By: Bernhard Thier, Responsible Care Manager, European Chemical Industry Council
The accomplishment of the objectives of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and ensuring the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are vital to the maintenance of international peace and security.
The chemical industry supports these objectives unconditionally and actively seeks to cooperate with governments to effectively implement the requirements of the CWC relating to the monitoring of trade in chemicals, as well as ensuring the non-diversion of the chemicals produced at industrial facilities. This support for the objectives of the CWC is deeply rooted in the chemical industry’s voluntary Responsible Care initiative. The effective implementation of the requirements of the CWC is an important tool employed by the industry to fulfil its commitment to Responsible Care and to the management of chemicals world wide.
Since its launch in 1985, the Responsible Care initiative has continuously sought to enhance the measures undertaken by the global chemical industry on standards relating to safety, health, and the environment during the manufacture and processing of chemicals. Under Responsible Care, companies are also committed to creating awareness by informing the public of the risks and benefits of the processes adopted by the chemical manufacturers. In addition, the companies need to interact with the stakeholders at the local, national, and international levels. To accomplish these objectives, the chemical industry closely interacts with governments and relevant organisations to develop effective regulations that would safeguard the community, workplace and environment. Companies that are associated with Responsible Care are committed to meeting or exceeding these requirements.
In February 2006, the Responsible Care Global Charter was launched at the United Nations’ International Conference on Chemicals Management in Dubai. The chemical industry represented by the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) took the initiative for this Charter, which was a landmark achievement for the chemical industry’s Responsible Care initiative. Since then, the ICCA has positioned the Global Charter as a primary tool for implementation of the UN-led Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) that was adopted at the Dubai conference. SAICM was developed to meet the standards set at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. This standard requires that by 2020 chemicals will be used and produced in ways that lead to the minimisation of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. The Global Charter is committed to achieving this objective.
The Responsible Care Global Charter provides guidance and direction to companies and relevant organisations to meet the objective of continuous improvement in the chemical industry. These include the identification of nine key elements requiring action and commitment by national and regional chemical associations and their members. The most important element in this commitment is to address the safe management of chemicals throughout the “value chain”.
The sound management of health, safety and environmental issues at production sites is and will continue to be the basis of Responsible Care work. However, today these elements are addressed as an integral part of the life cycle of chemical products, including an intensive dialogue with all stakeholders. In the chemical industry this practice is called “product stewardship”. Dedicated to the responsible handling of chemicals throughout the value chain is the Global Product Strategy (GPS), launched in conjunction with the Global Charter. With GPS, the ICCA has committed itself to the implementation of all regulatory requirements with regard to risk assessment and risk management. One of the main achievements of the GPS to date is the development of a comprehensive set of global guidelines for product stewardship. The guidelines provide practical help to all those in the chemical chain of commerce, particularly those with less product stewardship expertise or fewer resources at their disposal. The guidelines include principles to be applied from beginning to end of the product life cycle in research and development, raw-materials procurement, manufacturing, sales, distribution, handling, use and disposal or recycling of chemicals.
In order to accomplish the objectives of the Global Charter the ICCA has developed a comprehensive work plan, the implementation of which is to be a continuous process. The CEOs of multinational companies, as well as national associations, have approved and accepted the Global Charter, which strongly reflects corporate commitment to Responsible Care.
A new global Responsible Care governance process has also been developed. This process details the roles and responsibilities to govern and implement Responsible Care at the international, regional, national and company levels. The important elements are to make efforts to harmonise this initiative across more than 50 countries, provide assistance on request to improve the performance of companies, and ensure the integrity of the Responsible Care programme.
The Global Charter has already raised the profile of Responsible Care, with some successes being achieved. In 2007, the Russian Chemists Union joined the Responsible Care initiative and an aspirant to join the Charter is the newly formed Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA). The GPCA has an extensive membership base throughout the chemicals sector in the Middle East.
Over the past two years, the Charter has been circulated and publicised among the industry and its stakeholders. It has also been analysed and reviewed by associations and their member companies, generating a lot of activity at all levels. The Charter stresses the need for all associated companies to provide the essential resources and the manpower to support and nurture the implementation of industry’s signature performance initiative, Responsible Care.
The implementation of Responsible Care by companies and their subsidiaries around the world and the extension of this initiative in new sectors and countries will contribute to achieving the aims of the CWC.