“Art. 33 REACH – A right to know, not a right to ask!” – Final conference takes stock after more than 5 years

The AskREACH final conference took place in Brussels on 25 January 2023. Keynotes from high officials, such as Christel Schaldemose, MEP, were setting the scene for the final project event. They were raising the issue that Art. 33 and its implementation needs to ensure that articles produced and sold in Europe are safe for consumers and the environment.

Project experts then presented the AskREACH scope and main results from the various activities.

Deputy-project manager Heidrun Fammler:

“Making Art. 33 work is a tremendous communication task. AskREACH with 19 project partners implementing many campaigns to all relevant stakeholders during the 5 project years proved that. Having spent more than 5 Mio. euro for staff, we can say: It is people that make Art. 33 work.”

The audience from industry, public authorities, environmental and consumer NGOs and research organisations gathering were particularly keen to hear about the experiences from intensive work with consumers on their REACH right to know.

Project expert Dr. Susana Fonseca: “Given the immense investments into awareness raising campaigns, AskREACH is a stunning example how mere information provision to the consumers does not automatically lead to behavioural change. Politicians need to understand that consumers can never be the sole engine of the transition to SVHC free products. Rather, it is crucial to emphasize the responsibility of industry and address this with the right instruments and policies.”

In this respect, the audience also heard about the supply chain communication approach towards chemicals traceability, which the project tested. According to project expert Dr. Julian Schenten, “putting companies in the position to know the chemicals in their products, including future SVHCs, this approach could become a game changer – not only to finally ensure Art. 33 compliance but also for achieving the vision of a Circular Economy”. A project report launched today outlines key steps for policy-makers and industry to implement traceability.

A high level panel of Jonath Blokker-Rowe (European Commission), Triin Kaup (EURATEX), Ulrike Kallee (BUND) and Frauke Stock (German Environment Agency – UBA) discussed future outlooks for chemical policies.

The conference ended with awarding Cervera AB and Tchibo GmbH as AskREACH “Most SVHC aware retailer” and Abena A/S and VAUDE Sport GmbH & Co.KG as AskREACH “Best supply chain communicators”.

The project manager, Dr. Ioannis Dosis, concluded:

“The LIFE AskREACH project contributed to the substitution of SVHCs in articles by bringing together a diverse array of stakeholders and engaging all sides in fruitful discussions revolving around, but not limited, to the implementation of Art. 33. It provided valuable insights, not only towards better policy development and implementation, but supporting the information flow on chemicals between industry, suppliers and consumers.”