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Posted: April 18, 2008

Swiss retailers introduce world's first code of conduct for nanotechnology in consumer products

(Nanowerk News) On April 14th, the Swiss Retailer’s Organisation (IG DHS) among whose members are the most important actors in the Swiss Retailing such as Migros, Coop, Denner, Manor, Valora and Charles Vögele, in cooperation with Innovation Society Ltd., published a Code of Conduct for the handling of nanotechnology in consumer products. In the Code, the members commit to highest possible transparency for consumers and to the application of the precautionary principle in the face of a lack of specific legal rulings.
With this self-commitment the signing members want to make sure that consumers will be informed openly about products containing nanotechnology and that products characterised as nanotechnological actually do contain applications of nanotechnology.
The Code of Conduct will prove to be of special relevance for producers and suppliers located in upstream parts of the value chain. They are expected to perform a systematic and documented risk management and to disclose all decision-relevant product data. Due to the high market power of the signing retailers, it is likely that these requirements will actually be enforced.
The Innovation Society was involved as a consultant in the elaboration of the Code of Conduct. Companies that use the CENARIOS risk management system developed by the Innovation Society in collaboration with TÜV SÜD can be sure to fulfil all requirements of the Code concerning safety, information and documentation.
Here is the full text of the Code:
Code of Conduct Nanotechnologies
1. Preamble
The Code of Conduct has been drawn up by the Swiss retailer's association IG DHS1 in order to take account of the growing importance of nanotechnologies in consumer products.
The Code of Conduct defines the position of IG DHS members in respect of manufacturers and suppliers and serves as the basis for informing consumers with the aim of ensuring maximum transparency.
The members of IG DHS are actively involved in discussions with other interest groups. The lack of specific legal rulings for nanomaterials and the uncertainty associated with the assessment of their possible risks mean that the precautionary principle needs to be applied in order to protect the health of consumers and the environment from possible harmful effects. On the other hand, the numerous potential advantages and benefits offered by nanotechnologies need to be exploited in the best possible way.
This document adopts the working definition cited in the basic report of the Swiss Action Plan on "Synthetic Nanomaterials"2’, according to which nanotechnology is concerned with structures between 1 and 100 nm that offer added functionality and are manufactured or manipulated in a targeted manner.
2. Obligations of IG DHS members
2.1. Personal responsibility
Product safety is the top priority. Only those products which, according to the latest scientific and technical findings, are considered to be harmless to humans, animals and the environment during manufacture and correct use, may be included in the product range.
If new findings indicate that certain materials or substances must be classified as unsuitable for use in certain areas, IG DHS members shall immediately take the necessary measures.
2.2. Procurement of information
The members of IG DHS are responsible for requesting information about nanotechnologies from their manufacturers and suppliers.
IG DHS members must actively inform themselves about current developments concerning legal rulings and the latest scientific findings concerning nanotechnologies.
If it emerges that nanotechnological components or effects have been used in products but this fact has not been communicated, the manufactures and suppliers will be proactively approached for information by IG DHS members.
2.3. Information for consumers
The retail trade is responsible for informing consumers openly about products that incorporate nanotechnology.
The retail trade shall ensure that products described as employing nanotechnologies actually contain components and/or modes of action corresponding to these technologies.
3. Requirements for manufacturers and suppliers
3.1. Company-specific requirements
The IG DHS requires manufacturers and suppliers to give appropriate consideration to, and document, the aspect of nanotechnology in their risk management.
The IG DHS requires nanospecific aspects to be taken into account in respect of occupational health and safety during production, storage and transport.
3.2. Product-specific requirements
The IG DHS requires manufacturers and suppliers to disclose and forward decision-relevant product data throughout the production and distribution chain.
For the purposes of product assessment, IG DHS members shall request the following minimum information from their manufacturers and suppliers:
  • Benefit or added value of the "nano-product" compared to the conventional product
  • Evidence of the nanospecific effects and/or modes of action
  • Technical specifications (physical-chemical data, e.g. size, structure, etc.)
  • Risk potential for humans, animals and the environment (toxicology, ecotoxicology, degradability, disposal, etc.)
  • Any new health-related or environmentally relevant findings on products that come to light must be communicated quickly and openly by manufacturers and suppliers to the respective IG DHS members.
    Source: Innovation Society, IG DHS