Volvo Group’s list of chemicals to expand

Volvo Group’s ground-breaking work to eliminate harmful chemicals from the production process is now being intensified in response to stricter requirements regarding the components in finished Volvo products. “We should always be able to quickly respond when asked whether a certain chemical is present anywhere in our products," says Inge Horkeby, the Volvo Group’s Director of Environmental Affairs.

For a long time, the Volvo Group has kept two well-known lists of the chemicals used in Volvo products or production processes: a black list of prohibited chemicals, and a grey list of chemicals that should be phased out and replaced with different ones.

As part of Volvo’s intensified focus on chemicals, these lists will be supplemented with an extensive new list of substances that are either prohibited or must be declared in newly designed components of Volvo products. This new list, known as GADSL (global automotive declarable substance list), was formulated in a unique collaboration between global car manufacturers and their subcontractors.

“The Volvo Group was first in the world to collaborate with the trade union to eliminate chemicals posing a health hazard to employees from the production process. Already in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Volvo employed chemists to produce risk assessments, content declarations and safety sheets regarding the chemicals used in our production," says Horkeby.

Since then, progressively stringent requirements have been introduced to ensure that harmful chemicals do not occur in the finished products either. A directive was introduced in 2002 prohibiting certain substances in passenger cars weighing less than 3.5 tonnes, to prevent harmful chemicals being released during recycling. Under REACH, the new EU framework legislation for chemicals, Volvo companies are responsible for the components purchased and included in Volvo products.

In response to this, Volvo Group has initiated extensive efforts to manage all chemical-related information that must be included with each product, from the planning phase to subcontractors, assembly and right through to the market. Simply speaking, this information is so extensive that it is not enough to send Excel sheets backwards and forwards. The work is already underway since Mascot, a Renault Trucks product, is covered by the legislation regarding light vehicles. Volvo 3P’s head of environmental affairs, Cecilia Gunnarsson, explains:

“We’ve already developed an advanced IT tool called Substrack, which keeps track of the substances included in Renault’s Mascot. We’re also members of IMDS (International Material Data System), an international database in which our customers can be asked to enter information. This information is subsequently read and sent on to Substrack,” she explains.

Substrack will gradually be introduced in the different Volvo companies, to enable the chemical content of all components to be documented and matched with the GADSL list.
“We’ll probably need to replace certain chemicals currently used by Volvo. In order to do this, we need to be able to submit clearer descriptions of the tests and requirements our components are subject to, to ensure that we find good substitute substances that meet the tough conditions our products are exposed to – such as demanding weather conditions or, in the case of Penta, salt water conditions," explains Gunnarsson.