The winner of WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award 2008 on the theme Sustainable Chemical Use was the politician Margot Wallström together with scientist Theo Colborn and the toxology and engiering duo Jan Ahlbom & Ulf Duus.
Modern society is dependent on the use of an enormous amount of chemical compounds. Obviously they contribute to our welfare and comfort, but unfortunately are also the source of a number of frightening and, in part, unknown effects on humans and the environment. Addressing and solving these complex issues requires broad strategies in which science, politics and market mechanisms all play key roles.
Margot Wallström, at the time Vice President of the European Commission, was during her mandate as the European Commissioner for the Environment one of the key persons behind the formation of REACH, the most progressive legislative instrument for chemical control worldwide, and one of the most far-reaching environmental laws in the European Union. REACH is based on the precautionary principle, reversed burden of proof and substitution, with a particular focus on substances that are persistent (non-biodegradable), toxic and bio-accumulating, i.e., they accumulate in animals and plants.
Despite strong resistance from commercial interests, EU Commissioner Wallström succeeded in launching REACH as an essential first step toward a new, more sustainable way of controlling and environmentally adapting the use of chemicals in our society.