American Chemistry Council sharpens focus on product stewardship

Care package

08 April 2009 00:00  [Source: ICB]

The American Chemistry Council seeks to highlight product stewardship and sustainability via Responsible Care as part of a global effort

TIMES CHANGE. New regulations, safety concerns and public and governmental priorities are shaping the face of the chemical landscape. And the chemical industry's Responsible Care program is fast changing with the times.

Product stewardship, sustainability and process safety have moved to the forefront of discussion, and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) is boosting its focus on these areas as part of its Responsible Care program.

"One of the great attributes of Responsible Care is that it's not a static set of standards or goals," says ACC president and CEO Cal Dooley. "It's an evolving program that allows for continuous improvement. Shifts in emphasis in no way detract from the overall commitment the industry is making to progress in a host of areas."

On March 2, the ACC announced Responsible Car performance targets focusing on product stewardship and process safety.

This included a 25% improvement in the Recordable Incident Rate over five years for employees and contractors, a 20% improvement in the Lost Workday Case Rate over five years, the development of publicly available product stewardship summaries for 100% of high-priority chemicals by 2012, and an 18% greenhouse gas intensity reduction by 2012, using 1990 as the base year.

"There will likely be some provisions in a US climate change policy that will give some credit to early action by the industry," says Dooley. "We are very proud of what we have accomplished. In the past 20 years, the US chemical industry has reduced its environmental emissions 20% while increasing production by 35%. We have also cut greenhouse gas intensity by more than 30% since 1992."

STEWARDSHIP AND SUSTAINABILITY

The ACC is sharpening its focus on product stewardship and the wider impact of chemicals on society and the environment as part of a broader global effort by the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA).

The ICCA, a global coalition of chemical trade associations, of which the ACC is a member, has been committed to developing its Global Product Strategy (GPS) to improve product stewardship throughout the chain of commerce.

"We've already folded the Global Product Strategy (GPS) into Responsible Care. We are also tracking greenhouse gas emissions and improvements in energy efficiency," says Dooley. "On the social side, as part of our RC program we're asking our companies to also communicate their community outreach activities to demonstrate how our industry is responding to specific community concerns."

The Responsible Care Global Charter and GPS were launched in 2006 at the UN-sponsored International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM-1) in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. The GPS fosters, measures and communicates product stewardship efforts.

"The global chemical industry is part of the solution for a better environment and a more sustainable society," said Dooley, US-based chemical firm Celanese chairman and CEO David Weidman, and Canadian Chemical Producers' Association president and CEO Richard Paton in a media conference call on March 24. "The ICCA, its member associations and the companies they represent are improving product stewardship worldwide to ensure chemicals are manufactured, handled and used in a safe and environmentally sound manner throughout their life cycles."

"We've taken the requirements of GPS and embedded them into Responsible Care," says Debra Phillips, the ACC's managing director of the Responsible Care initiative.

For example, ACC companies have been required to organize their chemicals into high-priority and low-priority products based on exposure, volumes and toxicity.

"Then they must develop product stewardship and product safety summaries for those high-priority products, and communicate them publicly," says Phillips. "We're facilitating the transfer of very digestible information for the public and posting these on our website - from risks to best handling practices."

The reporting of the summaries and prioritization process started in 2008.And the global chemical industry is pushing Responsible Care through the supply chain, with producers cooperating with distributors.

DEVELOPING COOPERATION

On March 11, a significant milestone was passed when the ICCA and the International Council of Chemical Trade Associations (ICCTA) signed an agreement to closely cooperate in the promotion of their respective Responsible Care and Responsible Distribution initiatives.

"Responsible Care is our global industry's commitment to sustainability. The dialogue between chemical manufacturers and distributors on the responsible handling and use of chemicals is essential to industry's commitment to Responsible Care and Responsible Distribution along the supply chain," says Alain Perroy, director general of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), and ICCA council secretary.

"Chemical distributors are actively involved in the promotion and implementation of environmental, health and safety initiatives such as Responsible Care and Responsible Distribution, and we are committed to sharing best practices around the world," adds Hendrik Abma, director general of the European Association of Chemical Distributors (FECC) and deputy secretary general of ICCTA.

Ccooperation between producers and distributors is a main objective of the Responsible Care Global Charter and the ICCTA Responsible Care and Responsible Distribution initiatives. The ICCA-ICCTA cooperation also introduces these initiatives in emerging countries.

RAISE THE BAR & SET THE AGENDA

The second session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM-2) takes place in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 11-15. Industry representatives, including 10 company CEOs, will gather not only to discuss progress made in improving the safe management of chemicals, but also explain how the global chemical industry will demonstrate its economic, social and environmental commitments around the globe.

It is an opportunity for the industry to raise the bar and set the agenda for global chemicals management, taking a global leadership role and staying ahead of the game as product safety concerns grow.

The first session of the International Conference of Chemicals Management (ICCM-1) took place in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, in February 2006. The industry took on two new initiatives - the Responsible Care Global Charter, and the Global Product Strategy (GPS) to help fulfill the objectives of the UN's Strategic Approach of International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

SAICM is the international policy framework that encourages governments, industry and stakeholders to work together to realize the goals established at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development - that by 2020, chemicals will be produced and used in ways that minimize adverse impacts to human health and the environment.

The GPS includes a 2018 target date for assessing the safety of chemicals in commerce and an interim 2012 target for companies to report on their progress in making these assessments.

"At ICCM-2, the industry is eager to report its progress in implementing the Responsible Care Global Charter and Global Product Strategy," says ICCA president Christian Jourquin. "The Global Charter goes beyond the elements of industry's existing Responsible Care safety, health and environment programs to address the growing public dialogue over sustainable development, public health issues relating to the use of chemical products, and the need for greater industry transparency. And the GPS both advances and measures industry's product stewardship performance and improves communication with stakeholders."

The Responsible Care brand is owned and registered at the national level by chemical trade associations. Global coordination of the program is done through the ICCA.

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By: Joseph Chang
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