Chemical Companies Set Ambitious Emissions Reduction Goals

Published July 1, 1997

The United States chemical industry has undertaken an ambitious program designed to reduce emissions from large and small facilities alike.

Dubbed “Responsible Care” by industry officials overseeing the project, the program has been enthusiastically embraced by corporate giants such as Dow and Monsanto as well as by such small firms as Velsicol Chemical, which has 750 employees. All told, the industry is spending $1 billion on Responsible Care’s pollution-fighting efforts.

“Successful companies in the future will be those that make the environment, health, and safety an integral part of their business strategies,” comments William S. Stavropoulos, president and CEO of Dow Chemical. Dow, which is putting $1 billion into Responsible Care effort, has committed to a 50 percent cut in overall chemical emissions, a 50 percent cut in waste generation per pound of product made, a 90 percent reduction in workplace illness and injuries, and more improvement by 2005.

The chemical industry’s voluntary program was inspired by Monsanto’s goal of cutting air emissions of targeted chemicals by 90 percent. Hoffmann-LaRoche, a New Jersey-based health-care products company, reduced its air emissions by 90 percent by 1992, while Olin Corp. managed to reduce its emissions into the air, land, and water by 60 percent by 1994.

Arthur Sigel, president of Velsicol, notes that from a purely business perspective, investing in pollution prevention and waste reduction can pay off. In some cases, changes “clearly provide cost savings,” he says. In the short term, economies come from lower raw material cost and lower waste management fees. Longer-term benefits include improved employee health, fewer spills, and fewer complaints from nearby communities, Sigel explains.