global minimum transparency standard

Equal safety for everyone everywhere

Global minimum transparency standard - what is it?

The Global Minimum Transparency Standard (GMTS) is a tool for companies to disclose hazardous chemicals in their products along the whole lifecycle. This will help to achieve an equal level of access to information for all stakeholders, irrespective of country and within and outside the supply chains. The GMTS is a step towards stricter regulation or even complete phase out of hazardous chemicals as well as global safety of human health and environment.

The overarching purpose of the global minimum transparency standard (GMTS) is to achieve an equal level of access to information about the presence of the most hazardous chemicals in products, irrespective of country, and within and outside the supply chains for the products. This will help to make informed decisions for how the products are handled throughout their life cycles and ensure the global safety of human health and the environment. GMTS is a step towards stricter regulation or even complete phase out of hazardous chemicals from products.
The GMTS covers the same product scope as the SAICM Chemicals in Products Programme (CiP). However, the GMTS chemical scope is initially focused on chemicals that are  recognized as chemicals of “global concern/particular concern” by chemical conventions or progressive regional legislation. It is also envisioned to be a living standard. Once the underlying conventions and regional legislation are updated, so will the GMTS, and it can also be expanded beyond regulated chemicals as needed. The proposed GMTS will, nevertheless, directly support the CiP Programme, and forms an essential foundation for progressing the work towards its ultimate aspirational goal.

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benefits For Governments

  • Supports law making
  • Ensures equality before the law
  • Helps to access information on hazardous chemicals in materials/products
  • Saves funds for market surveillance
  • Helps to eliminate double standards
  • Helps to eliminate non-transparent standards
  • Creates transparency to work towards safe recycling and reuse
  • Provides data for e.g. national health registers

benefits For industry

  • Promotes informed choices about selection of safer materials and components
  • Facilitates information sharing in the supply chain
  • Facilitates information transfer to consumers
  • Levels the playing field on the global market
  • Can simplify international trade
  • Does not prevent companies from establishing more progressive standards
  • Establishes preconditions for safety standards for circular economy

benefits For Retailers

  • Realizes the right to know principle
  • Promotes informed choices when buying products
  • Promotes better product safety
  • Increases protection for health and environment

benefits For Consumers

  • Realizes the right to know principle
  • Promotes informed choices when buying products
  • Promotes better product safety
  • Increases protection for health and environment

Rationale for the suggested elements of the GMTS

What does the GMTS stand for?

The story behind the idea

This is not an entirely new idea

Presentations about the GMTS

Frequently Asked Questions

The existing initiatives are driven by industries strong in resources, with purchasing power and large order volumes, that helps them to demand their upstream suppliers to disclose chemicals in the materials and components of the products that these industries manufacture. It also takes lots of resources (investments, know-how and staff) to put in place and operate the disclosure systems.

Most small and medium-sized companies neither have the resources to demand upstream suppliers to disclose information about chemical contents, nor the resources to set up and operate costly disclosure systems.

Industry initiatives are usually “within-supply-chain” information disclosure systems. When a product leaves the industry, to downstream users, no information about the chemical composition is transferred. This is a major disadvantage. To handle products and the chemicals contained in them safely throughout their life cycles, information is about chemical composition is necessary to support informed decisions.

We want to promote better resource efficiencies by recovering and recycling more materials, without causing risks to human health and the environment. This requires that waste dealers and recycling industries also have information about the chemical composition in the waste products, so that informed decisions can be made. The GMTS would lay a global corner stone for a “safe” circular economy.

The GMTS would eliminate multiple parallel industry standards that can be a challenge to small and medium sized companies, particularly in low and middle income countries, to comply with, if they wish to be part of several supply chains.

Furthermore, the GMTS would help small and medium sized companies that are downstream customers, e.g. retailers, to safeguard that the products they offer their customers are free from the most hazardous chemicals. These downstream companies may, otherwise, not have the purchase volumes to put weight behind their demands to their suppliers to disclose information about the chemical composition of products.

A GMTS would level the playing field for all companies, and thus would not only promote safety for consumers and the environment, rather could also simplify trade.

Not at all! Ambitious industry initiatives are anyway expected to cover the chemicals suggested for the scope of the GMTS, since these chemicals are regulated by multilateral agreements or regional legislation.

It is expected that the GMTS chemicals will overlap with several of the industry disclosure standards, so for industry it is just a matter of extracting these chemicals from their databases for also outside supply chain disclosure.

We fully support the long-term aspirational goal of the CiP Programme for full ingredient disclosure for products. Among the chemicals considered harmless now may be the future chemicals of concern, as more data from the effects of the chemicals are collected and understood. However, we need to start with something more tangible to move the work of the CiP Programme substantially forward.

If we start a global disclosure standard, for within and outside supply chain transparency, for chemicals that are already globally or regionally recognized as chemicals of concern, we would address the hazard properties of the priority chemicals of the CiP Programme.

While industry may continue with full information disclosure for chemicals within supply chains, on a voluntary basis, the GMTS will ensure that all stakeholders throughout the life cycle of products, in all countries, have access to information on the presence of the most hazardous chemicals in products and their constituent components.

The Dubai Declaration states that chemicals harmful to human health and the environment should not be covered by confidential business information. This principle is enshrined in the Overarching Policy Strategy of the UN Chemicals Strategy Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), and reiterated in the CiP Programme.

The chemicals suggested to be covered by the GMTS are either recognized as chemicals of global concern, or regional concern but with potential for global spread and impact via international supply chains from products and their materials and constituent components. None of the chemical conventions have clauses for confidential business information. The REACH Regulation with respect to SVHCs and the RoHs Directive also have no clauses for confidential business information.

Yes, ideally! This would offer the full range of benefits of the standard.

A binding standard would help the world community to define and harmonize views on which the chemicals of global concern are, and how information about them should be shared and handled within and outside supply chains for products.

The chemicals suggested to be covered by the GMTS are already recognized by multilateral agreements to be chemicals of global or particular concern, but the conventions still have no formal information disclosure requirements, which complicates compliance with them. Disclosure of information is a missing piece.

Why should a consumers in, for example, Nigeria, South Africa, India, Thailand, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, the USA, Russia and the EU not have the same level of safety with respect to the chemical contents of products? This is currently not the case. Even between developed countries there are differences, where, for example, the EU has a comparatively high safety level, while in federal legislation in the US it has so far been hard to push for something similar.

Double standards are a widely recognized problem. In order to deal with it, countries may have to set up costly control systems at their external borders. Low and middle income countries are most at risk from double standards, as they may not be in a position to finance extensive border control systems for imported goods. A binding GMTS would eliminate the possibility for industry to have double standards for the most hazardous chemicals, and at the same time save money for governments.

Many low and middle income countries are also net importers of products, and now completely in the hands of industry to voluntarily disclose information on the presence of harmful chemicals in products. Sometimes authorities and importers in these countries do not have the capacity to ask the right questions to the suppliers. A binding GMTS would address these concerns, as the most hazardous chemicals in products would automatically be disclosed to everyone.

In summary, a binding GMTS is the basis for an equal basic level of safety with respect to chemicals for consumers and the environment globally.

There are different potential approaches.

The chemicals would be disclosed in relation to threshold concentrations. It could be a single disclosure threshold, as for the EU SVHCs, thresholds for families of chemicals with similar modes of toxic action, or it could be individual thresholds for individual chemicals. Different considerations may have to be made, such as desired level of safety, and the administrative resources necessary for companies to deal with multiple thresholds.

Another thing that needs careful consideration is how the disclosed information is shared, in order to ensure that all who need it can access it. There are different options, from electronic to physical labels. Ideally the information should also be available in a public database administered by the UN or the Inter-organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC), building upon the idea of the EU SCIP database.

suggested elements and why we picked them

Stockholm Convention

Regulates persistent organic pollutants (POPs) with global distribution patterns. Currently transparency is only required for one POP. 

Basel Convention

Regulates international trade with wastes that contain hazardous chemicals. Currently no formal transparency requirement for the regulated chemicals in wastes.  

Minamata Convention

Regulates the global phase out of mercury and mercury compounds. Currently no formal transparency requirement.

Montreal Protocol

Regulates the global phase out of fluorinated and brominated hydrocarbons harmful to the ozone layer. Currently no formal transparency requirement.

International Agency of Cancer Research (IARC)

A WHO unit that identifies carcinogens. Can complement the other elements suggested to be included in the Global Minimum Transparency Standard. 

EU REACH Regulation

SVHCs in the EU chemicals Regulation REACH overlap in hazard properties with the scope of prioritized chemicals in the UN SAICM Chemicals in Products Programme. Mandatory disclosure for SVHCs in products (including at the level of individual product components). Currently there are 211 chemicals on the SVCH list.

EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS Directive)

Regulates hazardous chemicals in electrical and electronic appliances. It is an EU directive, but has been used as the blue print for similar regulations in many countries.

Chemicals in Products Programme

It supports Chemicals in Products as a SAICM issue of concern, with the aspirational goal of full ingredient disclosure for manufactured products. Chemicals which are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances; very persistent and very bioaccumulative substances; chemicals that are carcinogens or mutagens or that adversely affect, among other factors, the reproductive, endocrine, immune or nervous systems; and other chemicals of concern are prioritised for disclosure.

 

300000
Chemicals on the market
Chemicals regulated in MEAs
200 +
SVHCs in REACH
chemicals with mandatory global disclosure

Why GMTS is a great idea

"The GMTS will eliminate double standards and dumping of products in countries with less ambitious chemicals legislation."
Olga Speranskaya
HEJSupport
"The GMTS will facilitate informed decision making for material cycles, and contribute to safe product design, recycling, and reuse."
Andreas Prevodnik
SSNC
"The GMTS will bridge the gap between countries by minimising expenses while ensuring equal access to information."
Rico Euripidou
groundWork
"The GMTS will guarantee an equal level of safety for people everywhere and protect the environment."
Alexandra Caterbow
HEJSupport

About us

groundWork/Friends of the Earth South Africa, HEJSupport and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) are part of an NGO team working to raise the level of ambition in implementing the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). Our priority focus is on chemicals in products (cip).

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation is Sweden’s oldest and largest environmental NGO. It has no commercial interests, political or other affiliations, rather works for the public good when it comes to environmental protection, management, and related public health issues. Sound management of chemicals is one focus area.

Health and Environment Justice Support (HEJSupport) aims to achieve a healthy environment and environmental justice for affected people. HEJSupport works at the policy level to achieve a healthy environment and environmental justice globally, regionally and nationally.

groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with democratic fenceline formations to resist dirty energy and toxic production, build local alliances with workers for a just transition and advocate for open democracy.

Contact Us

HEJSupport
info@hej-support.org

Society for Nature Conservation
andreas.prevodnik@ssnc.sc

groundWork
rico@groundwork.org.za