Upon grasping the significance, implications, and potential applications of sustainability within the company, the most challenging aspect often revolves around the practical methods of implementation in day-to-day operations, particularly when one is concentrated on business development. The concept of sustainability has evolved over the years, shifting from a temporary or trend-driven notion with an “optional” integration character to an increasingly obligatory concept. At the same time, regulatory bodies, voluntary standardization bodies (e.g. ISO) and trade associations have increased the amount of laws, standards and guidelines in order to regulate or assist companies’ activities in relation to sustainability aspects.

In addition to the integration of mandatory provisions such as Directive (UE) 2022/2464 on Corporate Sustainability Reporting, Communication 667 of 2020 on Chemicals Strategy, communication 381 of 2020 (called from Farm to fork), proposed directive of 2023 on green claims, Regulation (EU) 2020/852 on EU sustainability taxonomy, safety and health in the workplace (Directive 89/391), it is necessary for each company to understand its own context and adopt principles of reference as close as possible to its business sector. The cosmetics industry is widely involved in this eco-innovative process as it constitutes a constantly evolving branch of chemistry, characterized by the constant and growing demand for new eco-friendly solutions and products that make sustainability a major competitive driver.

In this sense, companies like ROELMI HPC that produce ingredients used in the cosmetic and food sectors can refer to the key principles of industrial ecology. Industrial Ecology comprises Green Engineering and Green Chemistry, serving as a globally standardized framework for designing or redesigning chemical reactions and processes to be more efficient, safer, cleaner, and with reduced waste. Its principles act as inspiration from the design and development until the process reaches the industrial scale and the product/service is available into market.

ROELMI HPC, always at the forefront of the development of sustainability understood as a driver of innovation and approach for the protection of the planet and welfare for future generations, has decided to implement the Industrial Ecology Quality Management System document (IEQMS ON ISO ANNEX SL) issued by EFfCI (The European Federation for cosmetic ingredients). [1]

This guide aiming to draw the attention of the companies and direct them towards serious, virtuous and responsible behavior with a very applicative aspect.

It is a useful tool to address the issue of industrial ecology in a comprehensive and structured way according to a scientific-based approach. It was developed on the Annex SL scheme allowing an easier integration into the most widespread management systems adopted by companies of the sector (e.g. ISO 9001 for quality management, ISO 45001 for health and safety management in the workplace, ISO 14001 for environmental management). This also supports activities to be kept under control with appropriate codified procedures to develop in cooperation with internal or external experts of this specific topic, not so easy to materialize. Neither the implementation of these management systems nor the certification to these standards are necessary to adopt the principles of industrial ecology but they still constitute a solid base. Risk assessment and PDCA (plan, do, check, act) cycle, as codified by the ISO standards, are in fact tools considered useful regardless of the adoption of voluntary practices.

If you do not operate with these standards, at least read them and try to integrate the main concepts, considering the relationships between actions on environment and consequence to the health and safety of the workers/communities and vice versa.

The process of integrating industrial ecology into ROELMI HPC practices, according to the EFFCI guideline, began with the analysis of the context and understanding the needs of the stakeholders (customers, suppliers, internal personnel, regulatory agencies and communities).

The involvement of staff from different company departments made possible to develop a gap analysis, determining for each of the requirements set out in the guide the actions to be implemented to achieve compliance, according to a holistic process.

Subsequently, there was an identification phase focusing on essential resources, encompassing personnel (internal/external, competence, and awareness), infrastructure, equipment, communication methods, and documentation (procedures, forms, codes). Then we moved to the planning step with shared activities:

Management: issued and spread integrated policy including the applicable principles of the industrial ecology, established strategic objectives and KPI

HR: assigned responsibilities, defined the team, involved the personnel

Supply chain: involved suppliers, contract manufacturers, maintainers, local communities

Compliance team: operational controls such as preventative maintenance, equipment checks have been acknowledged in the form of operating procedures, integrated in the current QHSE system.

The company has prepared a set of tools, forms and files in order to accomplish the request of having data organized in as systematic way, statistically evaluable and supported by validated methods. Indeed, one of the most important topic of the entire system is the management of the data, from their collection to processing and periodic evaluation. Concerning environment for example, figures range from overall quantity divided by category (EER codes), ratio between dangerous and not dangerous, ratio between waste you can recuperate and destroyed.

Furthermore, ROELMI HPC wanted to enforce its figures panel by assessing its carbon footprint following ISO 14064-1. This allowed the organization to have a starting numerical point (CO2 tons per year derived from the entire system) and determine the pathway to decrease the impact of the company processes on the environment.

Next planned step is to measure for the main commercial lines in our portfolio the LCA (life cycle assessment), contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate Change. To help R&D department in controlling its processes within an industrial ecology scheme, a simple checklist has been prepared where project by project the applicable goals, expressed in numbers whenever applicable, are defined, followed and commented. Bear in mind that not all the industrial ecology principles can be met for any project and they can vary if you are working on a vegetable extract or a fine chemical.

Regarding supply chain, ROELMI HPC’s suppliers and subcontractors are now evaluated not only for compliance to quality requirements but also for the ability to respond to sustainability issues and to respect the principles of industrial ecology through documentary checks or on-site audits.

Below we summarize the advantages perceived by our company in having adopted the principles of industrial ecology according to a codified model that can be characterize as the Manual of good sustainable practices in the chemical industry:

  • To give to sustainability a real and tangible contribution (objective and proactive) different from private standards with poor care to sustainability.
  • To demonstrate the degree of integration of the principles to the interested parties.
  • Working with a method to improve and to standardize our activities toward sustainability increases efficiency and effectiveness and push the company to a continuous improvement
  • Economical advantage: As per our experience an immediate financial benefit arose from the reduction of waste we obtained by adopting industrial ecology principles
  • Increased knowledge of the outsourced processes and of the entire supply chain.
  • Improvement of company reputation, so that to be recognized as real actor of the sustainability avoiding any misleading and greenwashing bahavior
  • Speaking a common language with the stakeholders. If data are objective, numerical and obtained through validated methods, they can be shared and compared with the interested parties and can be used in a systematic way: welcome new challenges like C footprint applied to system (ISO 14064-1) and/or products (ISO 14067).
  • Complying with current legislation and anticipating the coming one. Most of the current sustainability references are not mandatory but in the near future will be
  • To give new projects an added valuable input and to revise existing ones under a new approach