2 June 2016
As the voice of the European chemical distributor sector, Fecc plays a vital role in presenting its members’ views to the EU’s regulatory authorities in Brussels. It has established its credentials over recent years by putting forward industry’s concerns on the Reach chemicals policy, the Biocides Directive and other EU initiatives designed to control chemicals.
But today, several new initiatives on a broader front are keeping the trade association busy, notes its director general Uta Jensen-Korte. These include the European Commission’s Circular Economy package and its Refit (Regulatory Fitness and Performance) programme, which includes the Reach Review 2017 and the Fitness Check initiative on most relevant chemicals and related legislation.
These have the potential to impact chemical distributors in a number of ways – not all negative by any means. Jensen-Korte believes the Circular Economy holds promise for distributors in some ways, as they are already beginning to focus on sustainability, by minimising waste, using returnable packaging, recycling more and making reduced truck journeys, to name just a few aspects of what the Commission is looking for.
“The Circular Economy will have an impact over the long term, and will influence the chemical portfolio distributors will offer,” she says, pointing as an example to the concept of chemical leasing that some distributors are now developing and have developed to minimise the use of chemicals and their emissions.
The Refit programme and more recent Refit Platform offers hope that regulation might be made more efficient and less burdensome for the chemical distribution sector in some areas. Fecc is active in making its comments known through the consultation processes that have been initiated by the Commission.
Says Jensen-Korte: “Fecc supports the transition towards a circular economy as an EU strategy for the future. The chemical industry as a whole can make a contribution to the circular economy in all its phases: product design, production processes, waste management and converting waste to resource. For me, this includes energy recovery as well.
“However, it is important that the right policies are adopted and a holistic value-chain approach is undertaken. Investment in viable solutions as well as removing regulatory and administrative barriers will be required and will have to be considered in order to meet the full potential of a circular economy.”
She sees revision of the Waste Framework Directive and related activities as an important component of the circular economy strategy and of particular relevance to the distribution industry. “This is a welcome development,” she says, “but steps should be taken to ensure that the appropriate framework is put in place to ensure optimal use of resources, encourage life-cycle solutions and reintegration of valuable resources, as well as improving the trust in and uptake of secondary raw materials.”
The Commission’s Refit programme, reinvigorated by then-president Jose Manuel Barroso in an official Communication in October 2013 to “make EU law lighter”, includes several Fitness Checks in the fields of chemicals not covered by Reach, waste and the General Food Law. These are designed to see where the regulatory burden can be reduced so as to meet EU policy goals.
PLATFORM FOR CONSULTATION
In May last year, the Commission launched the Refit Platform, designed to conduct an ongoing dialogue with EU member states and stakeholders on improving EU legislation, as part of the Refit programme. Stakeholders are able to make suggestions of ways of reducing regulatory and administrative burdens, which the Platform then discusses and sends comments and recommendations to the Commission.
The Fitness Check on chemicals legislation has been ongoing under the Refit programme since 2013 and includes a check on most relevant chemicals legislation, except Reach, as well as related aspects of legislation applied to downstream industry. The Fitness Check is being carried out in parallel to the 2017 Reach Review and the Cumulated Cost Assessment study of the chemical sector.
Together with those evaluations, explains Jensen-Korte, the Fitness Check will feed into a Commission “stock-taking report” on the regulatory fitness of chemical legislation seeking evidence for any changes or adaptations of the chemicals policy, if deemed appropriate.
Currently three main Commission consultations are ongoing: a targeted study on Classification and Labelling of Packaging (CLP) and related legislation; case studies related to the former; and an open public consultation. Fecc has provided and will provide further input to the consultants conducting the studies for the Commission, she adds.
GREATER FOCUS ON FOOD SECTOR
That Fecc is also engaged with the Refit Fitness Check on General Food Laws is an indication of how many chemical distributors are active in food ingredients and the food supply chain in general these days.
More and more Fecc member companies are extending their business model to include food additives and supplements and Fecc has responded by making sure its Good Trade Practice has a greater emphasis on special requirements, such as traceability, hygiene, special storage and segregation, for example.
The Commission launched the Fitness Check exercise on the General Food Law Regulation in 2014 and various external studies and consultations have taken place in 2014 and 2015, largely in the areas of the general part of the General Food Law Regulation and on the RASFF/crisis management/emergency procedures.
Fecc responded to consultations of relevance to the chemical distribution sector. Publication of the results of the Fitness Check is expected during 2016. Fecc will monitor this and plan actions related to the recommendations, promises Jensen-Korte.
“We can say that all these Commission initiatives will keep us busy for the next years. For our members it is of high importance that our voice is heard to ensure a workable and sustainable legislative environment for our sector,” she adds.
Further illustration of the increasing importance of the food chain to chemical distributors is the fact the Fecc and Euro- Commerce are jointly organising a product stewardship workshop on “Food & Feed Safety 2.0” to analyse problems that all actors along the supply chain face in maintaining the safety and integrity of food and feed products in relation to chemicals.
The aim of the workshop, being held on 23 June in Brussels, is to give participants a good understanding of present legislation and different quality systems applied by business.
Chemicals can be used in food and feed additives and supplements, as food colourings and flavourings. On the other hand, their presence as residues from veterinary medicines and pesticides, or as contaminants, needs to be closely monitored.
Experts in the field will provide a theoretical background and share their experiences. In addition, speakers will provide the audience with best business practices and share practical case studies viewed from every angle within the supply chain.
RESPONSIBLE CARE DEVELOPMENTS
As well as its busy regulatory agenda, Fecc is also working to develop and promote its own voluntary initiatives, such as Responsible Care, which Fecc regards as the industry’s contribution to sustainability.
In response to a request from the Commission’s DG HOME and other organisations to provide evidence of to what extent security is covered by Responsible Care, Fecc has decided to add two security key performance indicators (KPIs) to the Fecc European Responsible Care KPI Questionnaire and annual Fecc Survey.
This step was necessary, explains Jensen-Korte, to provide the Commission with evidence of the implementation of security by distributors in the chemical supply chain and to help guard against the potential threat of terrorist attacks.
It also ensures consistency throughout the codes and programmes already in place, such as Cefic’s Responsible Care security code (including guidance and best practice for its implementation) and the Fecc Model Agreement on voluntary measures on substances subject to trade controls.
The Responsible Care security KPIs are now an integral part of Responsible Care throughout all programmes and questionnaires in the European chemical distribution community, she says.
Also, she adds, the Fecc Responsible Care programme has been adapted to help office-only micro-businesses join the initiative, mainly in eastern European countries. The revised version includes a temporary derogation for office-only micro businesses in countries where there is no Cefic accredited SQAS/ESAD assessor. It requires only a type of second party validation based on the ICCTA self-assessment questionnaire.
FORMATION OF ICTA
Also keeping Fecc busy over the past year has been the formation, on 1 February in Brussels, of the International Chemical Trade association (ICTA), a successor to the International Council of Chemical Trade Associations (ICCTA), which has been the global body for chemical distribution associations since the early 1990s and for which Fecc has recently provided the chair and secretariat.
ICCTA traditionally met twice a year to exchange best practices on Responsible Care/Responsible Distribution, chemical safety and security, the transport and handling of chemicals and other related topics. Key performance data on chemical trade and safety performances were collected, summarised and discussed.
However, explains Jensen-Korte, the 21 national associations wanted to expand the membership of ICCTA as well as review and update its objectives and goals to a wider international and broader level. Consequently, it was proposed and agreed that private companies would also be invited to become direct members. The name of the association has been changed to show that the newly incorporated organisation seeks to represent the whole chemical distributor sector.
“In principle, the new ICTA is a continuation of the former virtual ICCTA. However, it is intended to extend and strengthen its activities globally. Distributors are increasingly buying and selling around the globe and the new ICTA might help to promote international standards on chemical hand-ling as well as on business ethics and environmental standards globally,” explains Jensen-Korte.
ICTA will encourage its members to participate in the UN Global Compact initiative and other standards. ICTA will also promote international free trade and fair competition within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO), she says.
But, in the short term, she adds, “We have to invest quite some time to get the new ICTA operational.” For the time being, Birger Kuck, recently retired CEO of Biesterfeld, will act as interim director general of ICTA, to coordinate the operational activities of the new organisation. Administrative support will be provided by Fecc’s Brussels office.
And, of course, all the ongoing regulatory work and advocacy still has to be undertaken. This includes work to ensure the chemical distribution sector is ready for the final registration deadline of Reach in 2018, and that the sector’s voice is heard in the Reach 2017 review being undertaken by the Commission.
Preparation for the 2018 registration deadline and dedicated support to SMEs; the authorisation process, extended Safety Data Sheets (SDS)-related issues and the supply chain communication has kept Reach high on the agenda. In this context, Fecc has advocated for the simplification and reduction of the overall costs of the process.
Jensen-Korte believes that “good progress has been made in past years with regard to improving cooperation within the membership and on being the European voice of our industry in contact with the European institutions and other stakeholders. We have built up an impressive network and are well respected partners amongst the regulatory and technical bodies.”