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Beyond 2020: Sustainable Chemistry

From NGO side WECF, Health Care Without Harm and Chemsec were invited to give their ideas on sustainable chemistry and the new ISC3

22.05.2017 |

WECF Director Sascha Gabizon at the ICM 3

WECF and IPEN, the International POPs Elimination Network, welcomed the initiative by Germany to broaden the discussion about chemicals management and sustainability, including measures to advance Agenda 2030 at the Conference on Mainstreaming Sustainable Chemistry, May 17-18 in Berlin.

WECF, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and Chemsec were invited to present the position of civil society NGOs on sustainable chemistry and the new ISC3. In a common voice all NGO representatives pointed out that Sustainable Chemistry has to take the whole chain of a substance into account from the extractive oil industry and all the way to the end of the waste process. This means also taking responsibility for low-paid waste workers in developing countries who are often exposed to highly hazardous chemicals in facilities that import waste from industrialized countries. Sustainable Chemistry means that no chemical substance nor product has a hazardous impact on human health and the environment. Sustainable chemistry also means to rethink which substances in which products are really necessary and where they could they can be substituted and redesigned using safe (non-chemical) alternatives. The NGO point of view was presented in a position paper (see below) and expressed by WECF Director Sascha Gabizon in her presentation. 

Position Paper

WECF together with IPEN and the international NGO community published a position paper on sustainable chemistry and its potential use in a Post 2020 approach of chemicals management. The NGOs pointed out the big positive impact such a transformative approach could have for a toxic free future. But the NGOs also warned of its potential for “green washing” when hazardous chemicals continue to sold but now under the guise of being greener because of some CO2 reduction or educational program.  The NGO community recommends that hazard-reduction should be fully incorporated into a more precise definition along with a clear set of goals and indicators, that the reduction and elimination of hazardous chemicals from production and use should be prioritized, costs and resource of the elimination of legacy toxic chemicals must been internalized, full disclosure of ingredients and information systems have to be included, and a sustainable chemistry approach should be broad enough to include the possibility for non-chemical alternatives as potentially the superior substitute.

You can find the report "Beyond 2020: Sustainable Chemistry"as well as the related NGO recommendations attached in English.

Safe and non-toxic

At its best, sustainable chemistry could shift the entire industry to safer production and improve environmental protection, consumer safety and occupational health and safety by eliminating hazards. The goal should be that countries not only manage dangerous chemicals better, but that industries design safer, non-toxic substances from the start, moving increasingly away from petro-chemicals to non-chemical alternatives.


ISC3 – The International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre – supports the global breakthrough of Sustainable Chemistry. The project for the establishment of ISC3 was launched in March, 2015, by the German Federal Environment Agency.

You can find the official press release by UBA here: 




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