There are also a number of international initiatives which are supported by governments and stakeholders but are not legally binding and cannot therefore be enforced. Their implementation relies on the commitment of concerned stakeholders, such as industry, politi-cal representatives, national and international organizations, and scientific organizations.

Non-Binding International Initiatives

There are also a number of international initiatives which are supported by governments and stakeholders but are not legally binding and cannot therefore be enforced. Their implementation relies on the commitment of concerned stakeholders, such as industry, political representatives, national and international organizations, and scientific organizations.

A variety of non-binding international initiatives exist that affect the chemical sector and that aim at a more sustainable production and use of chemicals. These include SAICM, Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production (RECP), Green Industry, Responsible Care, Green and Sustainable Chemistry and Circular Economy.

Chemical Leasing is a means of supporting such international initiatives, as outlined below.

  • The Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM) was adopted in 2006 by the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) to foster the sound management of chemicals around the world. SAICM provides a framework for efforts to achieve the 2020 goal set out in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. By then, SAICM aims to ensure that chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. SAICM is supported by the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC), established in 1995 and now consisting of nine international organizations involved in chemical safety. A major focus of the IOMC today is to support countries in their efforts to implement SAICM.

    Under SAICM, the following “emerging policy issues” that require cooperative action have been identified: lead in paint, chemicals in products, hazardous substance within the life cycle of electrical and electronic products, nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and perfluorinated chemicals and the transition to safer alternatives.

    SAICM’s Overarching Policy Strategy sets out five key objectives:

    1. Risk reduction: to assess and manage risks, addressing product lifecycles, implementing risk reduction measures including scientific methods, safer alternatives, affordable sustainable techniques to prevent the adverse effects of chemicals on human health and the environment.
    2. Knowledge and Information: to facilitate informed decision-making through improved access to, and understanding of, technical information relating to hazards, risks and impacts.
    3. Governance: to pursue the sound management of chemicals through multi-sector and multi-stakeholder approaches, creating enabling conditions and strengthening enforcement and implementation of national, regional and international agreements, and promoting codes of conduct based on environmental and social responsibility.
    4. Capacity-building and technical cooperation: to increase the capacity for sound management of chemicals in all countries as needed, especially in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, including through partnerships and mechanisms that promote technical cooperation and the take up of appropriate and clean techniques.
    5. Illegal international traffic: to promote cooperation and information sharing, to strengthen capacity at national, regional and international levels for the prevention and control of illegal international traffic of banned or restricted chemicals mixtures and compounds and wastes.

    SAICM is a well-established mechanism that holds the potential to kick-start Chemical Leasing projects. SAICM presents the opportunity to promote innovative projects that encourage the development of business cases for sustainable and green chemistry. Chemical Leasing can be applied in all areas identified by SAICM, as it is applicable across all industrial sectors. The only requirement is that the chemicals targeted in SAICM projects can be defined or “quantified” by means of a unit of payment rather than by their quantity. If this is the case, Chemical Leasing can support SAICM implementation.

  • The key objective of Sustainable Consumption and Production is to generate economic growth and welfare without depleting resources or degrading the environment. SCP must involve life cycle thinking about improving overall environmental performance. In addition, consumers need to make informed choices and create the demand for sustainable products.

    Chemical Leasing supports SCP in several ways: production processes are optimized with the support of the supplier, and fewer chemicals are consumed.

  • Environmental protection in enterprises has been undergoing structural changes in recent years. The emphasis is shifting to preventive techniques that focus on the production processes themselves. RECP covers the application of preventive management strategies that increase the efficiency of the use of natural resources, minimize generation of waste and emissions, and foster safe and responsible production. Not only does this reduce the pollution load on the environment but it also makes good business sense.

    The RECP Network established by UNIDO and UNEP supports all three pillars of sustainability by aiming at increased resource efficiency and risk reduction for humans and the environment. It also contributes to solving some of today’s global challenges, such as climate change, resource scarcity, decent jobs, and environmental degradation.

    Chemical Leasing is based on the preventive idea of RECP. It contributes significantly to resource efficiency by:

    • optimizing the use of chemicals in production processes, which reduces the overall amount of chemicals needed, and
    • reducing the energy required to produce chemical substances
  • Green Industry combines the ideas of industrial development and growth with sustainability and environmental protection. UNIDO’s Green Industry Initiative and Green Industry Platform support developing countries in their efforts towards Green Industry by capacity building and awareness raising.

    By contributing to both economic viability and environmental protection, Chemical Leasing contributes importantly to the development of a green chemical industry. In addition, the service aspect of Chemical Leasing underpins its potential to generate jobs, because services are people-driven and enhanced by the exchange of know-how.

  • Responsible Production, an approach developed by UNEP, focuses on the prevention of accidents associated with chemicals in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In a systematic five-step approach, accident risks are identified and assessed, and risk reduction measures are suggested and implemented. Stakeholders such as chemical suppliers, equipment manufacturers, insurance companies, and local authorities are involved in the entire process. Experience has shown that chemicals handling is a major problem in SMEs, and that risk reduction measures often help to reduce chemical consumption. This approach corresponds to the objectives of Chemical Leasing.

    The documentation of results obtained in RP and Chemical Leasing projects should be mutually supportive, as Chemical Leasing documentation may address improvements related to safety while RP documentation may address improvements that reduce the consumption of chemicals. The Chemical Leasing sustainability criteria might also be used for RP in an adapted version.

  • Responsible Care and the Global Product Strategy (GPS), two initiatives launched by the chemical industry, aim at enhancing the safe use of chemicals at company level. Both initiatives include elements such as worker training and equipment maintenance that are crucial for successful Chemical Leasing projects.

    Although Chemical Leasing, as a preventive, service-based business model, goes beyond these industry initiatives, it is evident that a successful Chemical Leasing project also fulfils Responsible Care and GPS requirements, and that synergies in both directions are possible. Moreover, it is clearly in the industry’s interest to support Chemical Leasing along with Responsible Care and GPS, as the implementation of Chemical Leasing projects and sustainability criteria can raise the visibility of the industry initiatives, highlight companies’ commitment to the safe management of chemicals, and pave the way for future Chemical Leasing projects.

  • Green Chemistry has been an emerging area of sustainable design since its introduction in the 1990s. It is a concept that seeks to reduce and eliminate hazardous chemical substances through the improved design of chemical products and processes. The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry provide a framework for developing green chemicals, processes, and products. These principles are accompanied by the 12 Principles of Green Engineering. Implementing these two sets of principles will enable the chemical industry to become more sustainable from an economic, environmental, and social perspective (source).

    Chemical Leasing addresses several of these principles, such as waste prevention and the use of less hazardous chemicals due to process optimisation and the coupled reduction in chemical quantities. The integration of innovative business models such as Chemical Leasing into green chemistry projects can help overcome barriers to the promotion of the green chemistry concept.

  • Sustainable Chemistry contributes to improving resource efficiency and minimising risk in the chemical industry, and it aims at an environmentally friendly production and use of chemicals. This includes, for example, preventing pollution and waste, considering the entire life cycle of a product, or enhancing a product’s recyclability and durability. It “encompasses the design, manufacture and use of efficient, effective, safe and more environmentally sound chemical products and processes” (Source: OECD). Thus, sustainable chemistry is essential for long-term sustainable development: it respects the need to improve the quality of human life within the carrying capacity of the world.

    Chemical Leasing enables companies to engage in sustainable chemistry and to improve resource and energy efficiency, reduce waste, decrease risks caused by hazardous chemicals and lessen the negative environmental impacts of their processes. In addition, Chemical Leasing increases the competitiveness and profitability of the business partners.

    Chemical Leasing can serve as an instrument for moving towards Sustainable Chemistry. The long record of successful Chemical Leasing case studies worldwide provides an excellent basis for including Chemical Leasing more prominently in the concept of Sustainable Chemistry.

  • Circular Economy aims to reduce the overall use of virgin materials by economies through the adoption of five strategies: improving the efficiency with which materials are used, extending the amount of time products are in use, using products more intensively during use, substituting service and software solutions for physical products, and recycling the materials contained in products at the end of their useful lives.

    Chemical Leasing supports the implementation of circular economies by ensuring that chemical products are used more efficiently by industry (and other sectors such as the hospitality and agricultural sectors where the business model has been successfully used) and by allowing for a more efficient and effective recycling of chemical products once they are spent.

    Chemical Leasing also supports circular economy implementation in a more indirect way. The experience which has been gained through Chemical Leasing in successfully creating contracts regulating the delivery of chemical services can be usefully applied in the design of similar contracts for other materials. It is believed that such contracts will play an important role in the adoption of circular economies.

    Sustainable Chemistry and Circular Economy will both be important initiatives to help in the spread of Chemical Leasing in the future. Individual articles are dedicated to these topics in this book (see Circular economy; Sustainable Chemistry).

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