Chinese urged to widely adopt Responsible Care

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: September 14, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Materials, Suppliers

TIANJIN, CHINA (Sept. 14, 1:30 p.m. ET) — China’s chemical industry needs to do more to address challenges it faces building public trust over pollution and chemical health concerns, several senior industry officials said at a recent conference.

There are signs of an increasingly active Chinese public on environmental issues, such as a protest in Dalian last year that saw thousands of residents march through the downtown to demand the relocation of a factory making a building block of polycarbonate. More recently, industrial projects have been canceled this summer in Jiangsu and Sichuan provinces after sizable public protests about pollution.

Against that background, some industry officials used the conference as a platform to push for more action.

The suggestions delivered at the 2012 China Petroleum and Chemical International Conference in Tianjin included having more companies in China adopt the global “Responsible Care” standards governing environmental, health and safety operations, along with stepping up communication with the public.

As well, some suggested China look for lessons in Germany’s chemical sector, whose representatives told a conference panel titled “Chemicals and Public Perception” that they’ve seen public opinion in Germany improve after chemical companies took a more open attitude and improved safety and environmental performance.

Public trust issues are not unique to China, and like chemical and plastics industries worldwide, Chinese companies believe they have a positive story to tell about how their materials are vital to modern life and can play a significant role in addressing problems like global warming.

But first, they suggested that the public perception need to be better dealt with.

Zhao Jungui, vice chairman of the Beijing-based China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation, told the panel that China’s industry is serious about making improvements, and as an example pointed to the CPCIF last year working with the Chinese government to adopt the global Responsible Care program in China.

Almost 100 percent of the chemical factories in China’s 160 designated chemical industrial parks have signed on for Responsible Care, he said. But one hurdle for wider participation is the diversity of companies, from world-class facilities to older or smaller factories outside the parks, he said.

“The challenge is that Chinese chemical companies vary a lot in size and capability,” Zhao said, adding that CPCIF is urging more participation from industry. Companies should “please walk the talk,” he said.

He said media coverage of chemical issues is not balanced but he said industry does not communicate well enough with the public and media: “We also have our own faults to blame.”

It’s vital to get 100 percent industry participation in programs like Responsible Care because a small minority of problem companies can set the entire industry back, said Klaus Schaefer, president of Bayer MaterialScience China, who gave a presentation on the German industry’s efforts to turnaround public opinion after a series of industrial accidents in the 1980s.

“If there is 20 or 30 percent of our chemical industry not following that way, we will have no possibility to improve our reputation,” he said. “It is about the whole industry. CPCIF can help very much to achieve higher standards.”

“Twenty percent black sheep can destroy the whole thing,” he said.

A member of the China Academy of Engineering who has studied the Dalian protests and similar situations said the public does not understand chemical issues and the media exaggerate risks, but agreed that industry does not do enough.

“The issue here is the lack of transparent communication between the chemical industry and the public,” said Jin Yong, a member of academy and professor in the department of chemical engineering at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

Two speakers from Germany said the industry there faced a difficult period in the early 1990s, including questions about its legitimacy as an industry, after a series of accidents that polluted rivers and contaminated residential areas.

“It became more and more difficult for our industry to operate in those days,” said BMS’s Shaefer. “Our license to operate was at risk.”

Following pressure from government and environmental groups, industry worked to enhance safety and reduce emissions, cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent from 1990 to 2005, while production rose by 60 percent, according to a presentation delivered by materials manufacturer Lanxess AG.

“This high pressure created by these organizations was forcing the German chemical industry to be very modern… and today I would say we still benefit from the developments we had in those days,” said Ralph Armbrust, head of corporate development for Lanxess Greater China.

“It’s rather better to put a lot of pressure on industry so that they become stronger, and become fitter and the technology becomes better,” he told the conference. “In those days in Germany, the companies did not see this but I think today we can all be happy we went through this change and this evolution.”

Schaefer said the German industry also meets with politicians from environmental political parties to help them better understand the chemical industry: “We are communicating with people our predecessors might have seen as enemies.”

A group of 50 foreign chemical companies operating in China, the Beijing-based Association of International Chemical Manufacturers, have been working with Chinese companies and government agencies on Responsible Care, including hosting open houses in Chinese chemical industry parks.

“Let me use this opportunity to encourage everyone in the industry to implement Responsible Care – it is the safest way to increase your company’s bottom line and be sustainable at the same time,” said AICM President Peter Von Zumbusch in a speech at the conference. He is also president of Wacker Chemicals (China) Co. Ltd., part of Munich-based Wacker Chemie AG.

“Today the public perception of the chemical industry is still not so favorable in China,” he said.

AICM members account for about 15 percent of China’s chemical production.

The Tianjin conference, held Sept. 10-12, was hosted by the CPCIF and the Tianjin city government and co-organized by Houston-based consulting firm IHS Chemical and the AICM.


Comments

Chinese urged to widely adopt Responsible Care

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: September 14, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Design, materials, engineering finding a faster way forward

August 27, 2014 1:50 pm ET

Engineering and design specialists at Altair Thinklabs and Eastman Chemical Co. have developed prototypes that would not just help Paralympics...    More

Image

Design Stories: Young designers showing the way in adaptive design

August 27, 2014 12:12 pm ET

Amanda Bolton, then 19, decided to change her major at the University of Cincinnati from fine arts to industrial design, creating products for people ...    More

Image

Sony entering recycled PC market

August 27, 2014 11:08 am ET

Consumer electronics giant Sony Corp. is getting into a sideline of selling recycled resins.    More

Image

PolyOne expands special effects offerings for PET

August 27, 2014 11:03 am ET

PolyOne Corp. has added a new line of shimmer and frost-effect colorants to its InVisio line of color services and solutions.    More

Image

Scott & Fyfe launches fire-resistant mat for rail cars

August 27, 2014 10:56 am ET

Scott & Fyfe Ltd. has added an exceptionally fire-resistant chopped glass mat to its Polymat reinforcement product line.    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events