25 No. 3
May - June 2003
Chemistry in Europe
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.
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.
Door event at Proviron in Belgium, May 2002.
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 Europes
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 industrys improving environmental
"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 todays 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 industrys
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.
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
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.
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 industrys 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
industrys reputation can only get betterprobably
slowly, but surely!
and When the Doors Opened
to October 2002
Sept to 2002 (also scheduled for 2003)
2002 & 2003
is Cefic project manager, based in Brussels, Belgium.
last modified 29 April 2003.
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