Collaborating with the UN to achieve a sustainable future through chemicals management

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This is the second article in our series focused on the work Wood is doing in partnership with the United Nations (UN) to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With less than nine years to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), cities, corporations and industries from every corner of the globe are racing to create a more resilient future. While shifting towards a net-zero economy has been prioritised as a critical catalyst to meeting the SDGs, many sectors have forgotten one important piece of the puzzle – chemicals management.

It’s the building block for a number of Goals, including ensuring access to clean water, making cities and human settlements safe and resilient, ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns, promoting healthy lives and well-being, taking urgent action to combat climate change and creating access to affordable and reliable modern energy for all.

Chemicals play a fundamental role in our everyday life; from the cleaning products we use to the clothing we wear, the technology we apply and the energy we consume. As a key component of low-carbon products, chemicals are essential to unlocking a green transition in developed societies around the world, especially across Europe which was the second biggest producer of chemicals in 2018.

In October of 2020, the European Commission issued a chemicals strategy for sustainability as part of the European Union’s (EU) zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment which is a central commitment of the European Green Deal. Recognising the threat hazardous chemicals can pose to human health and the environment, the strategy aims to make chemicals safer and more sustainable through innovation.

With global chemicals production expected to double by 2030, there’s an urgent need to capture opportunities to reduce pollution and­ move the chemicals sector onto a greener path.

In a quest to improve chemicals management, Wood has worked with the UN Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), a global level treaty aimed at the identification and elimination of dangerous chemical substances, over several years to create peer reviewed dossiers for candidate POPs. We recently supported the secretariat to the Convention by assessing the continued need for exemptions for the fluorinated chemical, perfluorooctane sulphonic acid (PFOS, PFOA, PFAS). This analysis explored safer alternatives available to help the industry transition from the use of PFOS, which has the potential to cause liver effects and cancer in humans.

Aligning with the targets of the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, Wood collaborated over successive contracts with the European Commission and national authorities of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway to challenge the status quo of PFAS restrictions by establishing evidence for an EU-wide ban on all PFAS substances. By tackling harmful chemicals in consumer products and investing in the use of sustainable chemicals, Wood is helping to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

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