Chemical industry would benefit from corporate social responsibility

The UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) has called on the global chemical industry to deliver corporate social responsibility (CSR) practice, stating that it would be a benefit to the companies themselves.

“The global chemical industry has nothing to fear and everything to gain from adopting the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility,” said CIA Director of People, Knowledge and Communication Dr Anil Kumar at the 2002 conference of the International Chemical Industry Labour Relations Committee in Bergen, Norway.

“Not only can we enhance our reputation, but, primarily, there are real business benefits to be achieved from strong CSR practices,” said Kumar.

CSR and sustainable development complement each other, he said, stressing that sustainable development is not a cosmetic image exercise. “I urge the global chemical industry to take up the challenge,” he said.

One example of a major chemical company that appears to have taken CSR to heart is German firm BASF, which, on 9 July, was awarded the CIA’s first Industry Reputation Award for its Seal Sands site in Middlesbrough. According to the CIA, the prize was awarded to BASF for its exemplary effort in communicating with the local community in the Tees Valley.

BASF produces a wide variety of chemicals, and has sites around the world. The company operates a policy of integrating processes in order to reduce resource use, such as using the energy produced in one process to fuel another.

At the company’s Ludwigshafen site in Germany there are 300 chemical plants. Compared to a policy of scattering these around the country in a large number of facilities, integrating them saves BASF €500 million per year. Over the last five years, major improvements in resource conservation at the site have resulted in a 60% increase in production and has reduced fossil fuel consumption by 50%.

The company is also developing its ‘Three Litre House’, which, using innovative technologies and systems, is intended to require only three litres of fuel to run it. However, this is currently only at the preliminary stage.

Back in Seal Sands, “our CSR policy is designed to approach and communicate with all the stakeholders,” Dr Ian Mains of BASF told edie. These include community groups such as the Womens’ Institute, schools, the emergency services, the media and local MPs – many of whom, such as Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair and formerly Mo Mowlam, are highly influential.

BASF’s schools programme consists of providing ‘business ambassadors’ from all sections and levels at the Seals Sands site who visit local schools and universities to help students of all ages with issues such as CVs and training in citizenship. BASF also works to provide resources to deprived children.

The company is also involved in nature conservation and is a member of the Industry Nature Conservation Association (INCA) – whose chairman is David Ballamy, which aims to give a balanced view of the needs of both industry and conservation. BASF also sponsors the management of a number of local Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), says Dr Mains.

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