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Vinyl 2010 Partnership
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Submission Document: Download
  • Additional Document:

Vinyl 2010 Partnership input and contribution to the zerodraft for the outcome document of Rio+20 (UN Conference on Sustainable Development)

1. Introduction

Vinyl 2010 the 10-year Voluntary Commitment for Sustainable Development of the European PVC industry has been a Partnership registered with the Secretariat of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development since 2004.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development that took place in Johannesburg (2002) served as a catalyst and contributed to shape the work done by Vinyl 2010 in the years to come. Our industry is confident that Rio+20 will provide a clear indication on a shared Roadmap to a Green Economy and secure a renewed political commitment for Sustainable Development.

The European PVC industry welcomes this opportunity to submit input to contribute to the zero-draft for the outcome document of Rio+20. Our input on expectations for the outcomes of Rio+20 is based on the concrete experience of Vinyl 2010 as a UNCSD registered Partnership and on the lessons learned on the ground during the implementation of our 10-year Voluntary Commitment.

Concretely we recommend to:

1. Support and recognise Voluntary Agreements and Public-Private Partnerships as effective tools for a faster transition to a Green Economy.

2. Strengthen the role of the UNCSD Partnerships for Sustainable Development.

3. Support Micro, Small and Medium enterprises in their transition towards a Green Economy.

4. Adopt a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach based on sound science for sustainable Green Growth.

1.1. Background: the Vinyl 2010 experience for Sustainable Development

Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is one of the most widely used polymers in the world. Due to its very versatile nature, PVC is used extensively in many industries and provides several popular and necessary products in construction, automobiles, electric and IT cabling, smart & credit cards, packaging, fashion & design, medical devices, amongst other things.

PVC has many qualities that meet key sustainability criteria amongst other things it is lightweight and highly durable which contributes to an efficient use of natural resources. However, by the late 1990¡¯s these qualities were being eclipsed by concerns over the use of certain additives as well as the lack of recycling options for PVC products once they had reached their end-of-life phase.

Aware of these concerns, in 2000 the European PVC industry took the ground-breaking step of launching the Vinyl 2010 Voluntary Commitment.

This Voluntary Commitment was a 10-year plan aimed at creating a sustainable development framework and improving product stewardship across the life cycle of PVC. Its objective was to minimise the environmental impact of the PVC production, promote the responsible use of additives, support collection and recycling, as well as to encourage social dialogue between all of the industry stakeholders. Vinyl 2010 is the legal entity set up to provide the organisational and financial infrastructure needed to manage and monitor the progress towards the goal set in the Voluntary Commitment. It groups European vinyl resin manufacturers and plastic converters, as well as producers of stabilisers and plasticisers. The four founding members are: the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers (ECVM), the European Plastics Converters (EuPC), the European Stabiliser Producers Associations (ESPA) and the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates (ECPI).

Vinyl 2010 operated through projects covering technology, research, organisation (e.g. recycling schemes) and communication (e.g. on best practice). Total expenditure in waste management projects reached 6.6 million Euro in 2010 alone (more than 57 million Euro were spent in the 10 years). Resource allocation in terms of time and efforts was quite large, too.

Originally signed in March 2000 and covering the EU-15, the Voluntary Commitment has since been expanded as the EU has enlarged to cover all EU-27 countries.

The establishment of an infrastructure for the collection and recycling of PVC in Europe is one of the most significant achievements of Vinyl 2010. Prior to 2000, PVC had been dismissed by many as an unrecyclable material destined to be landfilled. At the time there were virtually no recycling systems in place. Today, thanks to Vinyl 2010, over 260,000 tonnes of post-consumer waste were recycled in 2010 alone.

Other notable achievements include:

�� The phasing-out of Cadmium stabilisers from PVC products in the EU-27 by 2007. Lead stabilisers are on track to be fully replaced by 2015.

�� On-going research, testing and expert evaluations of PVC plasticisers.

�� The establishment of a Research & Development programme on new recycling and recovery technologies.

A decade later, Vinyl 2010 is widely regarded as a leading example of industry self-regulation working in practice and delivering concrete results. All major targets have been met or exceeded, and a new sustainable business model involving the whole PVC value chain has been created.

1.2. VinylPlus: the new 10-year Voluntary Commitment of the European PVC industry

In 2010, as the 10-year programme was reaching the end of its foreseen lifetime, the Vinyl 2010 Board together with the four founding associations decided to move forward with a new 10-year Voluntary Programme under the name of VinylPlus. The new commitment builds upon the achievements of Vinyl 2010 and the increased awareness of the importance of Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility within the PVC industry.

VinylPlus is even more ambitious than its predecessor in terms of targets and scope. It aims to achieve a quantum leap in recycling rates, technological innovation and stakeholder engagement over the next decade.

The new programme has been developed bottom up in an open process of extensive stakeholder dialogue, including private companies, NGOs, regulators, civil society representatives, and PVC users. VinylPlus is built around addressing five challenges to ensure that PVC contributes to Sustainable Development and a Greener Economy in Europe: achieving the recycling of 800,000 tonnes of PVC and the development of innovative recycling technologies; addressing concerns about organochlorine emissions; ensuring the sustainable use of additives; enhancing energy efficiency and the use or renewable energy and raw materials in PVC production; and promoting sustainability awareness throughout the whole PVC value chain. These challenges are based on The Natural Step System Conditions for a Sustainable Society.

2. Expectations for the outcome of Rio+20

The Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development acted as true inspiration for the European PVC industry. The document Contributing to Sustainable Development published by Vinyl 2010 in August 2002, addressed the four key objectives of the Summit: protecting the natural resource base of economic development, notably freshwater, energy and land; integrating environment and poverty eradication; making globalisation sustainable, by redressing imbalances in, and generally improving, living and working conditions; enhancing good governance and participation. This document was aimed at presenting examples of how the PVC industry and its products could make a positive contribution towards the pursuit of the Summits objectives, and how to move forward.

Furthermore the commitment taken by the European PVC industry was, and is, fully in line with the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development which states that the private sector has a duty to contribute to the drive towards sustainability.

Vinyl 2010 approach was therefore further defined, in line with the spirit of the Agenda 21 Chapter 30 Strengthening the role of business and industry, in particular concerning:

�� Social Responsibility The issue of Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming more and more relevant in contemporary society. This is due to the fact that it is clearer in everyday experience at individual, business and societal levels that real, stable and long-term progress requires social sustainability in addition to economic growth. We believe Voluntary Commitments from industry are part of the Corporate Social Responsibility to make effective progress on sustainable development

�� Cradle to grave approach Vinyl 2010 was (to our knowledge) the only Voluntary Commitment involving the entire upstream and downstream chain from raw-material production to post-consumer waste in a single industry

�� SME's contribution Bringing together around 21,000 companies, Vinyl 2010 (and now VinylPlus) is a model for Corporate Governance aimed at Sustainable Development and Durable Consumption because it looks at the entire life cycle of a product and because it actively includes Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.

�� Transparency Vinyl 2010 (and now VinylPlus) closely involves external stakeholders and policy-makers (i.e. Members of the European Parliament and EU Commission Officials). An independent Monitoring Committee has been set up to supervise the implementation of the Voluntary Commitment.

�� EU enlargement The Vinyl 2010 initiative became ever so more significant in the context of an enlarged European Union with 27 Member States. Rigid regulatory approaches were unlikely to be effective in ashort timeframe, as they could not answer market diversities, local financial constraints or consumer's behaviour.

With reference also to the Chapter V of JPOI, Vinyl 2010 was cooperating with the EU new Members and trade unions with the objective of raising health, safety, and environmental standards to higher levels and to harmonise sustainability goals. The aim of Vinyl 2010 was also to obtain a gradual enlargement of the Voluntary Commitment to the new EU Member States.

Vinyl 2010 is now an integral part of the PVC industrys ethos in Europe, setting a series of principles and values enclosed in the concepts of Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development:

�� Voluntary action getting on with tackling the sustainability challenges of PVC in a proactive way.

�� Measurable targets and deadlines.

�� Continuous improvement to always accept that the journey to sustainability requires constant evaluation and learning along the way.

�� Collaboration ways of working together within the industry to find solutions that no single player can implement, and reaching out to a much broader stakeholder group.

�� Transparency opening-up, sharing and recognizing of the gap between where we are now and where we aim to be.

�� Scientific rigour and research make sure that technologies, processes and materials are assessed according to strong credible and scientific sustainability principles.

�� Dialogue create more debate with external contacts and those who have something to say about PVC, and be open to listening and learning from others in a positive and receptive manner.

�� Responsibility no one is going to secure a place for PVC in the sustainable future other than the industry itself.

�� Seeking business prosperity we need businesses successful businesses along the value chain of PVC that means making an acceptable return on investment, and being competitive at the same time as seeking the route to sustainable development.

�� Priority to sustainability innovation research, design and innovation should have no goal other than improving the sustainability potential of PVC including its market competitiveness, as well as openly challenging components, materials and practices that do not make sense in terms of sustainable development.

As it was the case for the Johannesburg Summit, the European PVC industry, now represented in VinylPlus, expects that the outcome of Rio+20 will give a clear indication on a shared Roadmap to Green Economy, setting inspiring principles and frameworks, as well as helping (our) industry to be an active partner in the transition to a global Green Economy. Based on our experience we suggest considering the following aspects:

1. Support and recognise Voluntary Agreements and Public-Private Partnerships as effective tools for a faster transition to a Green Economy.

2. Strengthen the role of the UNCSD Partnerships for Sustainable Development.

3. Support Micro, Small and Medium enterprises in their transition towards a Green Economy.

4. Adopt a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach based on sound science for sustainable Green Growth.

In the next sections these four suggestions will be analysed in more details.

2.1. Support and recognise Voluntary Agreements and Public-Private Partnerships as effective tools for a faster transition to a Green Economy

Vinyl 2010 has been a clear success and is a perfect example of industry self-regulation working in practice. It has been a learning-by-doing process, and in a certain way it has helped to revolutionise the PVC value chain in Europe.

The programme has demonstrated that successful industry voluntary agreements can be effective and that, sometimes, self-regulation (without forgetting the role of institutions and decision-makers) can achieve results faster than regulations.

In addition, this proactively voluntary approach and, in our case, the involvement of the entire value-chain, can provide a ready platform for collaboration and dialogue with regulators as well as for the implementation of certain policies within the industry (e.g. REACH, BATs, etc).

The experience of industry¡¯s initiatives like the Vinyl 2010 Voluntary Commitment and product stewardship schemes like the Forest Stewardship Council are demonstrable proof that self©\regulation can be effective in meeting Sustainable Development goals and in helping the transition towards a Green Economy.

The 2nd Communication on Environmental Agreements of the EU Commission welcomed voluntary commitments as a way to achieve environmental improvements. The comments6 received from EU MEPs about the achievements of Vinyl 2010 are encouraging and stimulating our industry to work even harder in order to accomplish the new, more ambitious goals set by the VinylPlus commitment.

The key to the success and spreading of such initiatives is that they are recognised by policy-makers and stakeholders as making a real contribution towards Sustainable Development and a Greener Economy.

In the complex, fast changing and interconnected world we live in, Sustainable Development cannot be achieved only by decree. It is very important for a voluntary commitment to be credible and the only way to do so is by including measurable objectives and deadlines, but it is also fundamental to act within an institutional framework which involves regulators and stakeholders.

The European PVC industry is therefore calling on policy-makers to:

�� Take account of the achievements of initiatives such as Vinyl 2010.

�� Support voluntary agreements when formulating new policies to promote sustainable Green Growth.

2.2. Strengthen the role of the UN CSD Partnerships for Sustainable Development

Partnerships for Sustainable Development (voluntary, multi©\stakeholder initiatives aimed at implementing sustainable development) were an important complementary outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was designated by the WSSD as the focal point for discussion on partnerships that promote Sustainable Development. At its eleventh session in 2003, the Commission stressed that Partnerships in the context of the WSSD process and its follow©\up should be developed and implemented in accordance with a set of agreed Criteria & Guidelines.

Since 2004, Vinyl 2010 has been a Partnership registered with the Secretariat of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

In our experience, the CSD Partnership programme represents an important and effective tool for advancing the Sustainable Development agenda: not only implementing multi©\stakeholders plans for Sustainable Development (as outcome of the WSSD), but also because it can represent a global benchmarking platform. Vinyl 2010 has been participating in the UNCSD Partnerships Fair since 2006 to exchange views on its approach, initiatives, best practices and achievements. Comments and suggestions received have been encouraging and supporting our industry in its efforts towards the achievements of the set targets.

We believe that the potential contribution by Partnerships towards Sustainable Development and Green Growth could be further exploited, not only in terms of ¡®on©\the©\ground¡¯ implementation mechanism, but also in terms of knowledge, experience, best practices and transferable skills sharing.

Not all Partnerships have the possibility to participate in the Partnerships Fair and there should be more opportunities for interaction and information exchange during the year (e.g. regional events, online Partnerships platforms, etc.). In addition, even if the Partnerships Fair is an official part of the CSD, it is not always recognised as such by many delegates. The Partnerships credibility and contribution to the CSD work might be enhanced by mainstreaming in some form the most relevant outcomes of the Partnerships interactive discussions in the High-level segment and with Major Groups.

Finally, in our participation in the UNCSD Partnerships Fair we have learned that the best contributions to the implementation of multi©\stakeholders plans for Sustainable Development and to the sharing of best practices and lessons learned are coming from those Partnerships that have clearly defined measurable targets and deadlines; clear roles and defined leadership (and accountability) for the implementation amongst partners; and a transparent regular reporting system. We recommend to taking these elements into account as part of the Criteria & Guidelines for Partnerships registration for the next decade; stricter criteria, though, should be balanced by stronger recognition of the role, contribution and achievements of the Partnerships, with the objective of strengthening the engagement of business and civil society.

2.3. Support Micro, Small and Medium enterprises in their transition towards a Green Economy

According to the EU Commission¡¯s DG Enterprise and Industry, whilst over 99% of all enterprises in Europe are SMEs, 90% of SMEs are actually micro-enterprises with fewer than 10 employees and the average company has just five workers. However, these micro-enterprises account for 53% of all jobs in Europe, so their importance to the European economy is enormous.

Their small size and limited resources mean micro-enterprises face particular problems. Finding the finance to get a new business going, or to grow an existing one is a difficult challenge. The administrative tasks, or red tape, which all firms have to carry out weigh particularly heavily on Europe's micro-enterprises. And finding staff with the right skills, willing to work for a small firm can be a problem, as is ensuring they have the time to update their skills and keep up with developments in the field.

This is also true for the management of environmental issues.

Representing around 21,000 SMEs, Vinyl 2010 and now VinylPlus, believe that trade associations and industry voluntary programmes can play an important role in reaching out to SMEs and helping them in achieving significant environmental targets in their transition toward a Green Economy.

But it is of paramount importance that governments and institutions, and consequently other external stakeholders, recognise the efforts made by the industry. In the case of Vinyl 2010/VinylPlus, for example, the inclusion in the Public Procurement Specifications of the use of recycled materials, such the PVC collected and recycled by several SMEs with the help of Recovinyl8 would support the industry efforts to boost collection and recycling throughout Europe. Incentivising initiatives aimed at improving eco-efficiency of the SMEs, as it happening in the case of the Care+ programme, could support and accelerate the transition towards a Green Economy.

2.4. Adopt a LCA approach based on sound science for sustainable Green Growth

Popular schemes to evaluate and promote green products are often based on environmental labels. Labels should have the role of educating consumers, incentivising eco-design and encouraging environmental responsibility. Existing environmental labels, unfortunately, have been and are often developed as a voluntary pass/fail scheme to label products, based only on partial environmental criteria and political choices.

A few years ago, during an Eco-label hearing at the European Parliament, one of the arguments raised claimed that science should not take precedence over policy-making. This clearly illustrates the viewpoint of a group of stakeholders who reject the very notion of sound science in favour of scaremongering and emotional laden decisions, without even considering the practical damage that such choices could do to our economies and the social contribution that products that would be effected deliver.

The PVC industry therefore endorses LCA approaches as an effective technical and scientific tool to take sustainable choices. This is also in line with the principles of the EU directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC). IPPC advocates for life cycle thinking in order to take appropriate actions and avoid shunting the environmental impacts from one phase of the life cycle to another.

LCA can provide a standard methodology based on a common and reliable inventory data and it can be clearly seen how LCA is the only unique instrument to be used as common approach in many different kinds of environmental related issues.
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