Risk & Compliance

REACHing Out

Companies in the EU have until December 1st to register every chemical substance they use.
Jennifer RankinJune 2, 2008

From disposable nappies to dustbin lids, toothbrushes to toys, chemicals are everywhere. The 30,000 substances that must be registered under the EU’s new REACH regulation — that is, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals — are just the tip of the iceberg. But while many European companies are only dimly aware of the demands of this complex regulatory monster, they have between now and December 1st to register the chemical substances they use. Every company in the EU will be required to notify the European Chemicals Agency in Brussels about the chemicals found in the products they sell, providing consumers with information about “substances of very high concern,” such as carcinogens. If chemical manufacturers or importers fail to pre-register, they will be barred from making or importing the substances until a full registration dossier is submitted.

While all companies will have to adhere to REACH, not everyone will be affected in the same way. The exercise will be fairly straightforward for those — such as detergent manufacturers — that have worked under similar regulations for many years, but it will be a tall order for others, like retailers. According to Beat Späth at the German Retail Foundation (HDE), “it is not [a retailer’s] job to know about chemicals, and their product portfolios are very large,” he says.

To give retailers a hand, the HDE, in collaboration with the Federal Association of German Do-It-Yourself Stores and Garden Centres, has come up with “the REACH solution,” a database to help retailers track the chemical substances in their products. Retailers enter their products into the system and request their suppliers to add information on the substances used to make the products. So far the database is limited largely to Germany but Metro, a €64 billion retailer, has already started to expand it to include its entire global network of stores.

Späth says that the database will be a “way to establish new communication flows with suppliers.” He reckons it will also help retailers negotiate with non-European suppliers which may be unfamiliar with — or simply not interested in — complying with REACH.

European Voice, a CFO Europe sister publication.

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