28 September 2012 09:54 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (ICIS)--The reputation of the chemicals industry may be stronger than many in the sector imagine, according to a set of surveys revealed by industry body the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) at the first day of its general assembly late on Thursday.
The council carried out two surveys, one of Brussels policymakers, advocacy groups and non-governmental organisations, and one of the general public in 10 European countries. The chemical industry received a reputation index score of 56 in the European survey and 60 in Brussels survey.
“We were reasonably positively surprised by the scores – with a reputation index of about 50, you are actually starting from a position of relative strength, and to score 56 across Europe and 60 in Brussels is a pretty good starting point,” said Ben van Beurden, a Cefic board member and executive vice president of Shell’s chemical division.
The chemicals industry was most popular with general public respondents from the UK and Germany, with reputation index scores of 63.8 and 60.1 from those countries. The industry proved least popular in Italy and France, scoring 51.6 and 52.2 respectively.
The key theme in positive responses was the importance of the industry to everyday life, while companies' performances on safety and environmental concerns were more divisive, according to Cefic.
Respondents broadly backed the idea of tougher regulation for the chemicals industry up to a certain point, but some expressed fears that excessive restrictions would force companies to relocate and reduce their capacity to produce new products.
However, the industry’s scores did not put it in the top quartile for industry reputation index scores, with computer technology, nanotechnology and biotechnology among the best-regarded sectors.
van Beurden said: “We talk about this industry as an entity which creates products that are essential for modern day life, and that message also resonates with the people we surveyed."
"It is important to have that credibility, because opaque or as difficult to understand as the industry may be, if we can’t get the message across that we are somehow also beneficial through products that people use or depend on in their everyday lives, we would find it much tougher to argue about some of the side-effects of the industry,” he added.
The surveys were carried out in partnership with communications consultancy APCO.
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