IHS Chemical Week


Sustainability and Medium-sized Businesses

3:42 AM MDT | September 13, 2010 | By LAWRENCE D. SLOAN

by Lawrence D. Sloan, Socma President & CEO

As Chemical Week noted in a recent issue, sustainability and product stewardship are buzzwords that won’t go away.  Between increased market pressure for green products and an intensifying regulatory environment, the incorporation of more stringent stewardship and sustainability principles into the chemical manufacturing process has become inevitable.

Major retail chains and consumer product manufacturers are requiring more and more from their suppliers as part of their own efforts to meet consumer demand for greener, more sustainable products. Bio-based and “green” products are among the fastest growing lines in the household and personal products industries. Companies such as Wal-Mart have made public commitments to ban products containing certain chemicals, or to only purchase from suppliers meeting certain carbon footprint standards in their production processes. Mounting pressure from the general public, nongovernmental organizations and the media makes it increasingly likely that these “retail regulations” will be followed by government-driven sustainability measures.

Socma: Celebrating the fifth year anniversay of its ChemStewards program today.

While panic and lack of education often drive the media coverage concerning chemical manufacturing, the continuous development of innovative technologies and materials makes it possible for the most forward-thinking companies to take advantage of the positive trend for new, improved products. Companies willing to go the extra step to document sustainability efforts are more likely to benefit from the demand for certifiably “green” products, materials and supply chains.

It is now more important than ever for small chemical companies to get in front of these issues. Bigger businesses with established sustainability and stewardship practices have the current edge with major retail supply chains, but smaller shops need to take this opportunity to lead.

The interest in greener supply chains is growing and driving global purchasing decisions, and wise suppliers are getting ahead of this trend with third-party certifications. Small businesses need not be left behind in this process. Small, nimble companies are at the cutting edge of new technologies, but they also need to become participants in process management programs to appeal to buyers placing an increasing emphasis on verifiable practices. A number of Socma's member companies have already encountered customer interest in green chemistry and sustainable practices.

One Socma member company, Sun Chemical, has a sustainability policy that is focused on reduced energy consumption, carbon footprint and waste production, as well as product and employee safety. Sun Chemical’s sustainability policy considers not only the manufacturing process, but also their products. They have in place a structured approach to product development that is based on eco-efficiency, which is achieved by the delivery of economically competitive products that satisfy the market’s need while at the same time reducing the ecological impact and resource intensity throughout the lifecycle. Many companies in the chemical industry are interested in following Sun Chemical’s lead, as it has made the company stand out to its customers and peers.
That’s why Socma’s tailored environmental, health, safety and security performance improvement program, ChemStewards, is currently working towards developing a green chemistry component for the program’s participants as it celebrates its fifth anniversary today. Socma recognizes that its members are among the best in the batch chemical manufacturing industry, and the latest step in product stewardship is working towards more sustainable manufacturing. As the chemical industry as a whole is working to better define green chemistry and the best practices for sustainable supply chains, ChemStewards participants are setting the standards for batch chemical manufacturers for years to come.

This year, Socma is asking its members to tell us about their green chemistry efforts as a voluntary part of our annual Performance Improvement Awards program. I look forward to sharing the great strides Socma members have made as ChemStewards participants and to seeing them set the bar higher for the chemical industry.

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