This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates’ (SOCMA) ChemStewards program, which helps specialty chemical companies improve their environmental, health, safety and security (EHS&S) credentials.
The program is mandatory for SOCMA members who manufacture or handle synthetic and organic chemicals — and currently includes about 120 companies (and growing). Using comprehensive training and tracking, as well as third-party audits, SOCMA helps every member improve its processes to boost performance and “enhance its role as a good corporate citizen” — but being in the program can also help a company’s bottom line.
At the recent Chem Show in New York, I had a chance to catch up with Dr. J. Holland Jordan, who has steered the ChemStewards ship for the last eight years, and found out what’s new with the program and how it’s evolving to meet industry trends and needs.
How is ChemStewards changing and what EHS&S trends is the program now addressing?
In the last 10 years, the whole environment for safety has changed. There’s a lot more media coverage and if something happens, everyone knows about it. As society changes, we’re changing too.
We added a sustainability component to the program a few years ago.
And right now we’re spending a lot of time looking at risk-based process safety, which has to do with going through is the whole facility and wondering: ‘What could go wrong?’ Then you spend more time on those areas, while looking at the big picture.
One area that is really important is near-misses — things that almost went wrong but didn’t. So we’re going to be looking at some way to measure and quantify those instances to help chemical companies implement measures to reduce near-misses.
Why is participation in the ChemStewards program mandatory for SOCMA members?
There are three strategic directions of SOCMA. One is lobbying for rational laws and regulations. Then there’s the membership group which involves networking, helping the business end for members etc.
The other is increasing public confidence in the chemical industry and that’s where the ChemStewards program comes in.
And we figure that this program has to have some claws to it. Over the years we’ve had a few companies that refused to meet their obligations in the program and they were not permitted to remain SOCMA members. So we have to make sure the program has credibility.
But one of the things we are proud of is that in the last three years, we’ve had 99 percent compliance from our members.
How does the program help you save money?
One of the ways we stress is reduction in energy costs. There’s also a reduction in hazardous waste and better training for employees.
This is also critical: Because at small companies employees wear many different hats, one person will have several responsibilities. So we’re trying to make the program as efficient as possible so they spend less time on paperwork and now we used a cloud based portal system. Everything they need [to keep up with the program] is in this one place online.
The other area that’s very important from a sales and customer satisfaction: Other companies like to do business with companies that are in ChemStewards. They know they have a reliable supplier that’s doing things right.
How much time and money does it take to be in the program?
A lot of it depends on where they are in their processes — many members participate in other programs such as ISO, VPP etc. If you’re compliant with them, often you are already 70 percent there. From there it just depends on your size and operations. So there’s no way to give specifics about how much it could cost [without a consultation].
What’s on the horizon for the program?
We put a lot of emphasis on sharing best practices and we have a Q&A forum that allows companies to ask a question anonymously about what they’re doing and what other companies are doing. Sometimes it’s as simple as: What’s your food policy in your labs? Other times it’s about equipment problems or a getting a consultant.
In general, we’re really proud of the program and in 10 years we’ve come a long way. It’s recognized by the EPA, OSHA and all the agencies appreciated it. We’re looking forwarding to growing it more.
On Dec. 7 SOCMA will hold its 94th Annual Dinner at the Crown Plaza Times Square Manhattan. Find tickets here.