EU REACH Compliance: Essential Guide for Non-EU Companies

December 2023
Last modified:
May 2024
Dr Steven Brennan
Dr Steven Brennan

In this article

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Make your products competitive on the EEA and NI markets by developing a robust EU REACH compliance strategy.

In the dynamic landscape of global trade, understanding and adhering to chemical regulations such as the EU's REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals) is crucial for companies outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Northern Ireland (NI). This comprehensive guide offers actionable insights to navigate the complexities of EU REACH, ensuring market access and business continuity.

EU REACH regulation extends to the 27 EU member states, along with Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Northern Ireland. It governs the manufacture, import, use, and supply of chemicals, impacting entities both within and outside the EEA and NI. Compliance is a multifaceted issue that influences the entire supply chain, necessitating strategic planning and execution.

The Importance of Supply Chain Compliance

Effective REACH compliance hinges on adhering to all regulation terms, impacting non-EEA/NI businesses through their EEA/NI suppliers and customers. Challenges emerge when sharing product information, which may include proprietary data, or when compliance costs affect product viability. Understanding these dynamics is critical for sustaining market presence and competitiveness.

Approaches for Non-EEA/NI Companies

1. Facilitate Compliance Through Information Exchange

Transparency in sharing product information, such as the content and use of substances, is crucial for EEA/NI customers to meet registration, authorisation and restriction requirements under REACH. This necessitates a delicate balance between providing necessary information and safeguarding intellectual property. Employing non-disclosure agreements can help to address these concerns.

Sharing information to your EEA/NI customers allows them to fulfil any regulatory duties incumbent on them for importing your products. This approach, however, means that your customers will bear the responsibility for the cost of importing your product. If you have more than one customer, then each will have to take action to comply with the responsibilities of an importer.

2. Engage with an Expert and Appoint an Only Representative

Appointing an OR is a strategic move for non-EEA/NI manufacturers and formulators. This involves selecting a representative within the EEA/NI who is:

Physically established in the EEA or NI.

  • Knowledgeable about the substances and related information.
  • Responsible for fulfilling importer obligations under EU REACH.

An OR can be an internal entity of your company established in the EEA or NI or an external consultancy. This role is eligible to undertake some regulatory duties, such as registration, and means that EEA/NI based importers would be relieved from their duties. This approach mitigates compliance costs, as one registration or authorisation can cover all imports, and enhances the attractiveness of your product in European markets.

3. Establish an Entity Within the EEA or NI

Setting up an entity within the EEA or NI provides direct control over compliance procedures. This entity can function as an OR, importer, or distributor responsible for import, each with distinct compliance responsibilities and risk profiles.

Acting as an OR or Importer

In these roles, the entity ensures the fulfilment of all compliance obligations incumbent on importers, effectively managing the regulatory aspects of your products.

Functioning as a ‘Distributor Responsible for Import’

This role involves undertaking responsibilities akin to both OR and importer, focusing on registering substances within products. The distributor responsible for import can register substances imported into the market, even if the goods land directly with a customer.

Achieving and Sustaining Compliance

Maintaining compliance with REACH can involve a range of activities:

  • Registering substances.
  • Generating and distributing Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
  • Responding to inquiries and requests from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
  • Keeping abreast of regulatory changes, particularly regarding substance requirements.

Collaboration with regulatory experts is essential to determine specific obligations, develop compliance strategies, and remain informed of regulatory amendments. Staying ahead of changes, such as updates to the restriction list, can allow for proactive measures like product reformulation, thereby maintaining market access even as regulations evolve.

For non-EEA/NI entities, a thorough understanding and strategic approach to EU REACH regulations are fundamental for securing and expanding market access in Europe. Strategies such as effective information sharing, appointing an OR, or establishing a local entity should be aligned with your business model, risk tolerance, and financial considerations. 

Next Steps

Engaging with experts for bespoke advice and tailored solutions is recommended for navigating the nuanced landscape of EU REACH regulations. Foresight can help you develop a well-informed and strategic approach and your business can transform regulatory compliance into an opportunity for growth and success in the European markets.

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