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Basic Information

Mountain meadow.

What is the Sustainable Futures Initiative?

The Sustainable Futures (SF) Initiative is a voluntary program that encourages chemical developers to use EPA's models and methods to screen new chemicals for potential risks early in the development process. The goal is to produce safer chemicals more reliably and more quickly, saving time and money. This means getting safer chemicals into the market and in use. In some cases, it means providing alternatives to more risky chemicals - this is pollution prevention in its purest form.

Companies that take training and graduate from Sustainable Futures can earn expedited review by EPA for prescreened new chemical notices. Prescreening chemicals for hazard concerns helps companies anticipate and avoid developing chemicals of concern. Companies can instead develop and commercialize safer chemicals.

Origin of Sustainable Futures

The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) mandated that EPA review new chemicals for potential toxicity and risk before they enter the marketplace.  The law gives EPA 90 days to review new chemicals, but does not require submitters of new chemical notices to conduct tests to determine potential concerns. Therefore, most new chemical notices that EPA reviews lack test data needed to fully estimate potential risks. Lacking experimental data, EPA has relied on the screening methods to review and evaluate new chemicals under TSCA to help identify chemicals that could pose unreasonable risk. The methods, which EPA created, are the basis of the Sustainable Futures Initiative and are available to the chemical industry and other stakeholders at no cost.

Benefits of Sustainable Futures

Participants and graduates are realizing that prescreening chemicals for potential hazard and risk while still in the research and development stage can increase their competitive advantage.

Developing the Sustainable Futures Program

EPA packaged its chemical assessment methods developed through the new chemicals review program into the Pollution Prevention (P2) Framework, and in 1995 began to work with the chemical industry to help transfer the chemical screening methods to developers of new chemicals and new chemical products.

Sustainable Futures evolved out of the successful Eastman Kodak Project XL and PPG Industries Project XL, in which both XL partners investigated the applicability of the P2 Framework risk-screening methods. Project XL (eXellence and Leadership) was a voluntary national program in which EPA offered some flexibility in its regulations to encourage companies, communities and other project participants to develop and test cleaner, cheaper and smarter alternatives that could produce superior environmental results beyond those that would have been achieved under current regulations and policies. EPA selected both P2 Framework-based XL Projects to be "scaled-up" and offered nationwide. As a result, since 2002 when the Sustainable Futures Initiative was launched, any company can become eligible for expedited Pre-manufacture Notice (PMN) review once available only to XL partners.

Industry response to Sustainable Futures has been positive. Hundreds of individuals representing chemical companies and other stakeholders have taken Sustainable Futures hands-on training. EPA has seen an increase in the percentage of PMNs submitted containing predictions from Sustainable Futures chemical risk screening methods.

Sustainable Futures Graduates

PPG Industries and Eastman Kodak are considered to be Sustainable Futures graduates by virtue of their highly successful participation in Project XL, which provided the foundation for the Sustainable Futures Initiative. Additional companies have graduated since the Initiative was announced. Sustainable Futures graduates have qualified for regulatory relief of prescreened low-hazard, low-risk PMNs. Numerous other companies participating in Sustainable Futures have submitted enough prescreened PMNs to meet the graduation criteria and, as a result, the number of Sustainable Futures graduates is expected to increase.

Read information on related programs.

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