A national effort to define ‘sustainable chemistry’ is underway

March 20, 2023

Key stakeholders across the chemical industry have worked closely to develop a working definition for sustainable chemistry in the US. TSG’s Perri Moeller, Regulatory Consultant and sustainability expert, joined this effort in the Fall of 2022 and remains an active participant, advocating for industry and staying apprised of potential legislative changes. 

In early 2021, Congress passed the bipartisan Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act (SCRDA) law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDA) for Fiscal Year 2021. As a result, the Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) created an interagency task force to develop federal programs to support sustainable chemistries. The task force includes players from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE). 

The task 

Per its mandate, the task force was to engage with stakeholders to assess definitions and frameworks of sustainable chemistries used by both US Federal agencies and, international organizations that the US participates in. Once the engagement process is complete, the goal is to create a working definition of ‘sustainable chemistry’ that can be broadly applied to the US chemical industry. 

Stakeholder engagement 

In response to an open public comment period, several citizen-based stakeholder groups have put forward working definitions to the task force. In November 2022, TSG Consulting participated in a workgroup alongside individuals from academia, international development, and industry to discuss the creation of this sustainable

chemistry definition. This workgroup helped to solidify draft definitions that address the reduction of health hazards to both humans and the environment while maintaining space for environmental justice to ensure marginalized communities are not negatively impacted by these innovations. With such a broad scope of needs, the workgroup discussed the practicalities and limitations of an overarching definition.

European Union’s Safe and Sustainable by Design 

SCRDA is the US government’s first step towards developing a national approach like that of the European Union’s Safe and Sustainable by Design (SSbD) requirement. SSbD is a framework by the European Union specifically for the chemical industry as part of their Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. This policy ensures that during the innovation stage, chemicals are created in a way that avoids harm to the environment and people, while still providing the greatest possible benefit to society. This initiative is a way for policymakers and chemical companies alike to filter out substances at the beginning phases of product development. This ensures that products sold on the marketplace are effective but still protect humans and the environment from hazards. 

What’s next for the US? 

Although the passing of SCRDA is the first step to developing a program like the EU’s SSbD, the US government does not currently have a program in place. As such, industry has stepped in to create “Responsible Care Guidelines”, a set of best practices for companies. Many North American companies have signed on to this global charter, pledging their products and operations will work towards “improving health, safety, the environment and product security performance”. The creation of the SCRDA and OTPS is timely as consumers are demanding industry take steps to innovate more products with safe and sustainable chemistries. As a participant of one of the working groups that helped put forward a definition of sustainable chemistry, TSG’s Perri Moeller is excited to continue her involvement. “This is just the beginning,” she explains “and it’s critical that TSG can advocate on behalf of industry. A definition will ultimately guide future regulation and TSG is committed to being a part of this process.”

How can TSG help? 

Understanding the international regulatory landscape for the chemical industry can be confusing—whether it be developing a strategy that aligns with the EU’s SSbD initiative or providing insight on pending US legislation—TSG Consulting can provide the necessary support. Get in touch with us for more information: [email protected]

Contact us