26 May 2014 00:00 [Source: ICB]
As Europe’s trade association for chemical distribution, Fecc is committed to deliver on its ambitious business plan to become a more efficient and effective organisation. “We continue to provide and bring more services to our members and at the same time to offer our expertise to [regulatory and EU] institutions,” says director general Uta Jensen-Korte.
Key deliverables for members include best practice and guidance documents that help members cope with legislation. Fecc has also recently produced model agreements on trade controls, and a reference document updating members on new requirements in the EU cosmetics regulation that came into force in July last year.
“Our expertise is now well recognised by the European Commission in various areas and so we are consulted and invited to contribute,” says Jensen-Korte. This, she adds, is a positive approach of exchange of views and information.
To ensure its voice is heard as effectively as possible, Fecc has established itself as a key partner for other trade bodies and takes part in several wider industry groupings. It is working closely, for example, with Cefic, the European chemical producers association, as well as surfactants/cleaners group AISE, coatings body CEPE and metals association Eurometaux.
Fecc is also playing a part in appropriate industry value chain groupings, such as DUCC (the Downstream Users of Chemicals Coordination group), which offers a platform for associations whose member companies use chemicals to formulate mixtures, thus playing a part in a platform that covers the whole supply chain including representatives of end user industries. It is also a member of the Directors’ Contact Group that is currently helping smooth the way for companies, especially SMEs, preparing for the Reach chemicals policy’s 2018 deadline.
And it has earned observer status on several Commission working groups, such as those covering aspects of Reach, the EU’s chemicals policy regulation, and CLP, its legislation on the classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals.
All of this, Jensen-Korte explains, ensures that Fecc’s voice and members’ concerns and opinions are heard effectively at the European level. To ensure authoritative input, “Fecc relies on the support of its members and the specialists within Fecc”, she says. These include Fecc staff and Jensen-Korte herself, who before becoming director general of the association had already built up extensive expertise with Reach and CLP.
PROGRESS IN 2013
Fecc, she says, has had a busy and successful year since the last annual meeting in Hamburg, Germany. On Responsible Care, for instance, “we are currently revising the programme to improve clarity and increase its credibility”. A first draft has been produced of a quality management system that will safeguard and uphold the standards of the Fecc Responsible Care programme.
Another step has been to automate and simplify the Responsible Care survey that gathers all the key performance indicators (KPIs), making it simpler to use and easier to analyse and use the data.
In 2013, a number of sites achieved the necessary performance that allows them to use the Responsible Care logo permanently under the Fecc programme, and two new applications to enter the programme have recently been received.
“Our expertise is now well recognised by the European Commission in various areas and so we are consulted and invited to contribute”
Product Stewardship is another key area for Fecc and its members. Last autumn saw a successful workshop held with producers, distributors and downstream users on chlorinated solvents. This year, Fecc is planning a further workshop, this time on food safety and how to comply with regulations as a chemical distributor.
The workshop has been designed to deliver a well balanced mixture of theoretical information and practical solutions to the many problems distributors are facing in this area, says Jensen-Korte.
Other areas where Fecc has been delivering on its business plan include precursors, where with the expertise of its members has contributed to the development of the guidance document for explosive precursors, and good trade and distribution practices (GTDP), where Fecc held a symposium in March to inform members about the latest developments related to pharmaceutical, food, feed and cosmetics legislation.
“We have also been involved in the successful launch of EXCiPACT asbl, where Fecc is an important member and is represented on the board and in management,” says Jensen-Korte. EXCiPACT is a voluntary international scheme to provide independent third-party certification of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of pharmaceutical excipients.
REACH - AN ONGOING TASK
One area that has kept the chemical industry busy over the past decade and more has been the EU’s chemicals policy Reach, which came into force in mid-2007 and will only be fully phased in by 2018. Fecc, in association with other trade bodies, has been active in representing and advising its members on Reach and has recently been playing a key role in intense discussions to improve the exposure scenarios (ESs) that are required under the regulation.
“This is a really high priority for industry and ECHA [the European Chemical Agency], and we are working on harmonisation of the ES format, which is highly desired by our members and will help them a lot,” says Jensen-Korte. “A lot of resources are going into this on both sides.” Work is being progressed through the Expert Network on Exposure Scenarios (ENES).
Fecc is also providing support and seeking simplification for the last Reach registration deadline in 2018, which will bring all chemicals produced in or imported into Europe in volumes between 1 and 100 tonnes/year into scope of Reach. This will particularly impact smaller companies and SMEs, notably in terms of the cost of compliance. To this end, Fecc is looking for fairer and transparent cost sharing among the Siefs (substance information exchange forums) and simplification of the registration requirements within the legal framework.
Other than this, says Jensen-Korte, Reach is now on the “cruising phase” between the most recent deadline in 2013 and the last one in 2018. “We have passed two deadlines; experience has been gained, but the 2018 deadline will be the most challenging. Companies need to anticipate; to look at their portfolios and identify the substance which will be registered in 2018 and start acting now: not at the last moment.”
In general, the Fecc director general says, European as well as global regulatory requirements are getting more and more demanding and burdensome. These cover technical, social, environmental and competition aspects of doing business. “A company needs to be fully prepared to comply with the complex regulatory framework, and even more to comply when they are trading in non-EU countries.” This, she adds, hits smaller companies especially, as a lot of people with expertise are required.
But putting concerns over regulations aside, the industry is generally optimistic about the future, says Jensen-Korte. “Members are seeing some optimism and certain areas of Europe have had an encouraging start to 2014 in the distribution sector.” Certainly Germany has been performing strongly and the US is seeing business activity increase. But it is still uncertain when the southern European states will begin to pick up.
“Economic growth is helping the distributors but it’s not only this. Some principals seem to be giving more business to distributors and making more service requests of them.”
Fecc members continue, she says, to look at expansion, both geographic and in terms of product portfolio. Much of this is driven by acquisition, particularly of the larger players in established markets. They are looking to expand into Turkey, Asia, North Africa and South America, among others, and are particularly keen to move into areas such as food and feed chemicals.
“But we are even seeing some distributors building presence in Scandinavia and the UK, for instance. A lot depends on how pan-Europe the company already is and how big they are.” Some medium-sized players are still wanting to increase their pan-EU coverage.
Fecc member companies active in such expansion efforts include Brenntag, Azelis, Barentz, Campi y Jove, Caldic, IMCD, R2 Group, Biesterfeld and Nordmann, Rassmann, to name only a few. The market coverage is as a result showing some ongoing consolidation, she adds, pointing to the Netherlands and France as cases in point. The process is expected to continue, she adds.
The impact on Fecc’s membership is not, however, significant as its direct membership consists of the larger, more pan-EU companies that are active in a number of countries. Indeed, the association has just welcomed four new members: distributors Cornelius Group in the UK, DKSH of Switzerland, and CG Chemikalien of Germany. Chemical producer Evonik Industries has joined as an associate member.
Developing its membership is a priority for Fecc and “absolutely imperative to strengthen our position as the European voice of the chemical distribution industry”, explains Jensen-Korte. However, she admits it is proving challenging to reach further into Eastern Europe as targeted. Most of the companies here are smaller, purely national or even regional distributors, or are already part of west European Fecc member companies.
Fecc is also encountering the same problem when reaching out to engage SMEs, in that most of them have very local areas of operation in niche markets.
However, she adds, reaching more SMEs has been and will remain an important objective for Fecc. “Making sure that an Fecc membership represents benefits for them is one of the issues we work hard on. We are very happy that more SMEs join the congress every year, and most of our workshops are open to non-members as well.”
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