EU regulations round-up: September 2023 – Sustainability reporting standards loom

18 September 2023

Keith Nuthall reports on how paint and coatings firms face detailed EU sustainability reporting standards 

Large paint and coatings companies operating in the European Union (EU) will now almost certainly have to comply with the first European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), now released by the European Commission. Assuming they are backed by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers (which is expected), they will become mandatory for EU listed companies (except micro-companies), who will start sustainability reporting according to ESRS from 2025. The Commission has reduced the number of mandatory reporting requirements compared to the original model drafted by the EFRAG (the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group), but companies still must follow two reporting standards on general sustainability reporting, and there are 10 other standards that should be followed if directly relevant to a business’ operations. Given the work of paint and coatings firms, many will be applicable, such as reporting on their climate impact, pollution, water and marine resources affects and potential harm to biodiversity and ecosystems, for example. 

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Meanwhile, the Council and the Parliament are negotiating a new EU directive imposing exposure limits for workers making or handling diisocyanates, a hardener in industrial paints, glues, varnishes and resins. “There are currently no limit values for diisocyanates at EU level, yet they are known to cause asthma and other respiratory diseases,” said a Council note. The proposal – if approved as currently drafted – would set an occupational exposure limit for diisocyanates at 6µg NCO/m3 and a short-term average exposure over 15 minutes of 12µg NCO/m3.

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The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has added paint, ink, coatings and adhesive ingredient Diphenyl(2,4,6-trimethylbenzoyl)phosphine oxide to its candidate list for the EU’s register of chemicals requiring special authorisation for usage. ECHA has acted over concerns this ingredient is toxic for reproduction. A final decision on its status will be made by the European Commission. 

The European Parliament’s environment committee has proposed strengthening planned reforms to the EU’s water framework directive, the groundwater directive and environmental quality standards directive (surface water directive). MEPs have proposed that a watch list, kept under close review by member states for potential regulations limiting their release, should be potentially unlimited (not capped as proposed by the European Commission) and thenceforth updated regularly. The committee also wants microplastics (a potential pollutant from coatings), plus coating ingredients sulphates and xanthates (used in anti-fouling applications) to be listed as soon as possible.

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