At the 2021 edition of its annual Cleaning & Hygiene Forum, A.I.S.E. (International Association for Soaps,
Detergents and Maintenance Products) reiterated its commitment to contribute constructively to the European Commission’s Green Deal’s ambition and notably the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP).
The annual event, combined with a symposium on the Charter for Sustainable Cleaning, gathered some 250 participants to hear from high-level speakers from the Commission, the upcoming French Presidency of the EU, industry and external experts on the theme of “Cleaning and circularity: working together to meet the Green Deal’s objectives”.
Opening the session, Susanne Zänker, A.I.S.E. Director General, reminded everyone of the critical role of the sector to society, as the Covid crisis has so emphatically proved. She stressed that the industry is “focused on making the transition to the Chemicals Sustainability Strategy possible, using sound science, avoiding animal testing, leveraging the digital agenda and supporting a stronger Single Market.” She also highlighted the track record and achievements of the A.I.S.E. Charter for Sustainable Cleaning, which, she said, can further evolve to drive and serve the upcoming CEAP objectives.
Hans Ingels, Head of Unit – Bioeconomy, Chemicals & Cosmetics at DG GROW, focused on the update of the Detergents Regulation, identifying five key objectives, namely: provide clear and updated rules for all businesses concerned as well as for market surveillance organisations; clarify the scope and allow for the inclusion of new practices and market developments; enable potentially enhanced environmental protection in certain areas; address certain overlaps; support clearer information to consumers and more effective labels, for example through the introduction of digital labelling. He said a legislative proposal should be ready by November 2022 and called for industry support. “We do depend on the input of industry, of market surveillance organisations and consumer organisations to get it right,” he said.
Sylvain Chevassus, Chargé de mission Europe International, French Ministry of Environment, shared insights from France’s early introduction of circular economy measures including a reparability index and emphasised that the circular economy will be high on the agenda of the incoming French Presidency. However, he noted that with some texts delayed, it will not be able to do as much as had been hoped: “We hope the European Commission will be able to adopt its proposals, notably the Sustainable Products Initiative, latest in March or April, so we can start some work in the Council on them.”
Emma Burlow, Founder of Lighthouse Sustainability, spoke about green claims versus greenwashing and how she helps companies to try to close the value-action gap: “the gap between what we say we’re going to be doing and what we actually do.”
Eline Brugman, Director, Climate & Energy, Deloitte Belgium, gave a presentation on the results of the Charter for Sustainable Cleaning, which Deloitte assures. Notably she pointed to a clear decoupling of carbon emissions and energy use from production: carbon emissions are down 55% and energy use 43% per tonne of production, while the number of companies and the amount of production under the Charter continues to grow.
Valérie Séjourné, A.I.S.E. Director of Communications, shared a first look at key insights from A.I.S.E.’s latest consumer study, conducted in autumn, to assess the effectiveness of the Charter logos and inform progress towards digitalisation of consumer information. Among the striking findings, 91% of those surveyed agreed it is a good idea to have priority information about a product on pack and the rest available digitally via a QR code link.
A lively panel discussion then followed, moderated by journalist Peter Woodward, taking in questions from the audience, and zooming in on how the industry can step its contribution to the European Green Deal objectives and the twin green and digital transition. Joining, Mark Stalmans, Director Global Product Stewardship and Sustainability of P&G, and Chair of the A.I.S.E. Sustainability Steering Group, stressed that the Charter is continually evolving to stay ahead of developments and contribute to the realisation of the European Green Deal. “We hope to renew the Charter jointly, in collaboration with the European Commission and other stakeholders, to further support the Green Deal,” he said.
He also agreed with Ms Burlow that too much complexity is causing confusion for consumers, arguing that improving information for consumers, both on pack and online, “is one of the biggest challenges that we have and needs to be done in a very harmonised way.” Mr Ingels noted the pertinence of the discussion, pointing out that the policy agenda underway means that “next year we have to decide whether and how to introduce digital labelling.”
Nadia Viva, A.I.S.E. President, concluded the Forum, thanking all the speakers and participants, and emphasising that A.I.S.E. fully shares the Commission’s Green Deal objectives:
“We recognise the value and fully share the Commission’s objectives to make Europe the first climate neutral continent in the world. We are convinced that in order to achieve our common vision and bring the desired outcomes, we need to do it right. This means, first of all, using sound scientific knowledge as the basis for all policy work. Further collaboration and open dialogue between our industry and the European Commission will be crucial to enable the evolution of our proven Charter scheme towards the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology and ensure the best outcome for consumers and the environment. Finally, innovation will be instrumental. In order for us to be ‘fit for purpose’, we will need the efforts from suppliers, recyclers and other value chain partners to re-invent effective and sustainable cleaning & hygiene solutions for our society and the planet.”