Continuous improvement. A noble goal, but one that is easier said than done in any aspect of our lives.
Yet American Chemistry Council (ACC) and Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA) members and partners must commit to continuous improvement in their operations through the Responsible Care initiative's six existing Codes of Management Practices. (A seventh code, the Security Code, currently is under development. See p. 15 for a related story.)
Many companies, however, have achieved remarkable success, going "over and beyond the call of duty" in code implementation. Chemical Processing invited several of these overachievers to share their stories with us.
Connecting with communities
Of all the Codes of Management Practices, the Community Awareness and Emergency Response (CAER) Code is perhaps the most visible, requiring chemical facilities to ensure emergency preparedness and to foster right-to-know through an openness and dialogue with their local communities. Standouts in this area have a particularly strong commitment to their communities ," often facilitated through their community advisory panels (CAPs).
Norwalk, Conn.-based Arch Chemicals Inc. enjoys an exceptionally healthy relationship with its nine CAPs. According to Laura Tew, Arch's director of stakeholder relations, CAP members are vital to the company's CAER Code implementation.
In fact, when Arch went through its management systems verification (MSV) last year at its Shreveport, La., and Brandenburg, Ky., facilities, the CAPs played an important role in the process. Selected CAP members not only helped prepare for the MSV process, says Tew, but also joined the peer reviewers in interviewing executives at company headquarters and plant-level management and operating personnel at the two facilities.
"It was particularly helpful to us in bringing that third-party view to our MSV," contends Tew. "We felt it made it more meaningful and more helpful to us." The company posted the executive summary associated with these efforts on its Web site, she adds, to share the experience with all of its business locations.
Arch views its CAPs as a benefit to both the communities and company operations, not as an obligation. For example, its Rochester, N.Y., facility and associated CAP have had a "wonderful sustaining" relationship for more than 10 years, says Tew. The Arch facility has an elementary school initiative in place that has enriched both students and teachers, and the principal has dedicated a significant amount of time to serving on the CAP.
To the company's benefit, the same CAP has been "consistently involved" in a groundwater contamination issue at the facility site, says Tew. "Not only are they able to give us insight from a public point of view by talking with project managers, but they also are in evidence and support at public meetings with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation," she notes. "They've been able to ask probing questions and give us the public view on this project for many years."
Arch also believes in measuring the results of its CAER Code efforts, says Tew, and calls on its CAP members to evaluate themselves in five key areas of success. At least every two years, CAP members grade themselves ," using a numerical ranking system ," in five categories: organizational structure, member participation, representation of the community's diversity, information sharing and community outreach. Developed by the CAPs, the tool helps identify where improvements are needed.
CAP members also evaluate Arch's CAP-related efforts through surveys that are mailed out every other year. "By looking over [the results], we can see how Arch needs to improve," stresses Tew.
Through its involvement with its CAPs, Arch has been able to improve the public's perception of its operations, adds Tew. "I think in the beginning, with every CAP, there's a bit of a suspicion," she says. "Over time, that role becomes better understood just through the process of exchange and working on projects together."
The Lonza Group Riverside facility in Conshohocken, Pa., boasts exceptional performance in both community awareness and emergency response.
Paul Sieracki, the facility's operations manager, credits the Switzerland-based Lonza Group and its commitment to the overall Responsible Care initiative to the site's stellar achievements under the CAER Code. The Lonza Group purchased the site in 1992 from SmithKlineBeecham and used the Responsible Care program "as sort of an initiative to get involved with the community," he explains.
"The first thing we did was conduct a survey, basically trying to find out if people knew who we were and what we did," says Sieracki. "We pretty much found out that they didn't know who we were or what we did. So we did a mass mailing. We contacted several leaders in the community. We sent them some information about the company, and then we invited them in."
Since that earlier introduction, the Riverside site started a CAP and has become a very enthusiastic participant within the community. "We sponsor lots of teams in different organizations," notes Sieracki. "We have one of our employees on the citizens' advisory council to the police department as a chairman of that group. There's a community day every year that we participate in ," we set up a big table and hand out information and answer questions. We have a science shadowing program where every year we bring in high schools students who spend a day here going through our labs to get an idea of what chemistry is all about."
The company also is involved in senior citizen activities, fire company tours, HAZMAT drills, the Lonza Emergency Response Team (LERT) Fire School training and more. "It's one of our core values ," getting involved with the community," adds Sieracki.