Can You See Me Now?

Revamped Responsible Care Strives for Transparency

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"Responsible Care changed the culture of an entire chemical industry."

," Barry Stutts, manager of the Responsible Care initiative for Pittsburgh-based Bayer Polymers, at the American Chemistry Council's (ACC) recent Responsible Care conference in Miami

The above statement speaks volumes about an initiative that has driven numerous environmental, health and safety (EH&S) improvements.

To celebrate Responsible Care's 15th anniversary in the United States, ACC is giving the initiative a facelift ," a makeover of ambitious proportions. ACC said the changes strive for transparency, credibility and consistency in performance. Moreover, the new approach encourages involvement at all levels of a company, so you might want to pay close attention to the changes even if you are not currently tasked with EH&S activities.

Why change?

"At no time in history has this industry been as efficient, socially conscious or essential to our well-being," stressed Greg Lebedev, ACC's president and CEO, during the conference's opening session. "Yet, at no time in history have we been viewed with such broad-based suspicion and apprehension. The social proposition that the public loves their way of life, yet fears the people who bring it to them' is untenable."

Unfortunately, Lebedev's observations ring true. Despite their remarkable strides in pollution prevention, safety performance, product stewardship and other areas, ACC member companies have not been completely successful in conveying their Responsible Care stories to a still-wary public. Moreover, actions taken under the original initiative to boost EH&S performance appeared to be losing some steam.

"Frankly, [Responsible Care] was getting stale," said Michael E. Campbell, CEO of Norwalk, Conn.-based Arch Chemicals Inc., chairman of the ACC board committee on Responsible Care and the conference's keynote speaker. During the past few years, many companies have found it increasingly difficult to realize continuous improvement under the initiative, and "at the end of the day, performance is what counts," he maintained.

What to expect

According to Lebedev, the new Responsible Care embraces three attributes: pace, productivity and passion. Under the new initiative, member companies will be able "to move quickly and flexibly to solve problems and add value;" be able "to increase performance through change;" and be able "to mobilize support for core objectives at both the rational and emotional levels."

Perhaps most important, added Lebedev, is the idea of transparency. "Our best defense, as individual companies and as an industry or as a business community, is to take the high road ," to periodically have a conversation within ourselves, but also with society," he maintained. "A conversation that compares what we're doing today with what is expected of us tomorrow; a conversation that demonstrates that we are challenging ourselves to do better; a conversation that proudly points to the transparency of our behavior and performance. That's good governance."

The revamped Responsible Care:

Eliminates the six original Codes of Management Practices, requiring member companies to put into place either a Responsible Care Management System (RCMS) or a Responsible Care/ISO 14001 management system (RC14001).

Strengthens old performance measures and establishes new metrics to measure individual company and industry-wide performance across areas ranging from EH&S to security to products.

Calls for a credible, independent third-party certification of the RCMS or RC14001 at both company headquarter facilities and individual sites.

Establishes a Security Code to help companies safeguard facilities and the surrounding communities.

Tom Grumbles, manager of occupational safety and health for Sasol North America Inc., Houston, stresses that the original codes, all of which ACC members put into place by 1992, are not really disappearing. The codes were fraught with issues and redundancies, he notes, but the basic guiding principles remain ," now embedded within the RCMS and RC14001. Grumbles was involved in shaping the changes.

Responsible Care performance measures combine existing and new metrics and make a few changes related to reporting. Many of these revisions center around documentation. Perhaps the most significant of these changes, however, are the new greenhouse gas and energy-efficiency metrics ," tracked in pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent net emissions per pound of production and in Btus consumed per pound of production, respectively.

Companies must begin to report these new metrics in 2004.

As for the new management system approach, Grumbles believes it will "bring a management profile to the scope of Responsible Care in any location and result in more attention to detail and better decision-making on where resources and efforts will be allocated."

The approach also promotes transparency, stresses Laura Tew, director of stakeholder relations for Arch Chemicals. "Throughout the RCMS technical specification, there is the thread of stakeholder involvement and communications," she says. "Specifically, in the policy and leadership element of RCMS there is a requirement that the policy shall promote openness with stakeholders.' Building on that requirement, there are specific references to include public input and dialogue with the key stakeholders."

RCMS or RC14001?

Companies essentially have two certification options, says ACC. All companies must certify that they have an RCMS in place. They may either undergo the RCMS certification or choose the RC14001 certification, which enables companies to meet the requirements of Responsible Care and ISO 14001 at the same time.

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