Trillium News

Trillium Asset Management Urges Legislators to Pass “An Act for a Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals”(A)

If you are a Massachusetts citizen and fed up with your exposure to lead, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene , dioxins and furans, hexavalent chromium, organophosphate pesticides, pentabromodiphenyl ether (Penta BDE), di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), 2,4, dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4, D), then you have something in common with the sponsors of Senate Bill 1268, the “Act for A Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals.”
(And if you are not fed up with your exposure to these chemicals, reconsider. They have been linked to asthma, autism, birth defects, cancers, developmental disabilities, diabetes, endometriosis, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and other ailments.)
The ten toxic substances targeted in this bill were chosen because there is credible evidence that they pose a potential for significant harm to health or the environment, they are widely used in Massachusetts, and safer alternatives exist for at least some of their applications. The bill includes a process to identify other substances to consider over time.
The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection to develop and implement an Action Plan for each priority chemical. For each substance, the Action Plans will look at their various uses and emissions, analyze a range of alternatives, identify safer alternatives, and identify steps, including grants and other assistance, and a timeline to require businesses to switch to safer alternatives. The bill only requires a replacement of the toxic chemical when a thorough review of alternatives determines there are safer and feasible alternatives available for that use.
This August, Trillium Asset Management wrote to the Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture, and we encourage all Massachusetts residents to do the same. For more information on S.B. 1268, contact Amy Perlmutter at A hearing has been set for 10 a.m. on September 18 at Gardner Auditorium at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
August 28, 2003
Senator Pamela Resor
State Representative William G. Greene, Jr.
Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture
Room 473F
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Senator Resor and Representative Greene:
We are writing today to voice our strong support of Senate Bill 1268, “An Act for a Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals.”
Trillium Asset Management is a Boston-based investment firm specializing exclusively in socially responsible asset management. We currently manage over $550 million for both individual and institutional clients. For twenty years, we have leveraged our ownership position in companies to engage in discussions with management about a range of social and environmental corporate responsibility issues.
We support S.B. 1268 because the environmental and health risks posed by the ten substances addressed by the bill are well documented (indeed, many more substances could be added to the bill) and the need to find safe replacement materials is long overdue.
As portfolio managers, we have long exercised great caution before investing clients’ assets in the chemicals sector. Not only has this sector contributed large scale and direct damage to the environment and human health, but it has continuously fought regulation to rein in these so-called “externalities” of doing business. On several occasions, we have filed shareholder proposals at companies such as General Electric and Dow Chemical to encourage greater corporate responsibility for cleaning up, or ending the manufacture of, toxic chemicals that have polluted neighboring communities and even entire regions. We filed our proposals because Dow and GE will be stronger companies for doing them, both financially and from a community relations perspective.
Opponents of the S.B. 1268 fear that it would be prohibitively expensive, but this ignores several key points:
The bill provides for assistance to firms to meet its requirements.According to the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, the experience of businesses operating under Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act demonstrated that companies actually saved money from reducing their use of toxic chemicals. Fifteen million dollars has saved through more efficient materials use, reuse and recycling, improved design processes, avoiding hazardous waste disposal costs and switching to less costly materials. While $15 million is a relatively small amount in proportion to the collective revenues of the firms studied, the key finding is that money was saved rather than lost.S.B. 1268 arises in the context of a growing worldwide movement to ground public policy in the precautionary principle. For example, the European Union will require most electronics to be made without lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and PDBEs by 2006. Another EU proposal will encourage substitution of all chemicals that are known or probably carcinogens, persistent bioaccumulative toxins, mutagens or reproductive toxins. Several U.S. states are beginning to discuss similar measures. Companies that begin to prepare for this future now will have an edge in global markets over their peers who delay. Each year the economy loses billions to remediating the health and environmental effects of toxic chemicals. Not even the polluting corporations and their shareholders are well served in the long run by relying on dangerous toxic chemicals, given the high costs to companies of compliance, remediation and settlement of lawsuits, as well as high healthcare costs and workforce turnover caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. (Consider, for example, the over $2 billion asbestos-related liabilities of only one company, Dow Chemical.)For all of the above reasons, we urge the Committee to report favorably on S.B. 1268. The “Act for a Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals” is a reasonable and well-designed bill that will benefit the people and businesses of Massachusetts, and indeed, communities beyond the Commonwealth.
Shelley Alpern
Assistant Vice President