In a press release published on July 8, 2020, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced the publication of a report on the factors that motivate EU companies to substitute hazardous chemicals as well as a report on its own substitution-supporting activities. The agency conducted a survey of industry associations and over 80 companies to better understand their reasons for replacing hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives. It found that 19% of the surveyed companies substituted chemicals following the creation of a restriction under the REACH regulation, 15% did so once a substance was added to the REACH Candidate List or Authorization List, 13% substituted in response to customer demand, and another 13% did so based on internal corporate sustainability strategy. Other less cited motivations include other EU regulations, public image, and new market opportunities.
The report goes on to provide an overview of identified technical, economic, and market barriers hindering the substitution process. These include “finding technically-feasible alternatives, a lack of financial incentive and a reduced competitive advantage.” ECHA’s executive director commented that “it’s clear that the most innovative companies are those that have adopted a green mindset, with substitution at the core of their business activities. While regulation pushes for harmful substances to be replaced, moving away from them is also increasingly becoming an essential part of their corporate policies and the way towards a sustainable and greener Europe in the future.”
ECHA reported that its own activities related to substitution in 2020-2021 “re-emphasise the enabling role of REACH, CLP and the Biocidal Products regulation as the main continuous basis for substitution.” However, the agency also plans for other activities to support stakeholders in substituting chemicals including capacity building on the analysis of alternatives, developing networks related to informed substitution, and facilitating access to research funding and technical support.
ECHA (July 8, 2020). “Restriction and authorisation found to drive replacement of harmful chemicals.”
ChemSec (July 17, 2020). “Regulation is the main driver for substitution concludes new ECHA study.”
ECHA (July 8, 2020). “Impacts of REACH restriction and authorisation on substitution in the EU.” (pdf)
ECHA (July 8, 2020). “Report on substitution-supporting activities in 2018-2019 and focus in 2020-21.” (pdf)