One of the top priorities of Sirius International’s team is to develop innovative products, manufacturing ways and supply solutions to improve the environment and thereby our safety, climate and future. The many possibilities this brings about come hand in hand with even more responsibilities. We need to stay up to date with the newest guidelines, restrictions and trends in our field. We’re working with RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), and Responsible Care®. Today we’d like to explain their most significant features.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) exists since 2004, and its aim is to establish global standards in the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products. Currently, the association is seated in Zurich, Switzerland but the secretariat is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and there’s also a satellite office in Jakarta, Indonesia – the two Asian-Pacific countries producing most of the world’s palm oil..
Since 2019 Sirius International is a full supply chain member of RSPO and as such, the company abides strictly to the RSPO Code of Conduct, including communicating and supporting the continuation of the RSPO process as well as operating transparently in accordance to the guidelines. Having an RSPO certification includes being thoroughly audited every year with the purpose to prevent overselling and mixing RSPO-palm oil with conventional (or non-sustainable) oil palm products.
Another aspect of the RSPO certification program is the RSPO PalmTrace – a traceability system for certified oil palm products using the supply chain models Identity Preserved (traceability till the palm tree), Segregated (dedicated production lines exclusively apply sustainable palm oil) and Mass Balance (the sold quantity sustainable oil palm products equals the purchased quantity sustainable palmoil). This way, all the units of the supply chain – from the plantation to the retailer – can register their physical sales and processing activities.
According to a new monitoring report by the European Sustainable Palm Oil (ESPO) project, there’s a growing volume of sustainable palm oil entering the European market. The goal is to reach 100% sustainable palm oil in 2020 and countries such as Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have either already reached this target or are well underway. This way the association tries to avoid the environmental damage (such as deforestation or use of toxic herbicides and pesticides) as well as the social consequences (child labour and illegal land grabs, among others).
There is, however, a concerning tendency – some of the consumers started a campaign against the palm oil, fueled by documentaries on non-sustainable palmoil plantations. They shared their demands with the retailers who requested an alternative from the suppliers. But the tendency of looking for a substitute of the palm oil may have considerable negative consequences – according to the report “Oil palm and biodiversity” made by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Oil Palm Task Force, the alternatives of the palm oil will lead to more biodiversity losses and problems. As half of the world’s population uses palm oil in food, if the society bans or boycotts it, other oils will take its place; oils whose production requires even more land and will cause a social-economic crisis in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. The aim of this European Union’s regulation is to protect human health and the environment from potentially harmful chemicals. Its focus is not only on industrial products but also on the consumer goods, such as cleaners, paints, clothes, furniture and electrical appliances. REACH came into force on 1 June 2007, and since then it impacts most companies in the EU as well as those who want to import certain products in it.
Every company which manufactures or imports more than a ton per year of a certain substance or mixture has to collect information about it, as well as assess its hazards and potential risks. This information should be presented to ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) through a registration dossier also containing risk management measures that the users of the substances and mixtures could implement.
In case the particular raw material is already registered, the company who needs the regulation has to contact the SIEF (substance information exchange forum) related to it. SIEF includes all the co-registrants, and its existence is part of ECHA’s efforts to improve the quality of cooperation between the companies in a specific niche.
While this process makes the chemicals market transparent and regulated, it also has a downside. The registration process is a bureaucratic adventure and is based on sharing the (eco-)toxicological testing and registration fees, which easily reach millions of euros within each SIEF. This is a serious obstacle to companies who want to innovate. Theoretically, if a new chemical is created, the unique registrant faces the payment of those costs all by itself.
Another cost-related issue is the lack of balance between the extremely high demand for testing substances and the low number of laboratories with GLP (good laboratory practice) which are capable of performing the necessary tests. This has become a service with extremely high costs and absolutely no alternative on the market.
Responsible Care® is the global voluntary initiative of the chemical industry. Its beginning was in 1985, and since then it acts beyond legislative and regulatory compliance. The companies which work within this ethical framework pay special attention to chemicals management and performance excellence. The goal of Responsible Care® is to create an environment regulated by responsibility instead of regulations.
The participants in this initiative commit that they’ll continuously improve the environmental, health, safety and security knowledge as well as the performance of their technologies, processes and products to avoid harm to people and environment. Furthermore, they’ll use resources efficiently, minimise waste and cooperate with governments and organisations in the development and implementation of effective regulations and standards.
All of this sounds almost too good to be true! Responsible Care® definitely caused some positive changes in the chemical world and the way people perceive the chemical industry. However, due to its voluntary nature, it has been neglected by many companies in the industry who would adopt safer processes only if it’s obligatory. Within the chemical branch organisations their members pat each other on the back while somewhere out there, the non-members run risks which endager the brittle bond between chemistry and society.
The Sirius Effect
Sirius International always puts safety and innovation first, regardless of the costs we have to pay. We believe that all of the mentioned initiatives are of great importance. Therefore, with the right intentions and priorities, the regulations become guiding principles instead of impossible obstacles. Sirius promotes a watertight RSPO system instead of jumping to the next best oil and, at the same time, we won’t allow REACH to block our innovations. Furthermore, Sirius, as a proud member of three chemical Dutch and European branch organisations, openly favours compulsory memberships for all chemical organisations supporting the self-respect and the respect of the others.