I. Introduction

1.         The sound management of chemicals and waste is essential for protecting human health and the environment. While progress in minimizing adverse impacts of chemicals and waste has been made, the global goal on chemicals management adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) – to achieve, by 2020, that chemicals would be used and produced in ways leading to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment – was not achieved by 2020. More ambitious and urgent action by all stakeholders and sectors is required in order to protect present and future generations. 

2.         Chemicals play an important role as an integral part of our everyday lives in materials, articles and products globally. Their sound management is crucial for preventing and, where prevention is not feasible, minimizing adverse impacts on human health and the environment. The economic,[1] environmental and social benefits of action are indisputable, in particular to achieve the good health and well-being of all populations. 

3.         The Global Chemicals Outlook II [2] cautions that “business as usual” is not an option. The global chemical industry was estimated at US$ 5 trillion in 2017 and its size is projected to double by 2030.[3] Hazardous chemicals continue to be released in large quantities. Scientific evidence alerts us that pollution from chemicals and waste is not sustainable. Exposure to hazardous chemicals and waste throughout their supply chains and life cycles threatens human health and disproportionately impacts vulnerable and at-risk groups.[4]

4.         The Global Framework on Chemicals – For a Planet Free of Harm from Chemicals and Waste builds on a unique multisectoral and multi-stakeholder approach. It strengthens collaboration and coordination among stakeholders to address the triple crisis for our common environment of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, among other challenges. While its focus must be on building chemicals and waste management capacities in all countries, the intent of the Framework [5]  is to catalyse a transformational shift towards sustainable chemistry in the chemical and downstream sectors in a life-cycle approach, through guiding principles, clear strategic objectives, defined time bound programmes and initiatives, and measurable targets. 

5.         The aim of the Framework is to prevent or, where prevention is not feasible, minimize harm from chemicals and waste to protect the environment and human health, including that of vulnerable groups and workers. The Framework is cross-sectoral and action-oriented, with strong governance and measurability structures that facilitate transparency and ownership of roles and responsibilities to assess progress and promote international standards. It supports innovation to provide better products that are safer and sustainable by design and advance sustainable consumption and production patterns, including through resource efficiency and circular economy approaches. Stakeholders include but are not limited to Governments, regional economic integration organizations, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, industries, businesses, the financial sector, development banks, academia, workers, retailers and individuals. Sectors are understood to include, but not be limited to, agriculture, environment, health, education, finance, development, construction and labour. 

6.         The Framework will contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and remain relevant for action beyond 2030. Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in all three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) is critical for creating the conditions necessary to fulfil the strategic objectives and targets of the Framework. The Framework complements other international agreements and arrangements and supports, but is not intended to duplicate, their implementation.



[1] According to the Global Chemicals Outlook II: From Legacies to Innovative Solutions: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations Environment Programme, 2019), “the benefits of action to minimize adverse impacts have been estimated in the high tens of billions of United States dollars annually” (p. vi).

[2] Ibid., p. 17.

[3] Ibid., p. vi.

[4] Workers; farmers; women, children and youth; Indigenous Peoples; and the elderly.

[5] This and subsequent references to “the Framework” are understood to refer to the Global Framework on Chemicals – For a Planet Free of Harm from Chemicals and Waste.