportunity within the US; however, we recognize that most markets and supply chains are global. For example, European Union regulations related to restricted chemicals will have significant implications for US-based manufacturers.”

In the press release launching the report, Richard Mattison, chief executive of Trucost says:

“Trucost’s research clearly demonstrates the business benefits of safer chemicals. By translating the risks and opportunities of green chemistry into economic terms, the results will help companies move from awareness to action”

David Levine, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council said:

“This report demonstrates what many in the industry have believed: that safer chemicals are the future, not just for safety and health, but for business itself,”

“The data in this report are important for the industry, but also policymakers. When we can look at the aggregate economics on the upside of market and job growth, investment in innovation opportunities along with the downside cost of hazardous chemical compliance, lawsuits and remediation, we should all be guided by the evidence to move towards safer chemicals production and use. The conclusions in this report are striking.”

CHEM Trust sees this as more compelling evidence that safer chemicals are not only better for human and environmental health, but are also good for business too.

Policy makers are often lobbied by companies trying to protect their existing products – they need to realise that the real innovation and jobs opportunity is in safer chemicals.