Celebrating 20 years of Responsible Care
HEMICALS are the building blocks of life and bring about benefits upon which modern society is entirely dependent. They also make an important contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of people in terms of trade and employment and, due to their omnipresence, are a significant contributor to the world economy, according to Deidré Penfold, executive director at the Chemical and Allied Industries’ Association (CAIA).
She says this is also true for the South African chemical industry that is a key sector of the country’s economy in transition – accounting for approximately 25 percent of manufacturing sales.
“Playing such a leading role in our economy, the chemical industry must be, and is, committed to research and the implementation of technology, which results in the development of new chemical products that meet strict global product safety requirements and increased performance in the sustainability arena.
“These investments benefit society as a whole and result in the continuous improvement in the safety, health and environmental performance of the South African chemical industry.”
Penfold says Responsible Care is a dynamic initiative that is constantly evolving to meet the challenges facing chemical manufacturers and all those involved in the value chain.
Responsible Care is the chemical industry’s unique global voluntary initiative that drives continuous improvement in safety, health and environmental (SHE) performance.
Launched in Canada in 1985 to address public concerns regarding the manufacture, distribution and use of chemicals, the Responsible Care initiative has spread worldwide under the leadership of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) over the last three decades. Responsible Care is now practiced in over 60 countries around world.
CAIA is the custodian of Responsible Care in South Africa, where the initiative was introduced in 1994. CAIA is a member of the ICCA which supports the United Nations’ Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). SAICM is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world, having the overall objective of achieving the sound management of chemicals throughout their lifecycle, so that by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
“Over the last 20 years Responsible Care has helped CAIA member companies to significantly enhance their performance and to make a strong contribution towards sustainable development by embracing the development and application of sustainable chemistry and by supporting the industry’s management of chemicals; including the communication of chemical risks throughout
Cthe supply chain,” says Penfold.
“Responsible Care has made an important and unique contribution to the safe handling of hazardous chemicals, the safety of personnel, the safe operation of production processes as well as resource efficiency and the reduction of the generation and disposal of all forms of waste.
“At the end of 2013, the association had 154 signatories that were committed to the implementation of the Responsible Care initiative.
“Participation in the Responsible Care initiative is a condition of membership at CAIA. Most membership categories are required to make chief executive officer-level commitments to uphold the elements of the Responsible Care initiative in their operations and business practices in the areas of: occupational health and safety; environmental performance; resource efficiency; product stewardship; transportation safety; process safety; community awareness; and emergency preparedness and response,” explains Penfold.
She says implementation of the principles of the Responsible Care initiative within a company begins when the company’s CEO signs the Responsible Care Public Commitment. This is done in the presence of the company’s employees and other interested parties. The commitment sets out the Responsible Care Guiding Principles and becomes evidence of the company’s commitment to uphold them.
“Responsible Care is an ethic and a commitment that seeks to build the confidence and trust in an industry that is essential to improving living standards and quality of life of people around the world. Importantly, it is also a practical and visible tool for meeting industry’s obligations to manage the risks associated with the production and transportation of chemicals.
“Furthermore, it goes beyond only meeting legislative and regulatory requirements by adopting cooperative and voluntary initiatives with government and other stakeholders,” says Penfold. Companies that commit to Responsible Care:
Implement sustainable development concepts aimed at conserving natural resources for the benefit of future generations;
Promote transparent communication with stakeholders by reporting the implementation status, targets and results of their performance to all employees and the public;
Pursue a dialogue with employees, customers, shareholders and the public – actively responding to their opinions and requests and taking these into account in developing shared best practices along the whole value chain; and,
Establish common principles for operating as a sustainable and ethical sector.
Penfold says the chemical industry recognises that to remain competitive in a market where intensified regulations on emissions and waste are putting chemical manufacturers under pressure, and to meet the public’s expectation for the continuous improvement in performance and the sound management of chemicals companies must be innovative and proactive in addressing the significant sustainability and economic issues, which are currently faced in South Africa and the rest of the world.
“Responsible Care is therefore based on the implementation of best management practices, which give management peace of mind that everything possible is being done to ensure that the chemicals they manufacture will be produced, stored, transported and used in a responsible and sustainable manner, thereby minimising the risk of potential adverse consequences.
“The successful implementation of the Responsible Care initiative requires the commitment and participation of all company employees as well as the integration of the Responsible Care Guiding Principles into the company’s existing management systems.
“This will result in every employee acting in line with corporate safety and environmental protection objectives,” says Penfold.
Responsible Care Management Practice Standards and Guideline Documents provide signatories with strategic direction when it comes to the day-to-day decisions that are crucial to the attainment of sustainability objectives.
The CAIA executive director says management practice standards and guidelines also provide the criteria for the review of company management systems to ensure they are sufficient to protect the long-term safety and health of employees, communities and the environment.
She says the measurement of performance and the assessment of compliance with the Responsible Care Management Practice Standards are requirements for all signatories, which entails a thorough and ongoing process at several levels – including self-assessments and verification audits which are carried out by independent, well-trained auditors.
Such an audit is required every two or three years; depending on the activity; ensuring that signatories are doing what they are reporting and continuously improving their performance in line with the ultimate goal of the Responsible Car initiative.
Penfold says the accurate reporting of key performance-indicative data is at the heart of Responsible Care, and signatory companies are committed to reporting openly and transparently.
Data is submitted annually to CAIA, which includes safety, health, environmental and management information about their processes and products. There are three main outcomes from the submission of this data; it is used to: drive continuous improvement; evaluate year-on-year performance, and benchmark signatories against the overall performance of the relevant subsector.
Aggregate statistics are made publicly available in each annual report as well as on the CAIA website, which is evidence of industry’s commitment to transparency when it comes to the reporting of performance. Furthermore, CAIA provides comparable data to the ICCA so that the South African chemical industry may be benchmarked against the performance of the rest of the world.
“This is also an important element of industry’s commitment to quantitatively demonstrate progress in its performance and chemical management activities which contributes to ensuring the integrity of the Responsible Care initiative worldwide,” says Penfold.
“The chemical industry in South Africa is proud of the achievements that have been realised through the implementation of the Responsible Care initiative over the last 20 years, but realises that they have committed to an initiative that is based on achieving continuous performance improvements, while balancing sustainability and economic objectives.
“This continuous effort is a hallmark of the initiative that delivers improvement in all aspects of the industry’s operations. Companyand public-specific expectations will shape the future of Responsible Care and so too will the increasing dialogue surrounding sustainable development and the contributions and investments that individual companies will need to make so that progress is made in these areas.