The Chemical Industry's Journey to Corporate Social Responsibility
Dr. Terry F. Yosie
Vice President, Responsible Care®
American Chemistry Council
The chemical industry is one of the most global of business enterprises, contributing over $1.7 trillion in value in 2001. As a result of this global reach it is uniquely positioned to provide products and services that improve the quality of life of customers and communities. Product lines as diverse as chlorination of water supplies, lightweight plastics used to protect personal safety and medical products that both diagnose and cure diseases are developed by highly educated knowledge workers that contribute to the economic and social betterment of their nations.
A singular achievement of the chemical industry during the past decade has been the expansion of Responsible Care®. Through Responsible Care®, the global chemical industry and its national associations commit to continuously improving the health, safety and environmental (HSE) performance of its products and processes, and so contribute to the sustainable development of local communities and of society as a whole.
- Promotes mutual support between companies and associations through experience sharing and peer pressure to identify and implement best practices in HSE performance.
- Encourages companies and associations to inform their publics about what they make and do, including the reporting of performance data and the products they make.
- Supports education and research on the health, safety and environmental issues on chemical processes and products.
- Helps the industry to engage and work in partnership with stakeholders at the local, national and international levels, to listen to and address their concerns and aspirations.
- Promotes cooperation with governments and organisations in the development and implementation of effective regulations and standards, and assists companies to meet or exceed those requirements.
- Enhances accountability through its requirement to develop credible processes to verify that member companies are meeting Responsible Care® goals and expectations.
Overall, Responsible Care® has achieved a considerable positive impact in all of the nations where it is implemented. Reductions in releases to air, land and water, improved worker and community safety, greater transparency of industry operations and performance and increased participation of companies and their employees in communities are hallmarks of Responsible Care® that differentiate it from all other private sector initiatives.
Responsible Care® is currently implemented in 47 nations with chemical manufacturing operations. There is a growing recognition among independent parties that Responsible Care® is making a major contribution to corporate social responsibility. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Responsible Care® was recognised by the United Nations Environmental Programme and the International Chamber of Commerce for its global progress. Tomorrow magazine gave the chemical industry its top mark after reviewing industry sector reports submitted for the Johannesburg summit. The magazine stated that stakeholder consultations through Responsible Care® had earned the chemical industry its top grade.
Corporate social responsibility as practiced through Responsible Care® is increasingly part of the business equation for chemical companies in the global marketplace. Business value is derived in such areas as the following:
- Evolving legal and regulatory practices and standards are becoming more stringent. Responsible Care® embodies elements of preventative law that protects companies from legal liability as their performance improves.
- Demonstrating leadership through capacity building. Responsible Care® contributes to the development of critical infrastructure by providing technical information and assistance, management systems, training and assisting in institution building within many nations.
- Practicing eco-efficiency—the idea of creating more economic value while making more efficient use of resources and minimising public health and environmental impacts—identifies cost savings and promotes process innovations.
- Improving customer relations occur as a result of enhanced performance that builds customers' confidence and enables them to communicate progress to their stakeholders.
- Practicing corporate social responsibility through Responsible Care® both protects a company's existing license to operate and differentiates it in a positive way in potential new markets around the world.
- Recruiting new employees is enhanced when companies can demonstrate the linkage between improved performance and social responsibility.
- Enhancing corporation reputation is a major strategic business objective. Reputation is built on a record of continuously improved performance integrated with processes for listening and dialoguing with stakeholders and communicating a company's, and an industry's, value to society.
We live in a rapidly changing world. The value and the relevance of initiatives such as Responsible Care® will become even more significant as current and future needs and requirements of society are integrated with business perspectives and plans. Both government and non-governmental organisations increasingly seek partners of choice in the private sector to combine their respective resources and talents to achieve social progress.
Responsible Care® is achieving that partner of choice status and has shown what can be achieved as the chemical industry expands its commitment towards achieving corporate social responsibility. Responsible Care® represents the chemical industry's core values. By investing in science and technology, improving performance, expanding accountability and transparency, building stakeholder partnerships and generating improved living standards, the industry will continue to advance social progress.
For more information:
American Chemistry Council
+1 703 741 5000