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Engaging Responsible Care.


Shell employees collaborate on Responsible Care.

Twenty-five years ago, Canadian Chemical Producers' Association (CCPA) member companies, including Shell Chemicals in Canada, began their Responsible Care[R] journey. Amazingly this ethic has shaped business performance, and has guided the chemical industry in Canada and in over 50 countries around the world.

However, as with any journey, the path to meeting societal expectations has taken twists and turns to remain responsive to increasing concerns about issues such as toxins, climate change and the industry's ecological footprint.

"Current industry leaders came to realize the Responsible Care ethic needed rethinking to ensure the principles remained relevant and could help guide the industry's future approaches to sustainability," said Derric Ostapyk, head of Shell's Canadian chemicals business and a member of CCPA's Executive Committee and Board of Directors.

After much deliberation involving the board, activist panel, various committees and members as well as sustainability experts, the CCPA announced the integration of sustainability principles into their Responsible Care initiative in June 2008. The new ethics are guided not by legalities but by a conscious decision-driven process to 'do the right thing and be seen doing the right thing'.

Said Ostapyk, "endorsement of these principles is key to our business success and we're committed to incorporating and communicating the new concepts within our organization."

Already, Shell Chemicals Canada is sending a strong message about the importance of the new principles. Ostapyk and other leaders know the importance of leading by example. Management was front and centre during launch events for staff in Calgary and at Shell's Scotford Complex near Edmonton earlier this fall.

Involvement was encouraged and presenters invited people to think of future challenges and opportunities for the company and for industry. Although the ethics encompass elements Shell has focused on for the past few years, the events sought to clarify the new changes and to further integrate Responsible Care into Shell's operating culture.

And this won't be the last time leaders channel Shell's message, as sustainable development is a mindset that guides all business decisions no matter how large or small.

"This is really a journey," said Ostapyk. "We have to ensure our people understand the importance of Responsible Care to get hearts and minds on board. And that will require ongoing dialogue and a sustained effort to keep people engaged and to drive behavioural change."

Locally, Responsible Care encourages employees of Shell in Canada to strive for even better performance and makes Shell's commitment to sustainability more tangible and credible to stakeholders. The initiative is widely embraced across Shell's Canadian chemicals business after decades of work to instil the values. As an early adopter of the Responsible Care program, Shell's Canadian chemicals business clearly has a role to play in helping share best practices.

"Shell Chemicals always had a unique set of ethics," said Greg MacDonald, coordinator of Shell's Canadian Responsible Care initiative. "Lots of companies are moving in the direction of Responsible Care, and as an industry leader, we offer guidance and resources for those who want to start a foundation for Responsible Care."

Shell Chemicals companies are committed to going beyond prior accomplishments, to achieve even higher standards of performance, whether by increasing communication with stakeholders or working with governments and other stakeholders as a trusted advisor on new regulations.

"These new principles will challenge us to be innovative and discover new ways to maximize the benefits of chemistry while responding to the issues that concern our own stakeholders," said MacDonald.

As the fundamental architecture of Responsible Care does not change, the principles must constantly grow to meet our ever-changing social expectations. Over the next three years much work will take place to ensure policies, codes and processes are in line with the principles.

Adoption of the new ethic will not happen overnight and the process will continue to evolve over time in a phased approach to allow companies to adapt these to suit their needs and realities. Key to this effort is visible leadership and a strong approach to keep Responsible Care as well-understood, relevant and embraced today as in the past.

Lisa Labelle works in Shell's Downstream Communications Department.
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Author:Labelle, Lisa
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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