Introduction and Background
In November 2006, the Royal Society, Insight Investment and the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA) came together to explore the societal and economic impact of the technical, social and commercial uncertainties related to nanotechnologies. *
The three organisations began this process by convening a business-focused workshop that stimulated companies to engage more fully with the broad spectrum of questions which affect the development of nanotechnologies; the workshop brought together seventeen companies with a commercial interest in nanotechnology and from different positions within a number of different supply chains – from food and chemicals manufacturers to retailers of healthcare and fashion.
One of the main outcomes of the workshop was a unanimous agreement on the requirements for a voluntary Code of Conduct for businesses engaged in nanotechnology. It was felt that such Code should be principles based rather than standards based and would be developed through a process of engagement between a representative group of businesses from various stages of different supply chains and a wide range of stakeholders, including NGOs, government and consumer groups. (Follow this link download the full Workshop Report.)
Following the success of the workshop, a multi-stakeholder Working Group was established, in order to take forward one of the key recommendations that emerged from the workshop, and decided to facilitate the development of a voluntary Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanotechnology: (‘Responsible Nano Code’) with the following aims:
- Establish what is good practice for companies and other organisations involved in nanotechnologies
Develop a code which is:
- International in scope
- For adoption by companies and other organisations, large and small…
- …involved in developing, manufacturing, retailing, disposal and recycling of products using nanotechnologies
The resulting Responsible Nano Code consists of 7 key principles:
Principle One: Board Accountability
Each Organisation should ensure that accountability for guiding and managing its involvement with nanotechnologies resides with the Board or with an appropriate senior executive or committee.
Principle Two -Stakeholder Involvement
Each Organisation should identify its nanotechnology stakeholders, proactively engage with them and be responsive to their views.
Principle Three - Worker Health and Safety
Each Organisation should ensure high standards of occupational health and safety for its workers handling nano-materials and nano-enabled products. It should also consider occupational health and safety issues for workers at other stages of the product lifecycle.
Principle Four – Public Health, Safety & Environmental Risks
Each Organisation should carry out thorough risk assessments and minimise any potential public health, safety or environmental risks relating to its products using nanotechnologies. It should also consider the public health, safety and environmental risks throughout the product lifecycle.
Principle Five - Wider Social, Ethical Environmental & Health Impacts
Each Organisation should consider and contribute to addressing the wider social, environmental, health and ethical implications and impacts of their involvement with nanotechnologies .
Principle Six – Engaging with Business Partners
Each Organisation should engage proactively, openly and co-operatively with business partners to encourage and stimulate their adoption of the Code.
Principle Seven – Transparency and Disclosure
Each Organisation should be open and transparent about its involvement with and management of nanotechnologies and report regularly and clearly on how it implements the Responsible Nano Code.
Each Principle is supported by a set of ‘examples of good practice’, providing examples, on how the compliance with a respective Principle can be demonstrated.
Follow this link to download the full Responsible Nano Code, including ‘examples of good practice’.
* The three organisations were later joined by the Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network – an initiative sponsored by the UK government’s Department of Trade and Industry.