INSIGHT: CEOs can give ICCA global edge

23 October 2007 17:17  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nigel Davis

LONDON (ICIS news)--A global industry needs a global mouthpiece and a shop window that lets the world better understand it.

Unfortunately the International Council of Chemical Associations has not provided any of these things. The industry has seemed to want to see it languish in ‘virtual’ obscurity.

It may be too soon to say that all that has changed, but the ICCA suddenly has a brighter new face. It no longer looks as though it is only the repository for worthy position papers written in global industry speak.

One should not wonder why it takes so much for the industry to have a voice on some topics. The Europeans understand what it takes to manage local ‘power’ politics better than most.

But as multi-regional operators, chemical companies realise that they increasingly have to address some issues together - and take the lead in doing so.

The pressure for tighter global chemicals control in particular means that neither North America, Asia, Europe nor other regions can stand alone.

The council is now clearly company-led as opposed to simply an amalgamation of national and regional chemical industry associations with all the baggage that such an organisation carries.

There is a new board with 17 CEO members – six from the US; six from Europe; three from Japan; and one each from Asia and Latin America.

Six CEOs sit on a smaller strategy group: Jurgen Hambrecht of BASF, Francois Cornelis of Total, Andrew Liveris of Dow, Robert Wood of Chemtura, Ryuichi Tomizawa from Mitsubishi Chemical and Sumitomo Chemical president Hiromasa Yonekura.

The ICCA needed more robust governance. And it needed the drive of industry CEOs behind it rather than the entirely worthy but not always outwardly effective support of national industry associations and committees.

CEOs responded to calls for greater industry sustainability by forming the Global CEO Dialogue a few years ago. The trouble was that committee was not as effective as it might have been.

The ICCA now says it has become “more engaged, visible and proactive than ever before”. It hopes this approach will accelerate success.

The key aspect of a new three-pronged strategy is the power placed in the hands of CEOs.

The main areas in which it can have real influence are: SAICM - the strategic approach to international chemicals management, a UN Environmental Programme initiative; and GHS - the globally harmonised system for classification and labelling of chemicals, an initiative led by the UN Economic and Social Council).

It has developed the global responsible care charter and the global product strategy (GPS) initiative.   

Rightly, the ICCA is actively engaging senior executives and companies in important decision making. The strategy group is charged with keeping ICCA - and that should mean the global chemical industry - ahead of the curve on emerging issues and trends.

One of the biggest headaches for all CEOs and indeed all companies is complexity. The ICCA has not created a more complex structure but the fact that it operates in a more complex environment means that decision-making processes have had to be streamlined.

The industry has slipped and begun speaking in a multi-regional as opposed to a global voice. In terms of its own flagship Responsible Care scheme and in terms of product stewardship, it needs to speak in both.

Both are cores issues for the ICCA. While the Europeans have worried over Reach and their own federal chemical industry association structure they have let Responsible Care actions slip. The scheme needs to be revitalised and injected with renewed purpose.

On the horizon are calls for greater industry responsibility and more far-reaching product stewardship. Plans for global chemical product management loom large.

If the ICCA can spot the trends and respond proactively to key issues, then all the better.

Let’s see the industry "walk the talk" and take decisive action.


By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214



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