The EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability: risk of overreach on changes to REACH?


Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Brussels, Belgium


The Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability sets out the EU’s ambitious plans for chemicals policy towards 2050. These plans will entail a revision of REACH and trigger potentially extensive new requirements for companies with activities in or with the EU. Recent developments indicate that the EU Commission intends to use this revision to introduce additional elements not provided in the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (1).


On 14 October 2020, the European Commission published its Communication on the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (hereafter “the Strategy” or “CSS”) (2). This document sets out the EU executive’s new long-term ambition for EU chemicals policy as part of the EU Green Deal. As such, its importance has been likened to that of the 2001 White Paper (3) which had set the course of EU chemicals policy twenty years ago and led to the adoption of, among others, the REACH Regulation (4).


Since its adoption in 2006, the REACH Regulation has played a central role in EU chemicals policy. A recent review of the REACH Regulation by the Commission concluded that REACH requirements “are well tuned to achieving the needs and objectives pursued” and that “there is currently no need to change its enacting terms” (5). Adapting to the extensive obligations under the REACH Regulation has required tremendous efforts and investments by industry, including to generate the data necessary for the registration of tens of thousands of chemical substances. With the CSS, industry is now faced with a revision of the REACH Regulat ...