In 2008 the award was shared in three equal parts by Theo Colborn, Margot Wallström, and Jan Ahlbom and Ulf Duus.
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.
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.
Consequently, the 2008 Göteborg Award for Sustainable Development will go to four highly distinguished persons in these sectors, who have in different but complementary ways helped to reveal, describe and combat the negative effects of man-made chemicals on ecological systems and human health.