INSIDE VIEW ‘11: Chemical distributors ready to meet the new year

31 December 2010 17:00  [Source: ICIS news]

NACD president Christopher JahnBy Christopher Jahn
National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD)

Editor’s note: US chemical industry association leaders were given the opportunity to express their views on the challenges and opportunities for 2011.

At NACD’s recent annual meeting, Alan Beaulieu of the Institute for Trend Research highlighted the fact that economic markers are indicating that 2011 will be a brighter year and 2012 will be even better.  Now is the time for industry to staff up and start expanding their operations in preparation for the opportunities ahead. I truly believe that the chemical distribution industry has overcome the challenges that 2008–2010 delivered, and is ready to explore new territory in the coming year. NACD members continue to provide a vital service to US commerce and are conscientious toward their stewardship and performance responsibilities.

The data presented in NACD’s current Membership and Safety Report reflects that our industry is strong and safe. The typical NACD member is a small business with $26m (€20m) in revenue, 28 employees, and three sites. Every five seconds our members safely deliver products to their customers, who represent virtually every industry sector in the United States. NACD member companies’ 2009 safety performance rating is 30% better than non-member companies and more than twice as good as all manufacturing combined. While there are areas for improvement, it is clear that our industry addresses them quickly and has made significant progress in the recent years.

The chemical distribution industry is nimble, always watching the markets, and able to accommodate changes quickly. While focusing on their core expertise, they are always open to new opportunities. Perhaps the secret to their success is that they continuously foster their relationships with their supply chain partners.  In doing so, they are very aware of the needs and future expectations of their suppliers and customers.  Through Responsible Distribution, NACD member companies have business models in place that allow them to operate efficiently and safely.

Responsible Distribution works and is taking hold beyond our domestic borders.  Responsible Distribution will continue to grow as other countries see the value in third-party verification.  This year at NACD’s annual meeting, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between NACD, the Brazilian Association of Chemical Distributors (ASSOCIQUIM) and the Canadian Association of Chemical Distributors (CACD). The MOU states that the associations agree to recognise the value of their respective Responsible Distribution initiatives, especially third-party verification, as well as their impact on the global marketplace.

This historic event emphasises our common commitment to Responsible Distribution throughout the supply chain—from manufacturing, through distribution and ultimately to the end user.  We look forward to working with our peers from across the world in embracing this effort in the future.

NACD member companies adhere to the principles of Responsible Distribution, which includes the principle to “participate with the government and others in creating responsible laws, regulations, and practices to help safeguard the community, workplace and environment”.

NACD puts advocacy to action.  This past year taught us that our voice can be heard in Washington, DC.  Our members have communications plans, hazmat plans, and now they have advocacy plans.  NACD has increased its advocacy efforts throughout the year and saw a sharp increase in the engagement of our members in the legislative process.  In 2010, we brought a record number of members to Capitol Hill with a stronger voice. 

We had success in 2010, along with our industry partners, in blocking harmful legislation.  In 2011 we will work to pass common sense legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and to renew the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS).

NACD members will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to create greater awareness on Capitol Hill about the value they bring to the market supply chain and how key legislative proposals would impact the industry.

We believe 2011 will pose new legislative and regulatory threats that could potentially reshape the industry. We remain steadfast in our commitment to educate lawmakers and encourage them to consider policies that will allow our industry to prosper, remain in business and protect our local communities, economy and the environment.  We will continue to reach out to government agencies and our stakeholders to engage in the dialogue. By planning ahead and working together, we can reach our destination of a stronger, healthier, safer, more secure and profitable chemical distribution industry.

NACD continues to support the Chemical Educational Foundation (CEF) and its successful programmes – most notably the You Be the Chemist (YBTC) Challenge programme. The YBTC Challenge is a fun, educational competition that aims to engage students in grades five through eight in the study of science. The Challenge is rapidly growing. Competitions in 2010 took place in 18 states, with approximately 14,000 student participants, over 50 industry and educational institution sponsors, and hundreds of volunteers.

The YBTC programmes aim to spark student interest in the study of science at a younger age, leading to the next generation of chemists, scientists and engineers – a welcome benefit to distributors and manufacturers alike. Additionally, CEF will work in 2011 with chemical industry members to provide an avenue for active engagement in community partnerships to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry.

This year NACD launched new logos for the association and our Responsible Distribution initiative.  You will start seeing the Responsible Distribution logo at every stage of the chemical distribution process chain, serving as a seal verifying compliance with the program.  Members and our Chemical Handler Affiliates continuously improve performance in the environment, health, safety and security practices of their companies and are proud of these efforts. Responsible Distribution is “The Smart Way Forward”.   

The economy is going to be friendlier to the chemical distribution industry in 2011, with even more growth in 2012.  The industry will do more business with less uncertainty.  NACD member companies will continue to provide important links within the chemical supply chain, working with their industry partners to ensure safe and reliable chemical distribution. 

The rebounding economy, the global expansion of Responsible Distribution and a continued commitment to advocacy will all help to secure the chemical distribution industry’s place at the global economic table. 

($1 = €0.75) 

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Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

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