“ Social Responsibility: Chemical Industry Best in Class ? ”
The EPCA’s 36th Annual Meeting was held in Berlin on 28 September - 2 October 2002. Welcoming delegates to the new capital of Germany during a spell of perfect, late summer weather, EPCA President Rein Willems of Shell Chemicals pointed out that the meeting marked the fourth occasion that EPCA had gathered in Berlin. The 1984 Annual Meeting and two Logistics Meetings, in 1992 and 2001, were the previous occasions.
Rein Willems mentioned that the attendance at the meeting - at 1,330 delegates - was the second highest on record and only 100 short of the best-ever year in 2000. It also marked a strong recovery from 2001 when the attendance at the meeting, which was held only a few weeks after September 11, dropped to 1,120. “EPCA remains the largest gathering of the chemical industry in Europe by a good margin,” he said.
Rein Willems introduced the theme of the meeting - “Social Responsibility: Chemical Industry - Best in Class?” - as one which is particularly topical considering the recent collapse of several major energy, telecommunications and information technology companies and the questionable role of some senior management personnel in manipulating the accounting practices of these companies. As a result of these well-publicised failures of corporate governance, pressures on companies to adopt a socially responsible approach across their full range of business activities are greater than ever.
Chemical companies are encountering these pressures at a time of poor growth in the world economy and uncertainties surrounding Middle East politics and the terrorist threat. In addition, the industry has a poor image in the public eye, with much of its output perceived to pose health, safety and environmental risks. Rein Willems told delegates that the prestigious speakers lined up for the 36th Annual Meeting would be examining not only the chemical industry’s commitment to social responsibility but also whether this commitment can be improved and whether it can contribute to the profitability of an enterprise.
In handing over proceedings to the moderator, Michael Buerk, the BBC TV news anchorman, Rein Willems said that Michael, with his friendly but probing style ofnquestioning, is now a familiar and central element of all EPCA meetings. “It cannot be long,” said Rein Willems. “before Michael becomes known more as the EPCA moderator than the BBC news presenter, at least within our industry.”