UK chemical firms lose Responsible Care opportunity

When Canadian chemical companies hit on the idea of Responsible Care in the early 1980s, the industry’s image was in the doldrums. Worldwide chemical industry investment and attention to environmental issues and safety practices were not what they should

Responsible Care was the right idea at the right time. It offered a concerted programme to improve health, safety and environmental performance and a neat way of persuading the public that the industry took the issues seriously.

In Canada, and later in the US, it has had another positive effect. Responsible Care has been used by industry to persuade governments and other regulators than it can police its own performance. This means some flexibility and freedom to meet overall guidelines and targets without over-prescriptive legislation.

But as detailed in our report on the programme, the UK and Europe have been reluctant to follow their North American counterparts in embracing the concept as a solution to environmental problems. Here the initiative is less structured and is often lost within a myriad of environmental jargon and initiatives. It means chemical companies miss an added advantage of uniting behind the concept – the opportunity to share information and develop common solutions to problems.