CIA sustainability report paints muddy picture

One in five members of the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) has failed to commit to its sustainability principles and goals by a 2005 deadline. The body’s second sustainability report does not make it easy to assess its members’ progress.1

Launching the second report, CIA Chief Executive Stephen Elliott said it shows members are taking its commitment to sustainability seriously. Productivity targets are on track, social standards are being pursued and some, but not all of its safety and environmental efforts are moving in the right direction.

"Across all three pillars of sustainable development our companies are showing they perform and they care" he concluded, noting that 80% of the CIA’s members had formally committed themselves to working towards the set of principles and goals announced in 2004 (ENDS Report 354, p 11 ).

Yet, the CIA’s target had been for all of its members to sign up to these by the end of 2005. Some UK arms of multinational firms said corporate policy or legal issues prevented them from making unilateral commitments. Others said their own policies and goals exceeded the CIA’s and that signing up to the association’s programme might be seen as a weakening of their commitment

Neither argument is satisfying. Moreover, some firms have neither made a commitment nor given a reason for not doing so.

According to CIA communications director Simon Marsh, it is "working hard with the others to, at the very least, make sure sustainable development issues are being worked within their businesses."

Progress on key CIA goals include:

  • Health and safety: There are four indicators in this area. Three of these refer to data that companies are legally obliged to report to the Health and Safety Executive. Indicators for lost-time injuries and reportable diseases show the CIA is on track to meet respectively its 50% and 30% reduction goals by 2010.

    The CIA can say little on a third indicator on incidents reportable under the 1999 Control of Major Accident Hazard regulations as the last available data are for 2002-04 when no incidents were reported. This calls into question the value of this indicator to stakeholders and whether the CIA could find others to give a meaningful picture of safety performance.

    The indicator on distribution incidents shows little change since an upswing in 2004 which is blamed largely on driver error by contractors. But there is little sign of CIA members addressing the causes of such incidents despite a pledge to provide further advice on this issue last year (ENDS Report 371, pp 9-10 ).

  • Energy efficiency: Again, no new data are provided as the report simply repeats the biennial data collected under the climate change agreement between its members and the Department of Environment (DEFRA). Last year’s data showed the industry had already achieved its goal of 14% improvement by 2010.
  • Water consumption: By 2005 companies had reduced water usage by 22% compared with a 20% goal by 2010 - a target criticised at the outset as unambitious by then Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett. There is no commitment to strengthen this goal. According to the CIA’s separately reported Responsible Care performance indicators, nearly two thirds of water used by the industry comes from river and potable sources.
  • Hazardous waste: This indicator is being reconsidered by the CIA as it blames a broadening of the definition of hazardous waste to include wastes such as contaminated packing for the jump in arisings in 2004. The total fell slightly in 2005.

    According to the separately reported indicators, more than three quarters of hazardous waste was sent off-site in 2005. One third went to "energy recovery" operations, a fifth to pre-treatment and another fifth for reprocessing. Of the total arisings of 674,000 tonnes, 12% was incinerated and 7% landfilled.

  • Product responsibility: The CIA met its aim to develop a database of chemicals sold by its members (ENDS Report 378, p 8 ). It believes it is the first industry body in Europe to take such a step.
  • Environmental burden: Progress has been made on five of the six impact measures under this indicator - acidification, global warming, eutrophication, photochemical ozone formation and aquatic oxygen demand (see figure).

    Performance on human health effects has worsened since 2004. This is attributed partly to having to report on more chemicals after the HSE’s list of occupational exposure limits was revised.

    Separately from the sustainability report, the CIA reported that cadmium and chromium discharges rose slightly in 2005. Mercury discharges rose by a third and nickel by 16%. Discharges of four other metals - arsenic, copper, lead and zinc - fell substantially.

  • EMSs: Separately from the report, the CIA has published figures showing that after 12 years of compiling data almost half of its members’ sites still do not have a third-party certified environmental management system.
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