Member news - The REACH Centre advises top British retailers on REACH legislation and SVHCs (substances of very high concern)

Leading regulatory experts, The REACH Centre, in conjunction with The British Retail Consortium, have addressed leading high street retailers including B&Q, ASDA, Tesco and Marks and Spencer on REACH legislation, in particular SVHCs, at an event at the British Retail consortium’s headquarters in London.

Reach legislation identifies substances with known high risks to human health or the environment as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) and gives consumers the right to know if they are present in products. Upon request, the onus is on retailers to let their customers know if SVHCs are contained in any of the products they manufacture or supply. In addition, the retailer must provide information on how to use the substances safely if it is requested by the customer.

During the event, The REACH Centre discussed strategies for assessing the vulnerability of products and for testing of products, bearing in mind retailers have to deal with a large number of substances in large and diverse product portfolios. An example of a group of chemicals with potential health concerns is phthalate esters, these are commonly found in cosmetics, textiles, carpets and PVC products.

Bob Gordon from The British Retail Consortium underlined the importance of understanding the legislation, “REACH legislation can be incredibly complex and compliance is a real issue for retailers today. The REACH Centre provided invaluable information for retailers at the event and stimulated lively discussion around the challenges of meeting REACH requirements.”

Failure to comply with the complicated legislation can have massive repercussions for companies: disrupted supply chains, negative PR and even prosecution. In April this year, a number of high street chains agreed to pay up to £20 million in legal costs and compensation to 2,000 people who received chemical burns from anti-fungal agents in sofas.

The REACH Centre currently provides SVHC services such as supply chain management and communication strategies, testing of products, staff training and on-going compliance monitoring to leading retailers.