Alternatives assessment and informed substitution: A global landscape assessment of drivers, methods, policies and needs

Elsevier, Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy, Volume 13, September 2019, 100161
Authors: 
Joel Tickner, Molly M. Jacobs, Nyree Bekarian Mack

There are increasing policy and market drivers for removing chemicals of concern from manufacturing processes and products. These drivers have centered primarily on developed countries. However, global activities through the United Nations, individual countries, and advocacy organizations are increasing concerns about chemical impacts in developing countries and economies in transition as well. While reducing the use of chemicals of concern is a primary goal, eliminating such substances without thoughtful consideration for their replacements can lead to regrettable substitutions. Against this backdrop there is growing attention to the identification, assessment, and adoption of safer chemicals, as well as product and process design alternatives. Informed substitution is a critical chemical risk management approach, focused on an intentional transition from chemicals of high concern to chemicals and technological processes of lower concern. Alternatives assessment, an interactive, step-defined process, has emerged as a critical approach to support informed substitution. Over the past decade, a number of tools, approaches, and case examples of alternatives assessment and informed substitution have emerged. Policies and practical experience have followed, improving the landscape of alternatives assessment and informed substitution. This article provides an assessment of the state-of-practice of both alternatives assessment and informed substitution methods, policies, and practices. We identify key needs and actions that can be taken by various stakeholder groups moving forward to advance the field. We conclude that there is a critical need for multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary collaboration at a global level to build capacity and support networks that can ensure the growth and success of informed substitution efforts in the future.