REACh-ing for chemical safety
Constraint creates new innovation opportunities
The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals (REACh) is a European Union Regulation of December 2006 which was seven years in the making and has been called the EU’s most complex piece of legislation. It addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their impact on human health and the environment. This framework legislation imposes new rules on manufacturers and importers in terms of knowledge: on composition, communication and substitution. Nexans uses this constraint to drive and stimulate innovation.
Anticipate, exchange and innovate
The REACh legislation was proposed with a twin goal: protection of human health and protection of the environment (which often amounts to the same thing).
When fully in force, it will require all companies manufacturing or importing chemical substances into the European Union in quantities of one metric ton or more per year to register these substances with a new European Chemicals Agency (EChA) based in Helsinki, Finland. This makes it possible to characterize the hazards of the substances used so that they can be controlled.
Using potentially hazardous substances will be deemed undesirable and REACh will force these substances to be phased out, or replaced by safer ones; while failure to register will put companies in an illegal position, known in REACh as “no data, no market.”
Where a potential impact or risk is suspected for employees, the environment, or consumers, authorization will definitely push industrials to be innovative.
Nexans has been preparing for these new challenges since the beginning of REACh implementation in 2007. Beginning with purchasing, Nexans has handled regulation creatively in the spirit of “Turn constraints into new opportunities.”
We avoided focusing on the negative aspects of regulation, and developed key notions that are daily managed by all of our European production units. We encourage them to:
- Anticipate: Seek opportunities in the authorization process, itself. The presence of a hazardous substance creates a quick banishment which is most of the time inevitable and uncontrollable.
- Exchange: Communicate internally in order to understand the impact of a potential substitution and how it can best be achieved. In addition, communicate externally upstream with suppliers and downstream with partners and actual users. The success or failure of a substitute depends on both ends of the spectrum.
- Innovate: Find new chemicals and substances which add value to products. Innovation within the framework of regulation is fully consistent with “sustainable development”. It gives Nexans an opportunity to contribute to improving security for its employees, reduce negative impacts on the environment and propose safer products to consumers.
Nexans has led the way in fulfilling REACh regulations in cable manufacturing, while at the same time developing new products. We aim at 100% compliance, while continuing to find new innovations in the area of substance or chemical substitution to the advantage of our partners and final users.