IHS Chemical Week


Industry Defends License to Operate: Big Guns Converge on Geneva

11:28 AM MDT | May 13, 2009 | By ALEX SCOTT

Geneva is full to the brim this week with senior chemical industry executives, government representatives from around the world, United Nations (UN) executives and administrators and the odd environmentalist to listen to how the global industry is making chemicals safer for humans and the environment. Anyone booking their hotel room in the city during the past few weeks will be delighted (like me) to have finally found a hotel room, but hugely disappointed (like me) to find the room is half the size for twice the price.


The crowds have been drawn here by back-to back meetings in the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM-2) featuring the UN’s Strategic Approach of International Chemicals Management (SAICM).


These are crucial meetings because they will be used by regulators to judge the industry’s environmental progress over the past few years. Specifically, the UN and government representatives will be looking to find out exactly how far industry’s environmental programs, including product stewardship, have progressed since 2002 when industry agreed at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development to work with governments and other stakeholders to achieve certain environmental goals.


Industry is concerned that this week’s meetings in Geneva-which place the sector’s license to operate in the front window-could lead to tougher global policies for industry, particularly in a year that will end with a UN summit on climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.


Just how seriously industry is taking the meetings can be shown by the type of executives that are here attending and giving briefings. Those present include Jürgen Hambrecht, chairman of BASF, Mohammed Al-Mady, vice chairman and CEO of Sabic, Christian Jourquin, chairman of Solvay and president of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), Reiner Groh, general manager for Sasol's chemical businesses, and so the list goes on.


By the end of the day on Friday this week we will have a better idea of just how well the global chemical industry’s program to improve its environmental performance has been received.


If the chemical industry’s progress is not well received in Geneva then at least the industry can say it was well represented and had its best people putting its case forward. On the downside, if it doesn’t go well-despite having the big guns here-then the wider industry will have some serious work to do if it is to maintian its license to operate.



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