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5 Things You Can Do to Select Safer Chemicals for Your Company’s Product Formulation

Chemical screening has changed. Companies can now meet increased expectations of markets and stakeholders to go beyond basic regulatory compliance in scalable, cost-effective ways while protecting confidential ingredient information. 

Traditionally, companies have relied on the testing of finished products and representations from suppliers to ensure compliance. But there is much more that companies need to consider to reduce business risk and increase the use of safer chemicals in products and processes. There are increased expectations from customers and other stakeholders (NGOs, government, participants in the supply chain, etc) to ensure the use of safer chemicals. One such example is the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Program in the global textile, leather, apparel, and footwear industry. This program has set a goal for zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020 and to support the substitution of hazardous chemicals for safer alternatives in the production process. But how are companies expected to ensure the selection of safer chemicals in product formulations?

Over the last 20 or so years, there have been many changes in chemical screening strategies and priorities: From basic chemical compliance to proactive selection of safer alternatives via qualitative and quantitative chemical hazard assessment.

Chemical Assessments - 20 Year Process Transformation

  1. Basic Chemical Compliance: Screen your products against regulatory lists (like California Proposition 65) to ensure products and process meet applicable regulations.
  2. Restricted Substance List (RSL) and Manufacturing RSL Screening: Similar to Basic Chemical Compliance, RSL and MRSL Screening help you identify chemicals that are known to be problematic. If a chemical is not listed, this does not mean that it is a preferred or safer alternative. In some cases chemical lists can guide formulators to preferred ingredients. The US EPA Safer Choice Program and the Safer Chemicals Ingredient List (SCIL) is a great example.
  3. Risk-based Certification: Most chemical certification programs employ testing and risk-management regimes to understand the chemicals used and determine of their presence presents a risk in a specific scenario or scenarios. These approaches support regulatory frameworks with an added step of third-party validation of achievement.
  4. Qualitative Chemical Hazard Assessment: Comprehensive hazard assessments help to select safer alternatives by categorizing the human and environmental health characteristics of chemicals.
  5. Quantitative Chemical Screening and Scoring: The trend toward quantitative chemical screening and scoring is quickly gaining momentum. By generating a numeric score for a chemical or formulation based on transparent rules, decision-makers receive clear and comparative guidance on which chemical or ingredient may be preferred from a human and environmental health perspective.


What we have seen is that the conventional approaches to chemical screening aren’t working. Compliance and List Screening isn’t enough. We know that:

  • Finished product testing is too late
  • Brands incur too much risk by testing late in the process
  • Chemicals decisions that occur upstream reduce risk and cost of implementation

As companies move toward qualitative chemical hazard assessments and quantitative chemical screening and scoring, we can begin to ensure the use of safer chemicals in consumer products and processes.


How can you evolve from compliance against lists to selecting and understanding safer chemicals and alternatives?

Scivera believes that by offering knowledge about chemicals and formulations at every stage in the supply chain, you and your suppliers make safer chemicals decisions and reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in products and processes.

This requires participation throughout the supply chain. 

Scivera’s Upstream Chemicals Management (UCM) is a process where you engage manufacturers of products, raw material suppliers, and chemical suppliers to look at the different characteristics of chemicals from a human and environmental health perspective in order to select safer chemicals at each stage of development. This information reduces the risk of problematic chemicals ending up in the product and supply chain ultimately saving money, protecting your brand, your workers, and your consumers.

Upstream Chemicals Management

Throughout this process, it is critical to offer protection of proprietary business information to your suppliers. Transparency can mean communicating characteristics and scores of chemicals without disclosing identities of formulations between the supplier and customer. We have seen significant increases in supplier participation when protecting confidential ingredient information while delivering assessment results downstream. By using SciveraLENS and Scivera as your a trusted third-party, this data-gathering and assessment work for the selection and use of safer chemicals becomes tremendously efficient and cost-effective.


5 Things You Can Do to Select Safer Chemicals for Your Company’s Product Formulations:

  1. Understand the different types of chemical screening (list, list-based hazard assessments, and comprehensive hazard assessments). Based on your goals, you can choose the level of chemical screening needed.
  2. Understand what is in your product. This includes understanding the full formulation, all intentional ingredients and unintentional ingredients. At Scivera, we ask for Comprehensive Full Formulation Disclosure (CFFD) which includes all intentional ingredients plus any impurities greater than or equal to 100 ppm (0.01%) concentration in the finished formulation while protecting confidential ingredient information. Many brands are making this work scalable and cost-effective by using SciveraLENS as the trusted third-party to help gather this information from the supply chain, evaluate all chemicals, score them against list and comprehensive hazard assessment results, and generate results without revealing ingredient information.
  3. Conduct a list screen to quickly identify known problematic chemicals. List screening is an essential, critical, and efficient first step in selecting safer chemicals. But it’s not the only step needed for selecting safer chemicals. As an example, Scivera’s board-certified toxicologists reviewed the California Proposition 65 list and identified approximately 600 chemicals on the list that are “known to cause cancer”.  In our work at Scivera, we’ve identified more than 6,000 chemicals as carcinogens and more than 40,000 chemicals that have evidence of high hazard for carcinogenicity. By just screening against a list, these problematic chemicals would not be identified leading to the probability of a regrettable substitution. Looking at comprehensive hazard assessments for chemicals and formulations is the way to understand human and environmental health characteristics like carcinogenicity.
  4. Require a comprehensive hazard assessment as a critical part of safer chemical selection. There are 23 human and environmental health characteristics including in Scivera’s GHS+ Hazard Assessment Framework. These hazard assessments include a regulatory and authoritative list review as well as the review and assessment of experimental, modeled, and analogous data done by our team of board-certified toxicologists. There are many accepted hazard assessment frameworks including the UN’s GHS system, US EPA Safer Choice Program, GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals, in addition to Scivera’s GHS+ Framework.
  5. Implement tools that provide clear scoring (qualitative and quantitative) for your assessments. This scoring provides clarity and transparency toward more informed decisions about the selection of ingredients and formulations as well as safer alternatives. 


Qualitative Screening for Solvent Alternatives

How can you identify which chemicals in the yellow category are preferred? A numeric score helps users see the differences between chemicals in the same qualitative category to find the safer alternatives. This quantitative approach complements the qualitative categorization of chemicals. A numeric score for chemicals and formulations enables easier comparison and review for safer chemicals and alternatives.

There are several examples of programs that have adopted a quantitative scoring and hazard assessment approach including the Screened Chemistry Program developed by Levi Strauss & Co., the Nike Priority Chemistry Program (more information can be found in Nike’s Chemistry Playbook), and Scivera’s Quantitative Chemistry Index. Each is based on a comprehensive hazard assessment, assigning a number or score to individual chemicals to help select chemical from within a range of a chemical category. For example, which chemicals within the OK category of solvents is closer to preferred? The quantitative approach allows for comparative hazard assessment across chemicals in each category and helps identify safer chemicals within the same category.

The trends toward qualitative hazard assessments and quantitative chemical screening and scoring are promising and allow us to begin the important work of expanding the use of safer chemicals in products and processes. Scivera’s promise is to continue supporting this work. By automating this information in systems like SciveraLENS Rapid Screen, companies can make this process simple, fast, and cost-effective.


GC3 Webinar - 5 Things to Select Safer ChemicalsView the recording of our presentation on this topic to the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3).