American Air Liquide Chairman and CEO Mike Graff discusses Responsible Care®'s 30th anniversary

This post is sponsored by the American Chemistry Council.

The American Chemistry Council's Responsible Care® initiative focuses on environmental, health, safety and security performance for facilities, processes and products throughout the entire operating system. The initiative, which is required for ACC members and Responsible Care Partner companies, is turning 30 this year. In this interview, Mike Graff, chairman and CEO of American Air Liquide, discusses the initiative's past, present and future, the chemical industry's vision on sustainability and safety, and more.

Graff
Graff

Q: Responsible Care is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. How has Responsible Care influenced chemical industry operations over the past three decades, and what have been some of its most notable milestones?

A: For the past 30 years, Responsible Care has been the backbone of the chemical industry’s commitment to acting responsibly, helping to drive step-changes in the way we operate, with human health, safety, security and environmental protection as our top priorities. 

Responsible Care has evolved to include a robust management system that incorporates third-party review and certification, along with transparent reporting of our performance metrics. Further, in response to increasing demand for chemical safety information, ACC and its member companies developed the Responsible Care Product Safety Code, a comprehensive framework to drive continuous improvement in chemical product safety and stewardship. As part of this framework, ACC member companies make available information about chemicals so consumers can make informed decisions about the products they purchase.

Through Responsible Care, ACC members also have enhanced process safety performance, recently implementing a series of initiatives to promote performance improvement across facilities. This has resulted in significant improvements for ACC member companies – in 2016, ACC member companies reported an overall total recordable injury rate of less than 1 injury or illness per 100 full-time employees, an all-time low.

What is your vision for Responsible Care in the next decade?

Responsible Care is defined by its commitment to progress and continual improvement.  As the next natural progression of our commitment to responsibility, the chemical industry has built and is deploying one of the most broad-reaching platforms to manage its sustainability footprint. I truly believe our industry’s platform on sustainability will prove how industry can meaningfully contribute to the betterment of people and our planet.

As we plan for our industry’s future, ACC will continue to articulate and build its sustainability vision, one that encompasses and complements the elements of Responsible Care, with an expanded set of sustainability metrics that address topics from climate, water, waste and air to materials use, process safety, human rights and more.

Our industry recognizes that we have a direct impact on human health and the environment, and a clear responsibility to live up to the expectations of our customers, neighbors, consumers and employees to continue to develop products and technologies that solve problems and deliver solutions that create a better and more sustainable world.

How is Responsible Care cultivating a new approach to industry leadership throughout the supply chain?

As an industry, we recognize and are committed to responsibly managing chemicals in ways that protect human health and the environment for future generations. What we make is helping to improve people’s lives every day. But equally important is how we make those products. We must take action today to contribute to a sustainable future.

We have been fortunate that the CEOs on the ACC Board have recognized and committed to this, and led us to a new sustainability strategy, with Sustainability Principles adopted last year, and an implementation plan approved in February. As the ACC’s cornerstone program for responsible action and operations for the industry, Responsible Care plays a critical role in this sustainability journey. As chair of ACC’s Board Responsible Care Committee, I am embracing the opportunity to continue to move chemical industry progress forward through Responsible Care over the next 30 years. 

How are chemical manufacturers addressing sustainability challenges facing industry today and enabling solutions?

Over time, our challenges have grown more complex as we seek to sustain the health and well-being of Earth’s growing population and its natural environment. Responsible Care has always served to help reinforce ACC member companies’ commitment to continuous improvement. Now ACC has launched its Sustainability Principles to further challenge and help guide our industry as a vital force behind a more sustainable future.

The Sustainability Principles outline our commitment to promote the safe use of chemicals and inform and enable sustainable and transparent decision-making across the supply chain, propelled by sound science and the quest for continued innovation.

What challenges are affecting Air Liquide and the industry as a whole, and how does Responsible Care help in creating solutions?

Air Liquide has long held that responsible action is core to our very being. In our nearly 120-year history, we have prided ourselves on using innovation to tackle the important challenges of industry and society, be that commercializing critical new industrial processes that incorporate comprehensive industrial management systems or developing advanced medical, food and electronics applications.

Responsible Care is a natural extension of Air Liquide’s philosophy that our products and services help enable things important to everyday life that make our planet a better place, and it’s a guiding light for industry as a whole, uniting us in our efforts to innovate and deliver solutions that contribute positively to the challenges and opportunities of an ever-changing world.

How is industry working to assure that retailers, consumer groups and the general public understand the safety of chemicals in everyday products?

Consumers rightfully want to know that the products they use are safe. That’s why decisions about chemicals used in products must be based on the best scientific approaches, which also consider the uses and benefits of a given product or chemical ingredient.  ACC member companies are committed to the safety of the chemicals they manufacture, which are the ingredients that provide a range of beneficial attributes to thousands of products used by American consumers every day.

Through the Responsible Care Product Safety Code, ACC members are provided with a strict set of practices aimed at continuously improving the safety of chemical products and the safe management of chemicals along their supply chains. This includes requiring ACC members to make information about the chemicals they manufacture available to the public, especially information about how chemicals may affect sensitive populations like children. The Code also requires ACC members to communicate and exchange information with downstream product manufacturers to understand how chemicals are used in specific applications, and establishing appropriate uses and safety practices.

How is Air Liquide incorporating Responsible Care principles in products and technologies for the future?

For Air Liquide, safety and excellence are always at the core of what we do. We demonstrate this every day through the dedicated research and innovation by our world-class R&D teams that develop new technologies that drive new products or applications to meet current and evolving industrial and medical needs with a focus on human health and the health of the planet; the direct application of our industrial management system to assure process safety is designed into the engineering, construction and operation of our facilities; and the importance we place on our employees, customers and the communities in which we operate.

Hydrogen energy, in particular, is a great example not only of our commitment to Responsible Care, but also Air Liquide’s vision for sustainability and a better world. As we build new low-carbon hydrogen plants to supply clean energy for fuel cell electric vehicles and to help better manage power demand for cities and industrial basins, we demonstrate that industry can be a great contributor and partner for a better world through innovation and commitment to acting responsibly.

Mike Graff is chairman and CEO of American Air Liquide.

Learn more about the American Chemistry Council's Responsible Care performance initiative.