Friday, September 12, 2014

Apple Restricts Benzene, Beryllium, n-Hexane and TCE

Apple placed benzene, beryllium, n-hexane, trichloroethylene (TCE), and other chlorinated solvents in manufacturing operations on restriction in its manufacturing supply chain. The move was part of the company's new Regulated Substances Specification (PDF here and web page here).

In fact, Apple decided to order its suppliers to stop using benzene and n-hexane during the final assembly of iPhones, iPads, iPods, Mac computers and various accessories. Apple is also requiring all its factories to test all substances to ensure that they don't contain benzene or n-hexane, even if the chemicals aren't listed in the ingredients. 

"This is doing everything we can think of … to crack down on chemical exposures and to be responsive to concerns," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environmental initiatives, quoted in the South China Morning Post.

"We think it's really important that we show some leadership and really look towards the future by trying to use greener chemistries."
Apple restricts SVHCs

Supplier beware

Two NGOs have spoken loudly about Apple's lax approach to toxic and unnecessary chemicals in their manufacturing. Green America and China Labor Watch have been front and center. Both have been asking Apple to be more proactive about cleaning the supply chain.

Hundreds of Apple suppliers will need to be brought into compliance.

Apple is the most cash-rich company in the known universe, according to latest rankings. And they often rank in the top three, usually number one, in Gartner's annual ranking of supply chains. In fact, you'll recall from this blog that last May Apple was ranked #1 by Gartner.

So, the question is, if Apple finally spends some money on tidying up the environmental, health and safety of its supply chain operations in Asia, including restricting the use of known substances of concern such as benzene, will it still be #1 in these rankings?

Apple core customer

Once again, it's always surprising that Apple has such a distracted worker safety record and product stewardship approach. Especially given the demographic of Apple's faithful followers. You'd expect people with such progressive taste in eye-wear to be more concerned with safe manufacturing and cradle-to-cradle policies.

So far though, the Apple core consumers haven't seeded much in terms of stewardship initiatives. Being a hipster – or a baby boomer – is busy business, it seems, and on the whole there appears to be more interest in whether a gadget takes good selfies.

Looks like it's time for Applers turn the lens a little more outward. Bravo. I wish my concern was all for the environment and for worker safety, but my enthusiasm is largely towards a more level playing field. We all know that the reason so many companies like Apple outsource to China isn't just the proverbial cheap labor. It's the less complex regulatory field.

And while I think it's fair for a business to seek profits for its stakeholders, outsourcing to China largely so that your company can continue to turn a blind eye to uses of known chemicals of high concern like benzene and TCE is really just bad practice.

I'm still optimistic about the self-regulation of industry. Call me old fashioned.

An A for this effort, Apple.

Friday, September 5, 2014

CFSI: Conflict Minerals Audit Workshop

Did you miss the chance to win a date with George Clooney via the Enough Project last winter in their effort to promote peace in Africa's Democratic Republic of Congo? Yes, I missed it too.

But here's a chance to participate in this fall's Big Event in terms of conflict minerals compliance & program management.

The 14th Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI) Workshop will be held September 29-30, 2014 in Burlingame, California. It's easy to get to: it's right at the San Francisco International Airport, Hyatt Regency.

What the event will be like

Following the first-ever reporting initiative to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission on companies' conflict minerals due diligence, the 14th CFSI Workshop will review the process.

The Workshop will take a look back at what worked and what didn't in 2014 filings, and look toward the future to improved reporting and the implications of conflict minerals traceability in supply chains.

  • Day 1 focuses on lessons learned in the first reporting year, from the reports themselves to the supply chain surveys that informed those reports. 
  • Day 2 looks into future reporting and asks what can be done better. Breakout sessions on learning more about what in-region traceability means for companies. Breakout sessions on effective supply chain data management. Experts will also explain how to help manage your company’s audit costs. How can CFSI can help your company prepare for new regulatory schemes related to supply chain transparency? All will be revealed.

Also, if you can't make the CFSI workshop and you're in the Midwest that week, there's a Chicago event known as SMTAI that may interest you. SMTAI will have conflict minerals panels (more information here) and will occur side by side with IPC's Fall Standards Development Committee Meetings.

So there's lots of activity for Electronics Industry folks in coming weeks! Conflict minerals figures prominently.

I have a scout going to both San Francisco and to Chicago events — will update this blog with key news items brought back.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Oil Companies Must Disclose Water Usage in California

On August 28th, the California state Senate unanimously approved a bill (SB 1281 Payley) requiring oil companies to report how much water they're using in drilling operations. Oil companies will also have to disclose where this water is coming from.

"The public has the right to know about the oil industry's use of limited fresh water supplies," said Senator Fran Pavley, who authored the bill.

From Senator Pavley's website:
“At a time when families, business and farmers are suffering the effects of severe drought, all Californians need to do their part to use valuable water resources more wisely,” Senator Pavley said. “The public has the right to know about the oil industry’s use of limited fresh water supplies.”
Oil well operators have an available source of recycled water known as “produced water,” which is trapped deep underground and often comes to the surface during oil production. More than 130 billion gallons of produced water surfaced during oil production in California last year.

When it rains...

The following day, on August 29th, the California Assembly passed a measure towards sustainably managing California’s groundwater. The three bill package includes SB 1168 (Pavley), SB 1319 (Pavley) and AB 1739 (Dickinson). It would initiate groundwater sustainability planning and programs for California’s most critical basins.

The three bill package has passed the California Legislature. It now goes to Governor Jerry Brown for signature.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

EU Commission Amends Cosmetics Regulation

EU Commission has amended a cosmetics regulation. Restrictions have been applied to four preservatives and a UV filter.

The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety's (SCCS). The SCCS is one of the independent scientific committees managed by the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Commission. It provides scientific advice to the Commission on non-food issues, such as personal care products.

The recent SCCS Opinions (capitalized on purpose) on four preservatives and a UV filter have prompted changes with the five substances listed below.

Three preservatives:
  • cetrimonium chloride
  • steartrimonium chloride 
  • behentrimonium chloride 
shall be restricted to the maximum concentrations indicated by the SCCS.

Plus this preservative:
  • The mixture of citric acid and silver nitrate will have a threshold limit, usages are allowed up to a concentration of 0.2%
Plus this UV filter:
  • Sunscreen nano-UV filter tris-biphenyl triazine may be used in cosmetic products at a concentration up to 0.2%, in deodorants and antiperspirants, as a preservative and/or as an active ingredient
The amendments, which were published in the Official Journal, will enter into force on August 28th.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

CLP -- Time to Review Mixtures

On June 5, 2014 the European Commission officially adopted the sixth adaptation to scientific and technical progress to the CLP Regulation. With Q4 of 2014 looming right ahead, it's time to review classifications and labeling of mixtures! Businesses must be ready for all the deadlines 2015 will bring.

Review the classification and labeling of your mixtures

From June 1, 2015, the Classification, Labeling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation will be the only legislation applying to the classification and labeling of both substances and mixtures in the European Union. CLP requires companies to classify, label and package their hazardous chemicals appropriately before placing them on the market.

The classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals is based on the Globally Harmonized System, agreed on by the United Nations. Its stated purpose is to ensure a high level of protection of health and the environment, as well as the free movement of substances, mixtures and articles. As most readers will know, the United States has adopted this protocol as well, see GHS in the USA, a GHS implementation timeline.

The obligations under the CLP Regulation are similar to the previous EU legislation. However, there are a fwe notable differences. An enormous number of products must be re-labelled to comply with CLP, including consumer items such as paints or detergents, as well as industrial mixtures.

Get to know the CLP requirements and implement them 

To (re)classify and label your mixtures you can:
  1. Use the information provided by your supplier in the safety data sheet (SDS)
  2. Check ECHA's Classification and Labeling Inventory to find out how others have classified and labelled the relevant substances
  3. Make use of the harmonized classification and labeling for the most hazardous chemicals on the EU market 
  4. Use the classification and labeling information from your suppliers if you refill, repackage or re-import hazardous chemicals into the EU without changing their composition
  5. Request help from a regional consultancy or a global compliance software firm 


- The Classification and Labelling Inventory [sic] includes translations for the substances with harmonized classification.
- The free phraseology database, ECHA-term, provides downloads of hazard and precautionary statements in 23 official EU languages.
- Web pages on mixture classification offer a step-based approach to classifying mixtures.

For anyone wondering: the CLP is Europe's way of saying GHS. Essentially.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Explosion at Eggnog Plant

Last weekend there was a loud boom in Totowa, New Jersey.

"I felt my house actually shake from the explosion, and it's about a mile away," said a town resident. The source? A vat of ingredients for eggnog exploded. An exterior plant wall blew out.  Everyone on premises felt the quake. Tiny twisted steel bits scattered across the scene.

The only reason no one was killed was the timing: it happened on a thin-shift Saturday night.

Christmas in July?

As the public heard the story, images of grandma with her holiday sweater and an exploding glass of eggnog filled people's minds. The fire marshal on the scene was quick to put the public at ease. He said almost right away that it wasn't the eggnog ingredients per se that exploded.

The implication here is that consumers needn't worry about cardboard cartons in kitchens bursting into flames this holiday season, when eggnog flows into our homes with ubiquity not unlike the great molasses flood in Boston in the early 21st century — when 21 people were killed by a slow-moving wave of molasses, and 150 were injured.

The eggnog was not the problem. "It wasn't a flammable material, it wasn't material that was under pressure," Totowa Fire Marshall Allen Del Vecchio told NBC news, referring to the eggnog ingredients in the vat. "So when you started eliminating things, it leads you back to that one probable source."

A malfunctioning heating unit.

Egg on noggin?

Incredibly, no one was killed. A three-story wall was ripped from its frame and exploded. People all around felt the blast. Two people were treated for minor injuries, but it could've been much, much worse.

Why we need a company like Pharmachem to make eggnog flavoring (isn't eggnog just eggs, milk and nutmeg?) is a question for later. For now, there's egg on the corporate noggin.

Turns out, a heating unit malfunctioned and caused the boom. The unit is used to warm the vat and the mixture inside it. We say that without irony.

Santa claws

The public is supposed to feel reassured by the news that no one was seriously injured and better still, our sweet, milky, nutmeggy, eggy holiday drink is safe to consume, as the holiday season looms not too far ahead.

But the whole story has a naughty-not-nice flavor to it. It will be hard to look at eggnog the same way ever again — without thinking "pharma," "chemistry," and "boom."

(Someone should advise Pharmachem to change their name to something kinder. Something less incendiary, as it were.)

(Ho ho ho.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

New Non-Financial Disclosure Law in Europe

The recent European Union’s (E.U.) amendment to its general accounting directives signals a continued trend towards the disclosure of non-financial information.

The new EU amendment requires companies to disclose many things in their management report:
  1. Relevant and material information on policies
  2. Outcomes and risks — including any implemented due diligence
  3. Relevant non-financial key performance indicators concerning:
  • environmental aspects
  • social and employee-related matters
  • respect for human rights
  • anti-corruption and bribery issues
  • diversity on boards of directors
The European Commission’s non-financial disclosure amendment affects companies with over 500 employees and either a balance sheet total of at least 20 million Euros or a net turnover of 40 million Euros or more. The requirement takes a flexible, non-intrusive approach to disclosure in a company’s annual financial filings, says SASB, the organization in search of International Sustainability benchmarking and protocols.
Sustainable Structures *

In the newly adopted European amendment, companies may use just about any set of parameters to track and report on their "sustainability." That's in quotes because we're talking about everything from more efficient lightbulbs to fairer trade to tighter quality standards. Non-financial disclosure covers a lot of ground. To adhere to the new EU rule, a company who has to file can use any guidelines:
  1. International
  2. European 
  3. National guidelines which they consider appropriate, for example: 
  • the UN Global Compact (more)
  • ISO 26000 (more)
  • the German Sustainability Code (more)

Compared to U.S. disclosure

Disclosure in the U.S. focuses on the disclosure of material information to investors. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court defines information to be material when it presents "a substantial likelihood that disclosure of the omitted fact would have been viewed by the reasonable investor as having significantly altered the total mix of information made available." Materiality cannot be viewed in isolation, but must be judged in the context of the “total mix” of information available to the securities markets, as interpreted and stated by Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, a law firm in San Diego, California.

The New York Times:
This [definition, above] is a subjective legal standard, so there is no bright line rule for what is material. Each situation is different. It also allows lawyers and others to argue that something is not material because they didn't think it was certain or important enough to affect the stock price of the company significantly. - Steven Davidoff Solomon on Corporate Disclosure, NYTimes
Why is material information useful to investors? Well, in theory, this sort of corporate insight provides perspective, trends leanings, possible risk areas, or potential groundwork for risk mitigation strategies and defensive legal arguments in the event of a penalty or lawsuit. Material information can also be helpful in making investment decisions, whether to buy, hold, or sell shares in a company, or how to vote on corporate matters like shareholder resolutions and corporate governance issues.

Meanwhile, the E.U. legislation's objective, says the European Commission, is promoting long term value creation through disclosure.

* Photo from Path of Life Garden, Vermont, USA