Informational Matrix of Tools for Green Chemistry

Looking for tools to evaluate chemical ingredients in products — for greener chemistry, safer products, a healthier workplace and a more viable supply chain?  Recently GC3 designed and published a matrix of tools for green chemistry and an attendant summary document.

Use the matrix here:  portal database

Some tools listed are free, some are not.  In these matters you typically get what you pay for, but what you want to pay for depends on how big your supply network is and what your sustainability goals are from a product risk management and brand management point of view.

The Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) is out of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.  It bills itself as a business-to-business forum that advances the application of green chemistry and design for environment across supply chains.

GC3 has realized, rightly, that many businesses lack the resources to educate themselves about the tools and systems available for managing greener chemistry.  The matrix at the link above will help businesses educate themselves about the choices in tools for evaluating chemical ingredients.  Use it, the matrix is free.

Data safer in the cloud?  Increasing regulatory requirements and consumer and media pressure to sell safer or “green” products are driving retailers to understand more about the chemical ingredients in the products they sell and to find safer alternatives to chemicals of concern. Some retailers are developing their own tools or systems to evaluate the chemical content of the products they buy and sell, which is an arguably short-sighted approach because it lends significant problems with lack of standardization of data, ergo inability or extreme difficulty with reporting and for suppliers who have to add resources to distribute the data.  The alternative is to work with developers of 3rd party evaluation systems to develop customized tools, and others are working collaboratively to develop tools useful to a whole industry sector.

Some think that keeping data “in-house” is safer, but company “proprietary” data is just as easy to hack as is data in the cloud, or data hosted elsewhere.  Viruses and malware occur more often in in-house systems. And data losses are more common (and expensive) in on-premises systems.  So the data-is-safer-in-house point is mute.

In fact, an Aberdeen study recently revealed that data are actually safer in the cloud.  Which means you have more choices, is all; you are no longer tied to your IT team, their capabilities, legacies, politics and budget.  Be free!

Chemical ingredient tool matrix  GC3 says that the tools included in the matrix are either free or commercially available and enable retailers to evaluate chemicals or chemical-containing products for their potential human health and environmental impacts and identify chemicals or materials that are regulated or are of concern and not yet regulated.

Most of the evaluative systems go beyond ensuring compliance with existing environmental regulations and provide additional information to retailers and manufacturers whose goal is to “green” their product lines by selling chemicals and chemical-containing products that are safer throughout the supply chain.

Green Chemistry: Sleeper Hit in Supply-Chain Compliance?

These days, environmental regulations are changing the rules of the game in terms of how things are made, sourced and distributed in manufacturing and supply chains. The rules define the product and the process. More so than ever before.

Green Chemistry might be the sleeper key to compliance

Regulations make the brand? Regulations such as REACH, RoHS, “China RoHS,” “China REACH” and WEEE have huge impact on finished goods as they move through a supply network.  The impact of regulation is felt in all stages:

  1. design
  2. procurement
  3. storage
  4. manufacturing processes
  5. waste procedures and
  6. product distribution.

This is true in aerospace, automotive, packaging — but especially true in electronics, ever more so as the electronics industry becomes increasingly plastic-oriented.

We’re talking about products increasingly defined and designed by environmental interests.

Electronic paper. Of course, late last week the electronics industry became paper-based, or paper-esque shall we say (origami telephones, anyone?) when BBC London announced the debut of the paper cell phone.  Yes, you read that right. It’s a cell phone made of electronic paper. You could make an airplane out of it and try to get your friend’s attention — rather than call.

Increasingly we see more regulations and faster creation to disposal cycles. So how can the electronics industry cope?

E is for Electronics, Environmental, and EHS. Regulations are usually either strictly Environmental regulations or Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS).  Categories of regulations in electronics manufacturing and supply include:

  1. fire safety
  2. toxic substances
  3. product end-of-life
  4. air quality.

The last one, air quality, is a hot topic right now but is no more important than toxic chemicals, end-of-life or fire safety in electronics manufacturing.  Air quality typically comes down to Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs).  HAPs as a class cause serious environmental fall out.  HAPs include:

  1. sulfur dioxide
  2. nitrogen oxides
  3. volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  4. hazardous air pollutants.

Green chemistry might be key. Action to reduce emissions can be done either by converting the waste itself or by using cleaner ingredients to begin with.  The latter is at the heart of green chemistry.  Green chemistry in fact addresses most environmental regulatory concerns:  the greener the chemistry, the fewer the environmental regulatory concerns.

To find out about Green Chemistry without the struggle of navigating the web site, try GC3 or Green Chemistry Council out of University of Massachusetts-Lowell.  Under the “Publications” section there are some helpful documents, including case studies by big companies like HP and Seagate who are seeking environmental regulatory compliance worldwide through greener chemistry.  Read up, go green, and as always: track, track, track your data.

Because it’s critical to be compliant, it becomes key to be green.  Remember:  there is no substitute for year-over-year tracking data for demonstrating to shareholders just how green you’ve been.

Green Chemistry image (top) courtesy of Actio Corporation Communications, used by permission.

Green Chemistry Status in California and All US States

Green Chemistry simply means: using chemistry to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous materials. Below, we’ve provided a table itemizing which states have stages of green chemistry laws implemented.  Just scroll down.  We all need an overview sometimes.  You can download the Green Chemistry Status pdf version here.

The California Green Chemistry Initiative may be a great idea, but it started an environmental regulatory trend whereby the state regulates chemicals in manufactured products. It applies to goods made or sold in the state. The green chemistry initiatives are similar to, in particular, DfE or Design for Environment and REACH. Often, Green Chemistry focuses on children’s products. This sparks the public interest, makes legislation easier to pass, and let’s face it, it appears children are more vulnerable and susceptible to the maleffects of toxic substances, largely because of toxic attacks on youth in critical developmental stages.

Would it be ideal to have Green Chemistry be some kind of standard at the federal level? Absolutely. Manufacturers, associations, regulatory bodies and the public agree on that. In theory. But then you get the politics, infighting, lobbying, special interest groups on both the left and right — and we’re back to state and local regulations. Of course these are all different, in different stages of implementation. This spells disaster for manufacturers trying to abide by the law.

To solve the problem, we’ve created an up to date Status Table that shows the status of Green Chemistry laws, state by state.

If you have trouble seeing the table below, view and print a high-resolution pdf version. Data are current as of December 2010.

Reuters recently ran an article that pointed out:

“In addition to the health and environmental safety of these greener chemicals, green chemistry brings a competitive advantage to companies:

1. Less risk of product recalls and potential damage to company reputation
2. Cost savings gained when hazardous materials are removed to reduce the costs associated with handling, transportation, disposal and compliance of hazardous materials
3. Improved chances of greater stakeholder engagement from customers, employees, managers, and investors are achieved when a company demonstrates initiatives to reduce their negative impact on the environment
4. Cost savings from greater efficiencies in manufacturing process.”