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

Hong Kong's TK eyes expansion, may buy Nypro Tool operation

September 19, 2014 2:49 pm ET

Hong Kong-based mold maker and plastics processor TK Group (Holdings) Ltd. said it's reached a tentative agreement to buy a tooling factory in...    More

Image

Foster building medical polymers plant

September 19, 2014 1:39 pm ET

Foster Delivery Science is investing $8 million in a new plant in Putnam, Conn., for production of medical polymer blends, as well as rods, film or...    More

Image

BP to restart damaged PTA unit in limited capacity by November

September 19, 2014 10:27 am ET

British Petroleum plc may restart its fire-damaged purified terephthalic acid (PTA) feedstock unit in South Carolina in late October or early...    More

Image

Bayer spinning off plastics business

September 18, 2014 8:49 am ET

Bayer AG will spin off its MaterialScience plastics group into a separate, publicly-traded company within the next 12 to 18 months.    More

Image

Investor group wants DuPont to split in two

September 18, 2014 7:37 pm ET

Investment firm Trian Fund Management LP is calling for plastics and chemicals giant DuPont Co. to split itself into two firms, one of which would inc...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

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

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

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

More Events