Healthy people and planet

The health and safety of workers, contractors, customers, consumers and the environment
are the top priority for the chemical distribution industry.

Providing information about chemical substances

Chemicals provide huge benefits to society and are a key enabler for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the production and use of some substances may pose risks for human health and the environment. Governments around the globe have developed legislation to manage these risks. The production and use of some substances has been restricted. In many countries, producers and importers of substances must provide elaborate information on the characteristics of substances and ways to use them safely. Special rules apply for substances that are used in biocides, cosmetics, food, feed and medicines. The chemical distribution industry supports these rules, which are important to develop knowledge about the risks and help to minimize them.

  Promoting risk-based regulations

In order for the rules to have maximum effect, they must be practical, effective and simple to comply with. The chemical distribution sector therefore promotes risk-based regulations. Through ICTA and national associations, the chemical distribution industry works with policymakers to improve these rules. ICTA focuses its efforts on helping less-developed countries without robust chemical management systems to improve their capacity to deal with the risks of chemicals. In addition, it develops voluntary industry programs and trainings.

  Communication about risks

The chemical distribution industry wants to be transparent by providing health, safety and environmental information about chemicals. Therefore it evaluates the hazards of its chemicals and prepares labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to downstream customers. The UN has developed a mechanism to provide a single, globally harmonized system to communicate information about chemicals, the so-called Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). ICTA actively promotes the implementation of the GHS worldwide. The chemical distribution industry takes additional steps, for instance by pushing for Product Stewardship. It manages and communicates risks of chemical products from producers to downstream users.
It is crucial that downstream industries and ultimately consumers can trust that the products they purchase from chemical distributors possess the requested specifications. To ensure this, chemical distributors have quality management systems, perform supplier assessments and conduct laboratory controls. If an unexpected issue arises with a particular product, chemical distributors may help to trace it through the value chain and recall it.


Safety for workers, neighbors and consumers

Chemical distributors often work with hazardous substances. The chemical distribution industry works to prevent and control the long-term exposure of employees to hazardous substances. Measures to prevent accidents and uncontrolled situations are extremely important, not only to ensure the personal safety of workers, contractors and neighbors, but also for the environment. The chemical distribution industry has taken many precautionary and protective measures at their sites and vehicles. They also train their employees to handle the chemicals appropriately, explaining the risks of the chemicals in their work areas and the necessary measures to protect themselves. The number of accidents with absenteeism of ICTA members is lower than that of many other industrial sectors. ICTA monitors incidents and shares the analysis with its members. This allows companies to learn from each other. ICTA also improves safety by further stimulating a culture of safety by engaging with CEOs on the topic and providing its members with practical tools, such as self-assessments and improvement programs.

  Precursor policy

Some chemicals can be used for legitimate products, but could also be misused for the illicit manufacture of drugs or explosives. Chemical distributors who sell these so-called precursors take strict measures to prevent chemicals from falling into the wrong hands. Due to their potential for abuse, these precursors are subject to licensing, registration, storage, security, and inventory requirements.


Towards a circular economy

The economic system is slowly becoming more circular. In an ideal circular economy, materials are constantly recycled through the value chain. Products and materials are maintained at their highest utility and value. Such a regenerative economy reduces resource consumption, environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
The circular economy is based on seven key elements: prioritizing regenerative resources, using waste as a resource, designing for the future, preserving and extending what already exists, collaborating to create joint value, incorporating digital technology and rethinking business models.
The chemical industry is huge potential contributor to the circular economy because 60 per cent of the molecules it provides can potentially be reused . It can also help to reduce the environmental footprint of downstream industries by enabling them to reduce waste and enhance utility.

  Chemical distribution in the circular economy

As a crucial link in the chemical value chain, chemical distributors can connect chemical producers and downstream users. This role allows them to stimulate the circular economy. Increasingly chemical distributors offer circular substances to their customers. These substances are for instance more durable, biobased, easier to recycle or less harmful to produce. Chemical distributors support their customers with technical advice on how to use these better substances in their production processes. Chemical distributors also help their customers develop new materials or change their production processes to reduce environmental impact. Moreover, chemical distributors often enable better use of waste streams, for instance by collecting, cleaning and recycling used packaging of their products. A circular economy requires innovation and new business models. As flexible and innovative players, chemical distributors are well-positioned to grab these opportunities. Lastly, chemical distributors also take responsibility to make their own operations more circular.


International cooperation on safe chemical management for people and planet

The United Nations have set-up a special coordinating agency with the goal of ensuring that chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment. It is called SAICM, which stands for ‘Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management’. SAICM supports the work to meet the requirements from the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, to develop national frameworks for implementing GHS and assist with developing chemical regulation. Its projects also focus on fighting counterfeit chemicals (often pesticides), reducing lead in paint and moving towards safer alternatives for perfluorinated chemicals. ICTA is a partner within SAICM and helps with dealing with the environmental and social challenges of chemical safety at all stages of the life-cycle.