27 January 2005 17:35 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CI)--Chemical companies are wheeling around trying to determine where they stand in the great sustainable use of chemicals debate.
From the consumer point of view, the arguments are obvious. Sell me a product that is clean, green and fit for the job. Consumer product companies include chemicals in their sustainability objectives that seek to reduce their impact on the world’s scarce resources. They are increasingly demanding of their suppliers wanting to know more about suppliers’ sustainable development (SD) goals and objectives.
In many respects this is a crucial year for SD in the chemicals sector. Chemical industry SD initiatives are taking hold in the US. In the UK, the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) is determined to publish SD performance ratings this October, averaged for the (UK) chemicals sector as a whole.
Chemical producers do not operate in a vacuum and the pressure on them from their supply chains is rising markedly. The reaction has been to talk of change and it remains to be seen what SD initiatives are grasped. Nevertheless, signing up to a series of SD goals, as is being suggested by the CIA, is a major step. One would expect some of the larger chemicals producers being prepared to do so. Smaller firms, with less management capability, might not, however, feel comfortable with these demands.
But to continue to operate in this business companies have to think much more in ‘green’ and in SD terms. It really only makes good business sense.
Consumer products giant Unilever publicised today (Thursday 27 January) the fact that it is demanding much more from its suppliers, including commitment to a wide-ranging series of corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives. Unilever also welcomes Reach, the proposed European Union (EU) chemicals policy, and is promoting a downstream users stakeholder forum called Produce (piloting Reach on downstream use and communication in Europe).
Unilever is requesting "evidence of positive assurance" from its suppliers that they are responding to the demands of CSR. UK initiatives, like the supply chain leadership group (SCLG) cover a similar area in trying to influence supply chains to implement best product stewardship practice. The SCLG seeks to engage with relevant stakeholders to help chemical producers better understand the markets they ultimately sell into and trends that are shaping them.
The SCLG, a joint CIA/British Retail Consortium (BRC) initiative, is looking at supply chains in beauty products, textiles, paints and food contact materials. It is showing that chemicals producers need direction to form clear views of customer requirements and the pressures determining their strategies.
When they better understand what customers want they will understand how to serve their customers better. In doing that, SD will be at the forefront of their thinking. SD and CSR have moved from the sidelines into the forefront of business planning.
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