Friday, April 2, 2010

5 Things To Reduce Chemical Risk in Your Supply Chain

5 Things To Reduce Chemical Risk in Your Supply Chain
Written by Tim Greiner of Pure Strategies

Companies face seemingly overwhelming obstacles to uncovering and managing supply chain chemical risk (recall the problems of lead in toys a few years ago). Many suppliers typically provide little information on the chemical make up of components and processes. When they do provide data, it often lacks the necessary detail and specificity to identify chemical hazards. From contaminants in toys to BPA in children's products, companies need policies, programs and tools to protect their customers and brands from chemical risk. Lack of transparency of chemical risks in your supply chain is a direct business threat.

We recommend firms take 5 steps
1. Develop a chemicals disclosure policy with your suppliers that requires disclosure of chemical hazards in materials, sub assemblies, packaging and ingredients they supply.
2. Assess chemical risk against a set of criteria. The criteria should be drawn on hazards such as the Red List of Chemicals or could be drawn from lists used by others in your sector.
3. Reduce hazards by substituting the worse chemical hazards with safer chemicals and materials.
4. Be transparent with your customers, consumers and NGOs. Don't hide hazards from your stakeholders. It is far better to be proactive and communicate thean to react during a crisis.
5. Trust, but verify. Despite best intentions, any supply chain needs audits to ensure suppliers faithfully adhere to your standards.

These 5 steps represent the core of a chemicals management program. Beyond this core, more advanced practices include a safer chemical methodology, advocacy for chemicals policy reform, and industry collaboration on supplier chemical management.

Learn more about this topic from Staples and Clean Production Action, a leading NGO in this area, at our conference in Boston April 15.

I'd like to thank Tim Greiner for contributing this piece on chemical risk. Tim is a nationally recognized sustainability expert and founder of Pure Strategies. - a Boston-based consultancy working with leading brands such as The North Face, Seventh Generation, and Stonyfield Farm.

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