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Vol. 25 No. 3
May - June 2003

cefic logoDiscover Chemistry in Europe

by Marc Devisscher

It was in May 2001 that the group of national federations within the European Chemical Industry Council, Cefic, took the initiative of organizing "Discover Chemistry in Europe," a series of Open Door days throughout Europe. Between May 2002 and October 2003, member associations of Cefic from 13 countries are holding Open Door events involving some 1000 sites, with an estimated number of about one million visitors. These events often also involve universities or research laboratories, and include events such as conferences and exhibitions.

Discovery in Europe LogoThrough this initiative the chemical industry wants to clearly demonstrate to the European Union institutions, to national and local communities, and to the public at large that it is indeed a transparent and open industry, committed to dialogue with all the stakeholders in the community. The fact that Open Door events of all kinds are being organized by the chemical industry is not new in itself, but this will be the first time that they have been coordinated across Europe, allowing for experience sharing, common measurement of impact, and creation of a consistent industry image.

Open Door event at Proviron in Belgium, May 2002.

Through this coordinated effort, Europeans are learning that they can be proud of their chemical industry. Since the industrial revolution in the 19th century, it has been one of Europe’s most international, competitive, and successful industries, embracing a wide field of processing and manufacturing activities. The chemical industry is one of the main pillars of the European economy and makes a huge contribution to its welfare. With about 32% of global chemicals production and employing nearly 2 million people, Europe is the largest chemicals producing area in the world, generating a turnover in 2001 of €629 billion. Furthermore, the EU chemical industry has the largest manufacturing industry trade surplus, amounting to € 65 billion in 2001.


. . . surveys conducted over the last decade in Europe indicate that the reputation of the chemical industry has not kept up with the industry’s improving environmental performance.


The "Discover Chemistry in Europe" Open Door events offer an excellent forum to demonstrate and to explain in person that the chemical industry has taken voluntary initiatives that contribute to meeting today’s societal demands. One such example is the "Responsible Care" initiative of the global chemical industry, under which companies, through their national associations, commit to work together to continuously improve their performance in protecting people and the environment throughout the life cycle of their products and processes. At the launch of the project in April 2002, Cefic President Jean-Pierre Tirouflet said, "we create wealth and add value to society and despite all that, the opinion surveys conducted over the last decade in Europe indicate that the reputation of the chemical industry has not kept up with the industry’s improving environmental performance. There is clearly a gap to be bridged here, and the Discover Chemistry in Europe initiative should help bridge this gap." Furthermore, the current EU Chemicals Policy Review also reflects growing political and societal demands regarding the production and use of chemicals.

Chemistry–Who Is It For? This was the motto of a month-long initiative of the French Union des Industries Chimiques. A survey of visitors who attended the French Open Door events indicated that 64% had never visited such a site before. More than 90% found the events interesting and felt that the sites they visited were clean, welcoming, and safe. The enthusiasm was shared by the industries and their employees who were eager to make known their activities. UIC is planning for similar events in the future. www.uic.fr

Belgium, through its association Fedichem, kicked off the series. On 4 and 5 May 2002, more than 40 chemical plants and about 15 university laboratories and museums opened their doors to the public. Despite the torrential rain, almost 70 000 people participated, showing an undeniable interest in chemistry. Open Doors took place in Spain in 2002 and will continue until the end of this year. Over the last months of 2002, Open Doors were successfully organized in the UK, Italy, France, Finland, and the Netherlands. This year, Open Door events will be held in Portugal, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Hungary, and Italy (again). It is interesting to note that on average, in all the countries that have had these events, 25% of the visitors were younger than 20.

These Open Door days are a unique opportunity to inform the public about the crucial role of chemistry in everyday life. Clothes, CDs, computers, sports equipment, cars, electronic devices . . . almost everything relies on chemistry! This type of event also demonstrates the chemical industry’s capacity for innovation as well as its safety and quality concerns. It can provide a high degree of reassurance to the local community. There is no doubt about the benefits and the necessity of repeating and continuing this kind of initiative. The chemical industry’s reputation can only get better–probably slowly, but surely!

Where and When the Doors Opened
Country Federation Period

Cos/
Sites

Visitors
Belgium Fedichem 4-5 May 2002 45 70 000
Spain Feique May 2002-2003 70 30 000
UK CIA May to October 2002 55 15 000
Italy Federchimica

2 Sept to 2002 (also scheduled for 2003)

60 50 000
Finland KtRy Sept 2002 15 9 000
France UIC Oct 2002 300 100 000
Netherlands VNCI 2 Nov 2002 90 30 000
Portugal APEQ end 2002 & 2003 15 5 000
Germany VCI 20 Sept 2003

200 + 5
univs

-
Sweden Kemikontoret Autumn 2003 40 -
Greece HACI Autumn 2003 - -
Switzerland SGCI end 2003 20 -
Hungary Mavesz 2003 18 -

 

Marc Devisscher <mde@cefic.be> is Cefic project manager, based in Brussels, Belgium.

www.cefic.org


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