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Monday, 14 October 2019

A standardised global approach to Sustainability for the Coatings Industry

Thursday, 1 November 2012 | Posted by: Tony Mash, TMA Consulting Inc.

The Coatings Industry needs to develop a common language and a consistent set of metrics in order to build a coherent global approach to Sustainability and a level playing field. Developing a global consensus on precise definitions, standards, performance metrics and targets may be a tall order, but the benefits to both the industry and Society in general could be substantial.

Although Sustainability remains a very broad, relatively unstructured concept at this time, it has provided the Coatings Industry with opportunities for product and supply chain improvement which benefit both companies and Society in general. While some progress has been made to date, it is clear that significantly more work needs to be done to provide a common language and a consistent set of metrics in order to achieve a coherent global approach and a level playing field.
Just as the Brundtland Commission of 1987 and the Rio Conference of 1992 gave us a general definition of Sustainable Development, the Coatings Industry now needs precise definitions, standards, performance metrics and targets that allow improvement opportunities to be identified, addressed, measured and recognised in a way which all elements of the global Coatings industry accept and adhere to.

Growing interest in the concept of Sustainability

While in Europe, we can already draw on the guidance of the CEPE Sustainability Charter, PAS 2050 and an expanding list of relevant ISO standards, alternative approaches are being considered in other regions of the world. There is growing interest in the concept of Sustainability in the Americas and Asia. However, these activities within each country remain uncoordinated at the global level.
We do, however, live on one planet and a global approach has a lot to recommend itself. It is argued that where standards, definitions and metrics have been developed and applied inconsistently around the world, the pace of overall improvement is constrained and unnecessary extra costs of regulation and manufacture are generated. The acceptance of a level playing field seeks to avoid the dangers of green-washing and the costly implications of fragmented regulations.

Much to be gained by a similar consistent approach

This one–world approach is further supported by the growing role of multi-national companies that work across country and continental borders to either manufacture raw materials and coatings, supply semi-finished coated products, retail finished products, or recycle waste paint and coated parts for further usage beyond the first application.
While a very difficult challenge, experience in other industries has shown that a global consensus can be created and managed for the benefit of Society as a whole. The Montreal Protocol organised via the UN achieved a world-wide agreement on the banning of Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) manufacture to address a widening hole in the stratospheric ozone layer. It is argued that there is much to be gained by all parties in the Coatings Life Cycle forging a similar consistent approach to Sustainability Development.

The key to progress is to work together

In his opening remarks at the recent ISO General Assembly (12), Dr. Torsten Bahke, Director of DIN, ISO member for Germany, highlighted the importance of International Standards: "Global challenges need global solutions and ISO, through its national members and organizations in liaison, has a unique framework for bringing together the international expertise that can develop these solutions, and for disseminating them in an orderly and effective manner”.
The IGI, the global body that develops standards for the Wallcovering Industry has already started work on comparisons between European standards and those of the US ANSI organisation. It is argued that this approach needs to be emulated by the Coatings Industry, and action is required in the near future before regulation in some continents becomes fixed, making it more difficult to achieve a global consensus.
The key to progress is to work together across country boundaries to progress towards a sustainable global industry in the shortest possible time. We now need an international body to step up and guide the delivery of this global consensus.

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