15 July 2020

Incoming Afera Regulatory Affairs Manager hits the ground running

Pablo Englebienne talks joining Lejeune on the first day of lockdown, important regulatory trends and more 

It hasn’t been the most straightforward job transition for Belgian-Argentine doctor of chemistry Pablo Englebienne, who became Afera’s new Regulatory Affairs Manager at Lejeune Association Management on 16 March. Mr. Englebienne, who earned his PhD in chemistry from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in 2009, is Afera’s newest management team member, having been recruited late last year to step up activity under the Association’s latest strategy for regulation and political positioning:

  • To team up with associations in adjacent technologies
  • To increase relevant direct or indirect influence with regulatory bodies, and
  • To raise knowledge and awareness of regulatory legislative developments and other public affairs issues among our Member Companies.

“The period during which I started at Lejeune has certainly been special: My first workday was the day that the Netherlands went into lockdown,” Mr. Englebienne explained. “The onboarding was different, but in the meantime we all have gotten very comfortable with using online tools.”

His new challenge
A chemistry specialist with a deep understanding of requirements for chemicals regulatory compliance, Mr. Englebienne will monitor all chemical and tape-related regulations pertaining to the European tape industry in close co-operation with European authorities, liaising and negotiating with regulatory stakeholders where possible and necessary.

This includes collaborating with chemical and environmental organisations and working groups such as ECHA (The European Chemicals Agency), CEFIC (The European Chemical Industry Council), FEICA (The European Adhesive and Sealant Industry Association), the Bundesumweltamt Berlin (The German Environment Agency), the VCI (The German Chemical Industry Association), IVK (The German Adhesives Association) and their working groups and other E.U. experts groups in Brussels. He will also lobby to influence standards for Afera Member Companies’ operating procedures and business operations policies, co-operating closely with all Member Company regulatory departments.

Mr. Englebienne will focus additionally on the associations FINAT (The European Self-Adhesive Label Association), EtOH-REACH (The Ethanol REACH Association) and RadTech Europe (The European UV/EB Curing Technology Association) within Lejeune. “My goal is to advise these associations and their members concerning chemicals management regulations: how they can remain compliant, monitor changes that could affect them and prepare for upcoming challenges,” explained Mr. Englebienne. “I will also focus on sustainability issues, ensuring that the associations work towards the E.U. Green Deal and achieve the recyclability goals.”

Since September 2017, the researcher and chemistry specialist had worked for Triskelion, a contract research organisation in Zeist (NL), where he was a senior consultant for regulatory services. Before that, Mr. Englebienne spent 3 years at Royal HaskoningDHV in Amersfoort, where he was a consultant and project manager for REACH, the European Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. “In my last positions, I was part of in-house technical teams working on regulatory affairs consultancy projects for chemical manufacturers,” he shared. “Now I am the one responsible for the regulatory affairs for various associations under Lejeune; my technical colleagues are within the associations but affiliated with other companies. It is different, but everyone has been very co-operative so far!”

Learning about Afera
Mr. Englebienne was very interested to learn how much a part of everyday life tapes are—how they enable the availability of products and services that we take for granted, such as mobile phones, cars, online shopping, etc. “The tape industry has surprised me with its breadth of applications,” he commented. “Of course, there are many common applications which we cannot fathom living without, such as packaging, masking and duct tapes. But there are other specialised applications which many people have never heard of that enable the creation of products that we come across every day, such as providing optically clear bonding of the thin layers within tablets and flat screen monitors, sticking skin to electro-medical instrumentation and marking packaging for tamper-evident and coding purposes.”

The adhesive tape industry challenge
Continuous R&D being carried out in tape technology means that the new application possibilities are virtually endless. Mr. Englebienne feels that the wide range of areas of application is of great advantage to the European business, “but it also comes with great responsibilities as there are many angles to cover to ensure that downstream applications remain performant with respect to customers and consumer expectations, as well as compliant with all the relevant regulations. We will definitely never become bored!”

One of the tape Industry’s specific challenges is ensuring that adhesive tape manufacturers comply with all the appropriate regulations for their own products and manufacturing processes as well as the final end-products which incorporate adhesive tape. “With Afera representing the entire industry value chain, a whole set of regulations come into scope” Mr. Englebienne explained. “At the same time, sustainability becomes a relevant issue as there is so much discussion about minimising packaging, reducing the use of plastics, facilitating the Circular Economy, etc.”

Working with the industry collective focussed on adhesive tapes in Europe, both internally within the Secretariat at Lejeune and externally with Afera Members participating in the Webinars, Committees and Working Groups has been a positive experience for him. “There is a lot of energy within the Board and the team to deliver as much as possible to Afera’s Membership,” he said. One of his first notable projects? “2 weeks after I joined Afera’s management team, we launched a webinar series to support our Members through COVID-19 disruption, and it has been a great success, seeing increasing numbers of registrants with each new edition.”

Regulatory affairs come to the fore
Increasing importance has been put on sustainability from an environmental perspective in the past few decades. This is a major issue for various stakeholders: national and regional authorities, international organisations promoting the protection of health and the environment, industry taking on more corporate social responsibility, and consumers attaching more importance to ethics and transparency. Mr. Englebienne describes the development of a large amount of legislation touching many different areas of modern manufacturing, from which chemicals may be placed on the market and how they can be used to how they should be handled at the end of their life cycle. “All stakeholders have an interest in protecting the environment and human health, but this needs to be achieved in an efficient and socio-economically responsible way,” he said. “Monitoring the developments of these legislative initiatives today allows us to stay on track and to prevent significant adverse effects on our businesses. 

Important trends in regulatory affairs
Over the past few years, Mr. Englebienne has seen trends evolving that could have a significant impact on the tape business: First, REACH for polymers is under development and in the next couple of years could affect both adhesives and plastic backings. Second, legislative initiatives arising from the E.U. Green Deal (EGD) will have to be monitored for impact, not just directly on the tape manufacturer but downstream (on applications of tapes to specific markets) and upstream (where there will be issues with supplies becoming restricted). For instance, considerations on recyclability of packaging material, waste management of different waste streams, and restrictions on raw materials for sustainability reasons could arise from the EGD. Last, specific legislation on products which incorporate tapes into their production process and end product (e.g. electronics, white goods, vehicles and medical devices) needs to be monitored as it could affect the future use of tapes in these areas.

Help us help you
Mr. Englebienne said his biggest challenge in his new role will be ensuring that Afera is covering the complete scope of regulations and initiatives that could touch the adhesive tape industry: “This is definitely a process in which the input of Afera’s entire Membership, as well as further upstream and downstream entities, is very welcome!”

For more information on Afera’s regulatory affairs programme or to contact Pablo Englebienne, visit our contact page.