Does Your Laboratory Take an Active or Passive Approach to Chemical Management?

chemical management
Chemicals can be found in nearly every product on the market. When consumers realize this, they want to know more. Do you have an answer ready?
Image Source: Flickr user Idaho National Laboratory

It is astounding to think about how many chemicals we interact with on a daily basis. Chemicals are found in  nearly everything, including the foods we consume, the clothes we wear and even the air we breathe. However, do we really understand the nature of all the chemicals we interact with and their potential impact on us?

A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) titled “The Business Case for Knowing Chemicals in Products and Supply Chains” suggests that as consumers, retailers and brands learn more about how chemicals can be found all around, they work to seek more information in order to make safer choices. This growing trend will require developers and manufacturers to take action and supply consumers with the necessary information.

The report goes on to suggest that there are two types of strategies that companies illustrate in relation to this trend. It calls the first approach an “Active Strategy.” Companies that implement this type of strategy are proactive in obtaining detailed information regarding the chemical makeup of a product. They then pass this information along to consumers and partners. When risky chemicals are identified, they act quickly to replace these chemicals with a safer alternative.

The report claims that companies that pursue an “Active Strategy” reduce their risk associated with recalls or damage to consumer confidence. In addition, it suggests that this strategy can generate real long-term value due to increased sales and improved branding.

In contrast, other companies take what the report refers to as a “Passive Strategy” to chemical management. Companies following this tend to operate with little to no knowledge of the chemicals found within their products. The article notes that this lack of knowledge creates a “hidden liability” that can eventually damage the firm when it comes to light. The damage may include large fines, damage to the brand and the loss of market share.

To illustrate the danger of a “Passive Strategy,” the report notes a number of examples in which firms that were not proactive about identifying the chemical contents of their products were punished by the market. One particularly interesting example occurred in 2009, when the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics issued a press release in the United States noting that Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo may contain cancer-causing chemicals. Perhaps not surprisingly, the press release alone resulted in a 10% market share decline for Johnson & Johnson in China!

Although the report is particularly focused on larger corporations and companies, the message is applicable to laboratories as well. As scientists, we need to be ready to collaborate with “Active Strategy” companies, and help “Passive Strategy” companies recover when facing challenges and difficulty.

The best way for laboratories to obtain a firm understanding and grasp regarding their own chemical use is to implement a chemical management system. The benefits of such a system include the ability to barcode and scan chemicals as they arrive and track their consumption within the laboratory. This information can then be exported into reports to show customers what chemicals were used in the creation of a product.

The UN report provides further evidence that chemical management will be a growing area of focus this year and in the years to come. Ensure that your laboratory is an active participant in the chemical conversation by implementing a best practices chemical management system today.

For more information regarding the BIOVIA chemical management system, BIOVIA CISPro, please visit our website today.

3 thoughts on “Does Your Laboratory Take an Active or Passive Approach to Chemical Management?

  1. In my opinion, “Active Strategy” is better in dealing with chemical management because of its long-term value.

  2. Passive strategy is just corporate irresponsibility. I wish someone would publish a list of what companies employ an active strategy toward the chemicals they use, as it would be to the consumer’s best interest to know which companies are proactive.

  3. The companies that take on the active strategy show their concern for others beyond their place of business. Those that do have the information about the chemical makeup of the products they produce are indeed more liable to find a better choice in the production of their products which alieviates them of future problems with their consumers. It saves them time and money in the long run to be aware the chemicals they are coming into contact with and how they will or could affect them and the public. The opposite of this are the companies that really don’t care. It seems their bottom line is the fastest and cheapest way to get the product out to the consumer. The problem with this is that in the end, they wind up having to spend millions to fix a problem that could have been avoided in the beginning.

    When you turn this around to laboratories, it seems to me that the best way is to be cautious and knowing of everything coming into, being used, and going out of the lab. This will save the lab not only time but money, which is one thing that a lot of labs are fighting to get more of!

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