LOWELL, MA — The growing demand for safer products — whether from customers, manufacturers or governments — has led to more pressure on suppliers to reveal details about the chemicals they provide and to bring cleaner goods to market.
With the likes of Nike, Johnson and Johnson, HP, Method and Herman Miller demanding more of their suppliers, the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council put together a guide explaining why companies want more information and how it can benefit the entire supply chain.
The guide, "Meeting Customers' Needs for Chemical Data," is peppered with input from major companies about how they interact with chemical suppliers, with methods varying by what kind of business they are and what industry they're in.
Walmart requires vendors of chemical products to disclose any chemicals they intentionally add though a third-party system, which then gives Walmart any information it needs on handling and transporting products.
Cleaning product maker Method asks suppliers to identify what chemicals are used as preservatives and to offer alternatives.
Johnson and Johnson requires the identity of any chemical ingredients present at concentrations of 1 part per million or higher.
HP, meanwhile, maintains information on about 240 chemicals that could be in electronics parts but are not regulated, so that it knows where the chemicals are being used in case they end up restricted by laws.
Along with examples of corporate chemical data collection practices, the guide explains why companies want certain information, and includes customizable forms for companies and their suppliers to use for requesting and sharing information.
The guide also looks at the benefits to suppliers for sharing information and touches on confidential business information, a topic that is evoked whenever new chemical regulations are proposed.
SC Johnson, for example, has three levels of confidentiality for materials it evaluates with its Greenlist rating system. For chemicals that are commonly used in the industry, suppliers are required to freely give chemical information. For chemicals that are considered proprietary, information is given through a non-disclosure agreement. And for chemicals that are called highly proprietary, typically fragrances, suppliers determine the Greenlist score and share it with SC Johnson.
The Green Chemistry and Commerce Council is a project of the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
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