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marcus evans

September 30, 2015 17:34 ET

Modifying Sustainability Programs to Increase Revenue and Compliance

Interview With Craig E. Bernard, Ph.D., Vice President, Global Regulatory Affairs and Compliance, Dorf Ketal Chemicals

NEW ORLEANS, LA--(Marketwired - September 30, 2015) - The chemical industry is a challenging environment of looming deadlines, strict requirements, and evolving regulations that may differ between Federal, State and Local levels. In order for companies to ensure compliance, avoid penalties, and improve business processes they must work tirelessly to keep internal and external stakeholders informed and up-to-date on relevant frameworks.

Dr. Bernard, Vice President, Global Regulatory Affairs and Compliance at Dorf Ketal Chemicals, recently spoke with marcus evans about topics to be discussed at the Chem/Petrochemical Regulatory Reform & Product Liability Conference in New Orleans:

What effect do sustainability programs at the retail level have on the chemical industry?

CB: I see the chemical industry at a transition point within its evolution of fully utilizing sustainability programs. A critical component to a successful program is the ability to clearly define its goals and measure performance against these goals. Sustainability programs within the chemical industry have achieved improvements including those that focused on benefits from increased efficiencies and reduced costs within their gates such as water, energy, greenhouse gases, and waste initiatives. Benefits from these programs have been transmitted down the supply chain using tools such as Life Cycle Assessments or LCAs.

Marketing and sales functions within the chemical industry are increasingly seeking to understand how sustainability can support their efforts with product development, performance and innovation as a means to drive value and differentiation. At the retail level, the direct benefit of sustainability programs has been to achieve product differentiation and product valuation. For upstream suppliers the same attributes may not be a point of differentiation, but rather a requirement to compete, which may alter their approach towards sustainability. One of the best ways to promote shared sustainability goals within the chemical industry is to engage suppliers across the value chain to build value for the downstream consumer.

Why is transparency so essential to the efficiency of the value chain? How do you monitor/maintain transparency?

CB: Transparency has become an important concept within the marketplace as businesses seek to meet customer expectations for information about the products they purchase. It is important to acknowledge that 'who is the customer' varies depending upon a company's role within the supply chain -- it may be someone at the retail level with certain expectations or it could be a midstream supplier looking to support their customer's requirements for more environmentally sustainable technology. Each of these participants may have different expectations and needs for what and how information is provided to them.

Efficiency for me means striking the right balance between readily consumable information desired by the customer and information overload. It also includes the balance between satisfying your customer's needs and protecting genuine trade secrets. This is one reason why many brands at the retail level have proactively focused their effort towards effective packaging content messaging such as ingredient disclosure, promoting external approvals or listings, or other "green" product certifications.

For upstream suppliers such as my company, monitoring the benefit of its approach towards transparency can be a challenge since we may be several levels removed from a retail market served by our downstream customers. Aligning a value proposition, such as a sustainability initiative, across multiple departments within an organization is important because each department becomes a pathway to capture the needs of the marketplace and monitor its performance against these needs. This is why businesses that embed their values such as sustainability throughout their whole organization are successful at defining and achieving their goals. For Dorf Ketal, that begins with encompassing our motto -- Innovation isn't just what we do. It's who we are.

What role do stakeholders play in transparency and information disclosure?

CB: Stakeholder engagement is critical to achieving transparency and information disclosure. We often receive requests for product information that are funneled to us through procurement teams but originate from regulatory or product stewardship teams. The relevance of the request along with how it is being asked and its applicability to our product may not directly align. We prefer to start with a conversation to better understand the true need of our customer. Engagement with stakeholders at multiple levels of the organization and across the supply chain is invaluable for understanding drivers for disclosure and how best to give this information effectively.

What tools/technology do you use to improve information disclosure?

CB: The tools and technology employed to disclose information and evaluate its effectiveness can vary depending on a company's role within the supply chain and the customers it serves. Safety Data Sheets or SDSs are important health and safety warning disclosure documents required of companies. Today there are many software systems available for authoring these documents. The software also enhances how the information is organized and presented for better understanding by the user.

Elsewhere I have used LCA programs for environmental impact assessments to meet sustainable reporting obligations. Increasingly, websites and other forms of social media are being utilized for information disseminating. As an example, in addition to our website, Dorf Ketal uses LinkedIn® to connect and share information about our company and products with others.

Government agencies are making greater use of these tools too. California's OEHHA (Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment) draft proposal on Proposition 65 reform includes the use of a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) so that the information on OEHHA's website related to warnings can be accessed by consumers. When considering tools and technology to support information disclosure, it is important to first understand the objective and value being sought by making the disclosure and then how best to reach your intended audience.

How have Dorf Ketal Chemicals' sustainability programs directly affected costs for the company?

CB: We believe that sustainability creates economic value, and contributes to healthy ecosystems and strong communities. Our program is purposely designed to maintain corporate and community resiliency for the long-haul in every country where we operate. We take a broad view of sustainability with principles applied through our commercial partners, corporate social responsibility, distribution, emergency response, environment, health and safety, organizational culture, quality, product stewardship, and security.

The cost and commitment associated with sustainability initiatives need to be balanced against the value they create, whether it is economic, social or environmental, and assessed accordingly. While costs can be an important factor in the decision to implement a program, it is not a sole determination. For instance, our company and employees directly support and provide donations to NGOs, foundations and established charities through our corporate social responsibility programs. By implementing a meaningful, well-managed corporate social responsibility program, Dorf Ketal enhances value creation in the communities in which we operate.

You are speaking on Proposition 65. What are some reforms that plants may not be up to date on?

CB: Proposition 65, which is officially known as the "Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986," requires businesses to notify Californians of potential exposures to specific chemicals "known to" the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. Proposition 65 is unique among chemical regulations since it allows private parties, who themselves were not exposed, to bring lawsuits such as a failure by a manufacturer to provide sufficient warning for a product. Some suits from private parties have been called frivolous and in 2013 Governor Brown expressed desire for reform to end alleged frivolous suits.

OEHHA, the agency in California that oversees Proposition 65, responded by issuing reform drafts. Potential reform includes consideration for warnings to be provided in different languages and a change in the wording considered acceptable for providing a warning. Consideration is also being given to allow any "interested party" to request OEHHA to adopt a product specific method of the warning. Warning through a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for a website maintained by OEHHA is also being proposed, and if requested, businesses will need to provide detailed product information for publication on this website.

Dr. Craig Bernard is a Vice President with Dorf Ketal Chemicals overseeing its Regulatory Affairs and Compliance department. Prior to joining Dorf Ketal, he headed the Product Stewardship department of Rio Tinto's Minerals business. Dr. Bernard's regulatory and product stewardship experience covers a range of commercial sectors including fertilizers, biocides, process chemicals used in oil and gas, lubricants, detergents, catalysts, insulation, glass and vitreous enamel applications, and flame retardants. He was a research scientist at the US Environmental Protection Agency's National Exposure Research Laboratory, as well as the University of California, where he conducted research of human exposure and toxicity from pesticide uses both in and around homes, and in agriculture. Dr. Bernard is a graduate of the University of California, Riverside (Ph.D. Environmental Toxicology) and San Francisco State University (B.S. Molecular and Cell Biology). He has authored scientific publications, book chapters and technical presentations.

Join Dr. Bernard at the Chem/Petrochemical Regulatory Reform & Product Liability Conference, January 20-21, 2016 in New Orleans, LA. For any questions, read through the conference agenda or contact Tyler Kelch, Digital Marketing Manager, marcus evans at 312.894.6310 or

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