Communication Along the Supply Chain

Communication Along the Supply Chain

Author: Vera Koester

Effective communication throughout the supply chain is not only essential for a company’s efficiency, but also a requirement of REACH (Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals).

Dr. Erika Kunz, Head of Global Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals at Clariant Produkte, Sulzbach (Taunus), Germany, talks to Dr. Vera Koester for ChemViews Magazine about the importance of supply-chain management, what it means for an international company, and how they handle it.


Why is communication in supply-chain management important? What does this mean for a global company like Clariant?

It is essential to understand our customers’ needs. We are only successful if our customers are successful. This is why we focus on efficient communication along the supply chain with our customers and suppliers. Efficient communication creates transparency and trust, and contributes to sustainable business.

As one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies, Clariant contributes to value creation with innovative and sustainable solutions for customers from many industries. Our strategy is based on five pillars: increasing profitability, portfolio repositioning, adding value through sustainability, fostering innovation, and intensifying growth. Clariant fosters a culture of proactive and transparent communication as the key to trusting and reliable relationships.

Our suppliers form an integral part of our network and we expect their commitment to ethical and sustainable business practices, with consideration for human rights, child protection, labor standards, and anticorruption. To set a binding framework, we have issued a Code of Conduct for Suppliers in which we outline our strategy, scope, and expectations, both in general terms and in detail. Our suppliers are expected to have read and agreed to this code of conduct in full, and to act accordingly at all times.


Can you say something about Clariant’s current and anticipated supply-chain communication management strategies?

Clariant has developed comprehensive guidelines and a global standard for our product data. We have implemented tools and systems to define and help manage responsibilities, to ensure compliance, and to deliver a high level of customer support — all as part of our contribution to sustainability.

High-quality supply-chain communication has different aspects. Let me address some of them:

First, individual communication within the supply chain. This is frequently done without using specific tools. This type of communication addresses information relevant to compliance as well as specific customer questions.

Second, communication related to initiatives that go beyond legal requirements and beyond the supply chain. An example is the Global Product Safety (GPS) summaries uploaded to the GPS Chemicals Portal. The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) runs this portal to provide the public with relevant product safety information from companies on the chemical products they manufacture. The GPS safety summaries are a base set of information for the safe use of chemical products and give a general overview of the characteristics and uses of a chemical substance. They are intended to provide transparent access to important information in a suitable format and in a general, understandable language. The aim is to increase public confidence that chemicals are handled safely throughout their life cycle.

Clariant is committed to this Global Product Strategy of the ICCA and is making GPS summary reports of substances it places on the market available on the GPS Chemicals Portal.

Another important aspect of high-quality supply-chain management is compliance-relevant communication. The extended safety data sheet (eSDS) is without doubt the key communication tool along the supply chain. It summarizes the key information from the chemical safety assessment carried out under the REACH registration process and includes conditions of safe use. Bearing in mind the importance of eSDS, it has to be ensured that its content is as realistic as possible. The exposure scenario (ES) communication in the eSDS is based on the registrants’ chemical safety assessments in the REACH dossier. The resulting conditions of safe use should also be realistic in terms of the implementation for downstream users.

Clariant puts considerable effort into collecting reliable information on the use of our chemicals; the proper assessment of the risks in creating high-quality dossiers, chemical safety assessments (CSAs) and chemical safety reports (CSRs); and finally in the communication of the respective exposure scenarios in the eSDS.


Do standardized tools exist? How good are they?

Standardized tools for efficient communication have to be developed not only by one company but in close cooperation with all actors in the supply chain. For enhanced communication in the supply chain the ESCom standard has been developed. It enables consistent and harmonized exchange of exposure scenario (ES) data between IT systems throughout the supply chain. Clariant is involved in this process as a member of the respective Cefic (European Chemical Industry Council) working group.


How do you manage supply-chain communication in a realistic way by looking at benefits, costs, time, and usefulness for downstream users?

Clariant’s Product Stewardship Organization has set up an implementation program to ensure the incorporation of all new legal requirements into its business processes and documents according to the transition periods for REACH with respect to classification, labeling, and packaging (CLP) of substances and mixtures.

In addition, Clariant naturally extends the application of globally harmonized systems (GHS) to a global level. This means that it monitors GHS implementation across the world and ensures that the company systems ensure legal compliance with the varying requirements.

The Product Stewardship Organization has also defined a Global Customer Support function. It ensures consistent regulatory-related communication to customers. This is not only done on a corporate level, but also in all regional Product Stewardship Organizations, to add value to Clariant’s business.


In your experience, what is key to successful communication in the supply chain?

The key is a transparent organization with clearly defined responsibilities, guidelines, systems, and tools, which are consistent on a global scale.


What are the main issues and the main challenges? What are areas for improvement?

The CSR/ES roadmap is defined as a way to enhance the effective communication exchange between supply-chain actors. The aim is to improve the protection of human health and the environment. Five action areas are defined in the CSR/ES roadmap:

  1. To increase the common understanding among stakeholders on the practical use of information in the CSR and ES for communication.
  2. To further develop methods for generating key information inputs for the CSA.
  3. To further develop IT tools and standardization for generating, processing, and exchanging CSR and ES information.
  4. To support the understanding and processing of exposure scenario information at the formulator level.
  5. To support the understanding and processing of exposure scenario information at the end-user level.

This last action area aims to analyze the information needs of the different end-user groups. It aims to improve the presentation of information on the safe use of mixtures on the safety data sheet. (This can be done either in exposure scenarios or in the main body of the document). It also aims to spread the information to increase awareness on agreed issues in an effective way to the end-user sectors.

These activities have only just started. Overall we have to be aware that the roadmap will not deliver immediate results. As most of the higher-tonnage substances are already registered in REACH, updates will be made according to the needs of the regulation, particularly as this coincides with the 2018 registration deadline of REACH. The primary focus should be to make Registration 2018 a new success. A balance must be found between effort, transparency, costs, benefits, and a level of sufficient/relevant/useable information.

The aim is realistic and pragmatic communication that is manageable and understandable up and down the supply chain and serves useful purposes throughout the value chain.


What in your opinion is/should be the role of media and politics?

The media reflects and shapes public opinion. Politicians and regulatory bodies generate the legal framework of a world in which we, the chemical industry, play an important role. Improving communication and listening more closely to one another will help to create better understanding among all parties.


Thank you for the interview.

Erika Kunz earned a PhD in chemistry and then started her career in the R&D department for textile dyes at Cassella, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Since 1998, she took on various responsibilities in Global Product Safety and Ecology at DyStar Textilfarben GmbH & Co. Deutschland KG, Frankfurt am Main, and then joined Clariant Produkte (Deutschland) GmbH, Sulzbach (Taunus), Germany, in 2010. Since January 2011 she has been responsible for the Global Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals within Global Product Stewardship at Clariant.

Erika Kunz has almost 17 years of experience in regulatory affairs, particularly in the area of the global registration of chemicals. She is chair of the Cefic VCI CSR/ES roadmap working group, a member of the RMT at Cefic, and a member of the REACH Politik Working Group at VCI, the technical committee Product Stewardship (Fachausschuss Produktsicherheit), and the Coordination Circle Product Stewardship (Koordinierungskreis Produktsicherheit). She also joined the GPS capacity-building initiative.


Selected Publications

  1. Erika Kunz, Clariant Produkte Deutschland GmbH, Workshop on Implementation of REACH and CLP Regulations, TAIEX, Moscow, 2013.
  2. Elaine Burridge, Pigments Colour Clariant’s Future, Chemical Watch 2014.
  3. Clariant increases awareness for necessary global regulatory affairs compliance with Indian supply partners, 2012.
  4. Das REACH-Dossier ist niemals fertig (VCI-Infoveranstaltung REACH und GHS), Verband der Chemischen Industrie (VCI) 2014.
  5. REACH Article 57 (f): Non-Endocrine Disrupting Human Health Hazards Leading to SVHC Identification, Workshop,
    BAuA Berlin
    , Germany, 2012.
  6. Produktsicherheit in der chemischen Industrie: REACH, CLP, GHS & Co., Workshop, ChemAcademy, Köln, Germany, 2015.


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