A couple of months ago, my dad told me about a job interview he once had. At the interview, he was given a pencil and a piece of paper with two dots on it, one on each side. He was then asked to connect the two dots.
My dad took a couple of seconds to think about the test he was given. Very calmly he then folded the piece of paper so that the two dots would meet and picked up the pencil. With a swift movement, he pierced the piece of paper right where the two dots were.
At ChemSec, we also had two dots that we wanted to connect, or more precisely two groups of professionals within the chemicals space.
On the one hand, we noticed a strong drive from progressive retailers and brands to substitute hazardous chemicals in products and supply chains with safer alternatives. On the other hand, we saw all these small start-ups popping up with innovative technical processes and safer chemicals that would be game-changers in the industry if they only had the opportunity to market them. We also knew about large chemical producers that already had healthier alternatives in their portfolios but for various reasons did not actively promote them.
Connecting the suppliers with the demand would have such a positive impact, we thought. It would lead to a much swifter phase-out of toxic chemicals, while at the same time promoting the production of safer chemical alternatives.
So, we created Marketplace.
This website is meant to be a hub where buyers and sellers can meet. It’s a bit like eBay or Craigslist, but instead of vintage watches and job postings, Marketplace connects companies with safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.
If you produce a safer alternative – you can advertise it. If you are a retailer looking for an alternative – you can search for the specific hazardous chemical that you want to replace, or just browse all the ads, filtering for chemical function and industry. If you still cannot find what you are looking for – you can even post a request. Early on we understood that retailers may not want to publicly advertise that they were looking for alternatives to toxic chemicals, so we made it possible to post requests anonymously.
Now we are introducing a third way for companies to send a clear signal that there is a demand for safer chemistry: retailers and downstream users can become signatories to the Marketplace. Among many other things, as a signatory a company can use the Marketplace logotype and other materials in its own communications, thereby telling its suppliers that it officially supports safer chemistry. Being a signatory is a strong signal to all stakeholders of a company’s ambition for the future.
Sure, Marketplace isn’t the “be-all and end-all” just yet—the project is still in its infancy. But you can, for example, already find alternatives to BPA for thermal receipt paper (which will be banned in the EU from 2020) and totally PFAS-free water repellents for clothing and outdoor use to replace highly persistent PFAS chemicals. There’s even an opportunity for investors to get in on the action too. Many companies with novel solutions are looking for fresh capital in order to scale up production.
There are many stakeholders in the chemicals space that are now keeping a close eye on Marketplace, such as Europe’s Chemicals Agency (ECHA), large chemical producers, investors and NGOs. The Mind the Store campaign now even hands out extra points in its forthcoming third annual retailer report card for retailers that become signatories.
There will be lots of things happening around Marketplace in the near future. Make sure to attend our upcoming webinar and don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to receive the latest information about green chemistry and safer chemicals innovation.