This time Business Planet is in Manchester to take a look at how a European regulation called REACH, which aims to make the use and production of industrial chemicals safe, can lead to the creation of small and medium sized enterprises (SME).
One enterprise in Manchester sells PVC bands made without phtalates, which are substances added to plastics to make them more flexible, durable or transparent. Seeing that REACH might prohibit their use one entrepreneur saw a good opportunity.
“I had to be sure that if I replaced phtalates, that I was replacing it with something that had a long sustainable future. There was no point in just side-stepping to another phtalate or another product, that could have the same sorts of health issues. So, I used REACH to guide me on that,” explains Andy Douglas, Managing Director of Gemini Adhesives Group.
The products the company produces are used in schools or hospitals and have the advantage of being very sticky, therefore they are well sealed.
Another competitive advantage is their price. The bands are not more expensive than the competition, which has meant sales in this small business have gone from strength to strength.
“The introduction of this product has meant that we had to employ another seven staff, for distribution and for manufacturing the product… The turnover has increased by 20%, which in money terms is a million pounds per annum,” says Andy Douglas.
To learn more about the REACH legislation, Business Planet travelled to Prague to meet one of the top European experts on this topic.
REACH is a European regulation for chemical products. The industries that produce these substances must now demonstrate their production process is safe. Limited authorisation is given for the most dangerous substances. The system has different phases and first on the list is registering them.
“Registering with REACH is what you have to do if you want to place a chemical substance on the market. If you want to keep your business running, without a REACH registration, you are off the market,” explains Marko Sušnik, Chemical policy adviser, Austrian Federal Economic Chamber & UEAPME (European SME Association).
To find out if you are affected by this regulation and what your small or medium sized business must do, you can contact the European Chemicals Agency or alternatively seek assistance from your own national help desk. They exist across the European Union.
“There you can find for example different folders, different Q&As. Entrepreneurs can get legal support. And, they can also get help with their associations which offer much more sectoral, to-the-point information, which can be very relevant to their specific situation,” says Marko Sušnik.
“For me, the keys to success are: understanding the REACH regulations, take advantage of free advice from experts, and look for business opportunities using safer chemicals,” Andy Douglas believes.