UN Talks on Global Chemicals Database May Impact Broad Swaths of Industry

UNEPKimberly McLaughlin, USCIB’s director of product policy, nanotechnology, China, EU, and APEC affairs, recently represented American business in Geneva at a UN Environment Program informal workshop on a proposed global database of chemicals used in articles and products worldwide.  At this gathering of over 100 government, academic and NGO participants, Ms. McLaughlin underscored U.S. business concerns that confidential business information be protected and provided insight into managing the scope of this proposed project, highlighting the diversity and complexity of information across business sectors.

The scope of a chemicals database – which was first proposed last year by the EU, Japan and the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety as an emerging issue to be addressed in the UN’s Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) process – will be negotiated at the upcoming second session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management, in Geneva May 11 to 15.  USCIB will lead a business delegation, encompassing particularly those downstream chemical users who can be greatly affected by discussions of global chemicals policy.

Sweden has taken the lead in the development of the issue, co-chairing the informal workshop in Geneva, as well as providing a representative to act as the facilitator in the preparation of conference documents to which USCIB has recently submitted comments (available on our product policy resource page, under “recent accomplishments”).  This round of comments on the draft conference documents is expected to close by March 9.

At the Geneva workshop, many NGOs and governments raised the issue of exposure of chemicals from articles and products that are found in computers, textiles, toys and jewelry as well as the problem with the recovery of chemicals from products in waste management.  There were calls for an international harmonized database of chemicals in articles and products throughout the supply chain and extended producer responsibility.  Several participants at the workshop called for an international binding instrument that would lead to a compulsory database of chemicals information in articles all through the supply chain with the hope towards substitution and alternatives.  USCIB is concerned that, if these calls and proposals were to be implemented, there would be a significant impact on companies across numerous industries, regardless of size and nationality.

USCIB is seeking to raise awareness of this issue among its members and global business partners.  Many companies and industries already invest heavily in infrastructure to provide information about the use and exposure of potentially hazardous substances in their products.  These companies and industries also invest significant time and effort in establishing, maintaining and improving product end-of-life recycling and management programs.  USCIB believes it would be valuable to use these experiences as a basis for consideration of additional work, and provide a strong business voice to these ongoing negotiations and future mandate of this project.

Those wishing to learn more should contact Kimberly McLaughlin at kmclaughlin@uscib.org.  The next USCIB Product Policy Working Group meeting is scheduled for March 9 in Washington, D.C., where members will discuss next steps and USCIB engagement in this process.  Members should contact Justine Bareford at jbareford@uscib.org to register.

Staff contact: Helen Medina

More on USCIB’s Product Policy Working Group

SAICM negotiations website

Staff Contact:   Brian Lowry

Senior VP, Innovation, Regulation, and Trade
Tel: 202.617.3159

Brian Lowry leads USCIB’s policy work on trade, health, food, agriculture, chemicals, and intellectual property. He also coordinates USCIB’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Lowry joined USCIB in February 2021 having previously worked as an executive in the agriculture and crop science industry. Through his role as an executive, Lowry was also a longtime USCIB corporate member leader, as well as co-chair of USCIB’s working group on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda. Lowry was also the first board chair of the UN Global Compact Network USA.
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