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Q & A with Greg Babe: Leading an industry by example

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Greg Babe is the president and CEO of Bayer and chairman of the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care Board Committee. He is speaking at the 2011 Responsible Care Conference and Expo today in Miami. SmartBrief  interviewed Babe on his approach to leadership, and what the Responsible Care initiative means to the chemicals industry.

What are the most important aspects of leadership? What would you characterize as important aspects of your own leadership style?

Leadership comes in many forms, but I think ultimately it comes down to leading by example.  Walking the talk is the key — whether you’re leading a team, a company or an industry.

I often describe my personal leadership style as more of a coach than a player.  It’s important to give your employees responsibility to make decisions that have a positive impact on the organization.

As a CEO of a member company, why is the Responsible Care initiative so valuable to the American Chemistry Council and its members?

Bayer is research-based company, with more than 50 sites and 16,000 employees in North America. Responsible Care brings significant value to our company, our employees and our communities.

Internally, it provides a structure for continual improvement in our health, safety, environmental and security performance, challenging us to go beyond regulation; and externally, it provides a common foundational performance ethic, which guides our focus and commitment to ensuring our products are being handled safely.

What is the program’s focus in the U.S. in 2011? What global goals does Responsible Care have for this year?

Responsible Care is undergoing a strategic review, which actually began in 2009 and will conclude in 2013, which coincides with 25-year anniversary of the program.  This review included an external advisory panel with members from academia and former government officials.

Key recommendations are in the areas of product stewardship/safety, sustainability/performance, globalization and communication.  The ACC has an executive task force that is evaluating the recommendations and will determine which ones will be implemented.

In addition, ACC membership has set goals for its members to be accomplished by 2013:

  • 25% improvement in the recordable injury rate vs. 2008 base
  • 20% improvement in the lost work injury rate vs. 2008 base
  • Zero fatalities
  • 18% reduction by 2012, using 1990 as a base reporting year by 2012
  • 100% of high priority chemicals with publicly available product stewardship summaries by 2012

What can other industries learn from the example set by Responsible Care and the chemicals industry?

Responsible Care companies consistently perform better than the broader business of chemistry and manufacturing, thereby providing credibility for our advocacy as well as improving our industry’s reputation.

For example:

  • Employee safety records are 4.5 times better than the average manufacturing sector as a whole and twice as safe as the chemical sector
  • Process safety incidents decreased by 46% since 1995
  • Environmental releases decreased by 78% since 1988