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Building Public Trust, One Board Member at a Time

How NOVA Chemicals helped turn Responsible Care® into more than just a safety code.

This article is part of a series examining how business leaders are driving real change by working with their industry associations to develop industry-wide sustainability programs. Read the earlier post about Interplast Packaging: How Casual Conversation Sparked Change in the Chemical Industry.

Looking for resources to support your association in developing a sustainability program? See the Guide to Industry-Level Sustainability Programs.

“Over the last 25 years, NOVA Chemicals has been a major supporter of its industry association, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada(CIAC),” said Wendy Lomicka, Sustainability and Communications Leader at NOVA Chemicals. “Our leaders have always been represented on the CIAC Board and employees have participated on various CIAC committees.”

And this involvement with its industry association allowed NOVA to play an influential role in reforming the industry’s environmental health and safety program.

Responsible Care: The Need to Evolve

When launched by the CIAC in 1985, RC was an industry-wide environment, health and safety initiative. It defined over 150 safety requirements with the goal of moving the chemistry industry beyond regulation and compliance, towards a relationship of trust with the public.

“RC helped improve the industry’s reputation and accountability,” says Mark Lesky, Director of Responsible Care at NOVA Chemicals. “It also helped member companies, like ours, to improve our own environmental and safety performance.”

But RC’s environmental, health and safety focus responded to the needs of society in 1985. Since then, public concern surrounding issues like climate change, health and natural resource depletion have created new opportunities in areas such as green chemistry and supply chain management. In 2007, to capitalize on these new opportunities, CIAC Board members, including Chairman Larry MacDonald, then CFO at NOVA, decided to expand RC to include all aspects of sustainability.

The Board identified eight principles that would underlay the new RC initiative. These principles were then distilled into three codes of practice, covering operations, stewardship and accountability. Because NOVA employees were highly engaged on CIAC committees, NOVA was able to play a key role in developing RC’s new “Stewardship Code.”

“The codes are a clear set of expectations that will challenge the industry to continuously improve,” says Lesky. “Working with other CIAC member companies, we developed detailed guidelines on the Stewardship Code to help guide the industry toward higher levels of performance.”

Benefits for NOVA

Supporting their industry association in evolving a sustainability program has been more than an act of kindness for NOVA. Tangible benefits to the company have included:

1. Access to Resources

Supporting the development of a sustainability program gave NOVA access to all of the networking and support tools the program now offers. For example, the CIAC convenes companies regularly to discuss RC and sustainability challenges and best practices. This peer networking helps members identify and act on risks and opportunities quickly. RC also requires that companies implement a “Plan, Do, Check, Act” management system, which creates conditions necessary for continuous improvement.

2. Improved Corporate Culture

Participation in RC has improved NOVA’s corporate culture in two ways:

  1. NOVA employees take great pride in having contributed to the development of RC. “Responsible Care is considered a cornerstone of our culture,” says Lomicka. “It informs how we run our operations, how we treat our community partners and how we approach sustainability.”

  2. Striving to meet the RC requirements has cemented responsibility as a core corporate value. This has strengthened relationships among all NOVA stakeholders. “RC is an avenue to talk with employees, suppliers and customers about common interests beyond price, service and performance,” Lomicka reports proudly. “It enables us to form deeper, more meaningful and caring relationships.”

3. Securing Public Trust

The RC motto is “do the right thing and be seen doing the right thing.” Publicly showing that the chemistry industry values health and safety, community protection, environmental protection, product stewardship and sustainability is vital to building public trust. That trust is the basis of NOVA’s ongoing social license to operate.

4. International Recognition

Since RC was launched by Canadian chemical companies in 1985, it has been adopted by national industry associations in over 60 countries. This positions NOVA and other RC supporters as international sustainability leaders.

The Take Home Message

Get involved with your industry association and support the development of an industry-level sustainability program. There is a role for everyone in your company, from C-suite executives to front-line employees. Your leadership will pay dividends for you and your company.

Responsible Care is a Registered trademark of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.

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  • Chelsea Hicks-Webster

    Hi, I’m Chelsea. I have a Masters degree in Sustainability, where I studied ecosystem health. I'm also a Certified Life Coach. I used to be the Operations Manager for NBS, but now I just focus on my favourite part of that job – the writing! I also run a social enterprise, called Creating Me, dedicated to strengthening maternal and family well-being. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to balance career goals, impact, and one’s own well-being. When I’m not working on my own impact goals, I offer executive coaching and writing support to help researchers and change-makers grow their impact and well-being. (creatingme.ca/sustainability).

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