This analysis offers insight into the development and evolution of the principles of
Responsible Care with the intention of providing readers in chemistry-related industries
and academia with the insight and the means to promote and implement RC principles in
their own work, related to their particular set of circumstances.
We first focus on the key elements of Responsible Care developed by the Canadian
Chemical Producers’ Association. This follows with an illustration of the need to develop
a set of elements for self-examination to be used by chemically-associated readers,
whether in industry or academia, to assess their own needs and Responsible Care’s
While Responsible Care was first developed in Canada, it has expanded to the
United States and over 50 other countries through their national chemical associations.
Further development has taken place under the guardianship of the International Council
of Chemical Associations (ICCA). The Responsible Care Global Charter has been
signed by the Chief Executive Officers of over 90 major multinational companies.
Ongoing development is enriched by the exchange of international experience and
adaptation to meet evolving concerns and differing cultures. It is hoped that other
national associations will add to the findings in this report by describing their own
experiences of development and providing a sound base for the adoption of RC in other
regions and in other chemically-related groups worldwide (ICCA, 2006).
Keywords: Responsible Care, Corporate Social Responsibility, Supply Chain
Management, Product Stewardship, Environmental Management
Acknowledgements: This research was made possible by the International Union of
Pure and Applied Chemists. We particularly thank Bernard West and Brian Wastle for
their review and comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.
Word Count: 7 400
Project Manager – Transportation Demand Management & Sustainable Infrastructure,
City of Hamilton; Masters of Engineering and Public Policy, McMaster University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor and Director,
Dofasco Centre for Engineering and Public Policy
McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, ITB 109, Hamilton, ON, L8S 4L7, krantz@Mcmaster.ca
History of Responsible Care Page | 2
RESPONSIBLE CARE represents a commitment on the part of the chemical industry
to contribute to the betterment of society while minimizing any adverse environmental
impacts and societal consequences. It is a culture that focuses on doing the right thing
and demonstrating its commitment to public verification.
Responsible Care Project
While the Responsible Care initiative is well known in the chemical industry, it is less
well understood within the academic and other technical communities. The International
Union of Pure and Applied Chemists (IUPAC) Committee on Chemistry and Industry
(COCI) has now approved an initiative to create a framework project (West et. al, 2007)
focused on the responsible application of chemistry at all stages, from research, through
industrial production, to the ultimate use and disposal of the products. Responsible Care
(RC) will form the basis for understanding what responsibilities chemists have in using,
handling, and producing chemicals. The implementation of this initiative will be
comprised of a linked series of projects, and this paper represents the first stage of
The goal of the RC Project is to build knowledge and capacity about the basis,
methodology, and goals of Responsible Care and targets the following audiences:
• Junior leaders in academic, business and government organizations in
• Chemistry associations in developing countries,
• Supply chain contacts in developing countries and their suppliers in the
• Various groups in developed countries that will benefit from this knowledge,
including: universities and government research establishments.
An important goal of this broadening process is to provide feedback to the
implementers of Responsible Care in order to assist in the continuous improvement of
the initiative. The results of this initiative are meant to increase the awareness and the
History of Responsible Care Page | 3
application of the Responsible Care ethic in institutions related to chemistry worldwide,
resulting in safer and more sustainable ways of designing, developing, and using
KEY PRINCIPLES UNDERPINNING RESPONSIBLE CARE
The basic principles of Responsible Care in Canada grew out of intensifying
concerns that the chemical industry was risking the loss of its public license to produce
(CCPA, 2005a). Over the past 30 years, pressures to regulate the chemical industry
have increased, exacerbated at times by major incidents resulting in severe health and
environmental impacts. The most salient example is that of the Union Carbide plant in
Bohpal India, which exploded due to failing safety systems in a storage facility in 1984
and resulted in thousands of casualties (ENDS, 2005). The leaders of the Canadian
chemical industry have encountered a series of crossroads since this time. They could
have chosen a path that would have led to engaging regulators in case-by-case
challenges that would have diminished the industry’s capabilities to develop its economic
potential; however, original RC leaders understood that the problem was much more
complex and required a more progressive solution (Belanger, 2005).
In accordance with the findings of public opinion polls, industry leaders recognized
that the public’s concern is one of trust (Schmitt, 2002; Moffet et. al, 2004). The industry
leaders chose a path that is anchored in gaining the trust of the affected communities
and society in general. Trust has become the key driver of RC, which cannot be
imposed, but rather requires the application of three fundamental principles, forming the
cornerstones of Responsible Care:
Doing the right thing
Traditionally, the industry had responded to the laws and regulations in existence,
and reacted defensively to the introduction of new regulation (ENDS, 2005; Moffet et. al.,
2004). However, trust requires a commitment to “do the right thing”, regardless of legal
obligation. In fact, visibly doing the right thing is an essential step in building trust and
contributing to a company’s social license to operate (Dudok van Heel, 2001; Heath et.
al, 2002). “Doing the right thing” radically changed the industry focus from regulatory
History of Responsible Care Page | 4
compliance to being ethically-driven, including being an advocate for regulation to drive
continuous improvement. This focus on corporate social responsibility in a complex
world with a multiplicity of stakeholders requires that companies engage in meaningful
dialogue with interested parties, namely, peers in other companies, individuals
representing plant communities, and government representatives, incorporating the
following principles (Covello, 2005):
• Active listening to truly understand the underlying sources of concerns,
• Accurate presentation of the risks involved in operations and products and the
steps taken to minimize them,
• A visible effort to integrate inputs from interested parties into planning and
• A broad consensus that the benefits provided by the company outweigh the risk.
Placing Responsible Care within an ethical framework represents a radical departure
from what could have been a simple environmental risk management process. RC,
operating as an ethical mandate, allows it to be embedded into all aspects of the
corporate culture, separating it from a standard environmental management system
which is usually concerned with issues of quality or meeting environmental standards
(Willard, 2005). As an ethic it requires a radical change in corporate culture, requiring the
CEO to enlist buy-in from all employees and to take account of their environmental
performance in an integrated and balanced manner with their economic performance
Being open and responsive to public concerns
In the past, the industry had presumed that chemical issues were too complex to be
understood by the general public. It believed that the industry knew best how to handle
products and processes safely, and that the public should just trust the industry (Moffet
et. al, 2004). However, trust must be earned and secretiveness leads to the perception
that externally imposed rules are needed. Openness is the basis of accountability
(Peters, Covello & McCallum, 1997). The public is the final arbiter as to whether
responsible management initiatives are truly protecting the environment. In addition to
the public, industry requires that responsible management principles are universally
History of Responsible Care Page | 5
adhered to and companies need to ensure that their efforts can stand up to external
Responding to public concerns through an ethical approach requires sensitivity to the
changing nature of concerns over time. Responsible Care has been successful in this,
as evidenced by its evolution to include verification, community advisory panels and the
sustainable principles of green chemistry. The most recent revision of the ethic includes
preventive and green engineering principles (CCPA, 2008a). To maintain public trust,
the industry must engage in ongoing and visible responsiveness to what is currently of
public and scientific concern. In the early 1980s, the issues dominating the public
agenda were closely related to plant operations or movement of chemicals. Since then,
concerns have broadened to focus on product stewardship, including the use of the
chemicals, and are currently dominated by concerns relating to sustainability and climate
change (McDonough et. al, 2003; Hawken, 1999).
Caring about products from cradle to grave to cradle again
Canadian chemical industry leaders recognize that caring about products and their
potential impact on people and the environment should not stop at the plant gate (CCPA,
2008a, 2000). While customers have responsibilities associated with use and disposal,
chemical companies’ ethics must drive them to advise and help those customers in
proper handling. It may require withholding products from customers who fail to practice
due diligence in appropriate handling and consumer use; a reflection of true product
stewardship (CCPA, 2000). This is an important consideration, since as far as the public
is concerned, all chemical producers and distributors are vulnerable to being negatively
perceived as the weakest link in the supply chain, regardless of whether or not the
industry has control over the products at a particular moment in time (ENDS, 2005;
Moffet et. al, 2004)
Comprehensiveness also allows the chemical industry to proactively approach and
deal with public concerns in the most cost-effective manner with fewer duplications and
a better time horizon. In this way, the industry becomes a credible and positive player in
the search for solutions, one that should be listened to and trusted. This helps change
the perception of the industry as being a problem creator to becoming a problem solver.
History of Responsible Care Page | 6
HISTORY OF RESPONSIBLE CARE
Prior to the creation of RC in 1985, the Canadian Chemical Producer’s Association
(CCPA) celebrated its role in Canadian society in 1973 by releasing a pamphlet entitled
“Canada’s Invisible Industry” (CCPA, 1973):
“The Canadian industrial chemical industry is the invisible industry –the fulcrum
of Canada’s inverted economic pyramid….it is no beggar…it seeks no
preferential treatment to the detriment of other Canadian industries, it only seeks
the opportunity to serve Canadian interests as the foundation upon which all our
other industries must build….”
In 1979, the association commissioned a study to assess the public standing of the
industry. The report (CCPA, 1979) found that, while invisibility had some advantages, it
precluded the building of community support for the industry. Soon after, the industry
faced a major train derailment in which a rail car explosion, due to a faulty wheel
bearing, caused the release of styrene, toluene, propane, caustic soda, and chlorine into
areas surrounding Mississauga (Allen, Havey, & Dickie, 1980). This and other safety
and environmental issues (such as the Bhopal disaster) began to accumulate
domestically and internationally. The industry quickly became visible for all the wrong
In 1983, CCPA members were asked to voluntarily sign a statement of guiding
principles of industry behaviour. Theses principles stated, in part, that companies would:
• ensure their operations did not present an unacceptable level of risk to
employees, customers, the public or the environment;
• provide relevant information on the hazards of chemicals to customers and the
• be responsive and sensitive to legitimate community concerns; and
• proactively communicate to stakeholders a commitment to continuous
improvement in environment, health and safety performance.
(Laughton, Kierstead & Moran, 1994).
In 1983, the Canadian federal government commissioned a study to determine the
future direction of the Canadian chemical industry and the role of the government in
History of Responsible Care Page | 7
regulating the industry. The study committee consisted of 12 chemical industry leaders
and the leader of the major trade union. Initially it sought to demonstrate how crucial the
chemical industry was to Canada’s economy. However, the study also caused some of
the participating CEOs on the project to question whether the general public perceived
the industry as integral to this economy as well, or saw it as creating more problems
than it was worth. This reflection renewed emphasis on the concept of responsible
management of chemicals and a draft statement of guiding principles that had been
developed five years earlier (CCPA, 1978). At the time of the draft, legal counsel
expressed concerns that such a statement could lead to increased liabilities; however,
eventually the draft statement was reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors of
The committee’s report was published in February 1984 and signed by all project
members. It affirmed that the industry was a key and responsible industry and published
for the first time the Statement of Guiding Principles, citing the Transportation
Emergency Assistance Program as a tangible example of the CCPA’s commitment to
implementing RC. The report stated that formal acceptance of the Guiding Principles by
all members of the CCPA would be actively sought.
Months later in 1984, the cataclysmic Bhopal disaster occurred and a special CCPA
Board meeting convened immediately after the incident in December 1984. Although
96% of member companies had signed on to the inaugural version of Responsible Care,
doing so was not mandatory. At the meeting, a motion to make it mandatory was
approved unanimously. All companies were then urged to review their current safety
practices to identify potential weaknesses and report their findings. At a special meeting
in January 1985 members agreed that the industry would only be as good as its weakest
link; any company taking its responsibilities lightly would negate efforts of the whole
industry. Responsible Care was born.
This series of meetings illustrates the important evolution that took place in the minds
of Canadian chemical industry leaders. They recognized a need to develop trust with the
public. To meet that need, a committee was formed to develop a common Safety
Assessment Process. A second committee was tasked with developing a set of codes
governing responsible management across the life cycle of chemical products (Belanger,
personal observation). Today, this is an accepted concept within the industry (CCPA,
2000), but in 1985 it was revolutionary. It involved concepts such as refusing to produce
a product if one was uncertain it would be handled with due diligence, informing plant
History of Responsible Care Page | 8
neighbours about the dangers associated with the processes inside the plant gates and
the precautions taken to mitigate those (CCPA, 2005a). Each Board member also
agreed to visit three non-Board member CEO’s to secure their commitment to RC and
offer help in implementation.
In the early stages of RC Code development, founding members pointed out that
legal requirements offered a blueprint for minimum action, and turned the focus of RC to
employ an ethical mandate that aimed to meet or exceed regulation, which was
considered the minimum amount of action required. This became a crucial turning point
in the history of Responsible Care. The CEOs on the Board determined what was
needed in order to do the right thing and incorporated that philosophy into their mandate.
Board members recognized that to meet the goal of developing public trust, they needed
to incorporate a verification process into RC (Belanger, personal observation). The result
was the first voluntary publication of their quantified performance on individual chemical
emissions and 5-year projections of emissions reduction, which formed the basis of the
National Emissions Reduction Masterplan, or NERM (CCPA, 2009a). They also chose to
publicize the National Advisory Panel’s (NAP) annual performance reports, which record
member company’s emissions reductions and adoption rates of response care
Building Trust in Canada: An On-going Mission
Responsible Care has developed as an ethically-driven way of life, a culture
reflecting a unique vision of member companies’ corporate and social responsibilities. It
addresses the reality that corporate values must emphasize long term commitments to:
community and occupational health and safety, minimizing environmental footprint and
promoting the mitigation of environment impacts across the industry. This must be done
within a framework that minimizes social impacts and attempts to create positive
relationships with all stakeholders.
The first Statement of Commitment to Responsible Care was published in February
1984 by the CCPA stating:
History of Responsible Care Page | 9
“The Canadian chemical industry is committed to taking every practical
precaution to ensure that products do not present an unacceptable level of risk to
its employees, customers, the public or the environment.”
It further outlined a set of guiding principles:
• Ensure that its operations do not present an unacceptable level of risk to
employees, customers, the public and the environment.
• Provide relevant information on the hazards of chemicals to its customers, urging
them to use and dispose of products in a safe manner, and make such
information available to the public on request.
• Make Responsible Care and early and integral part of the planning process
leading to new products, processes or plants.
• Increase the emphasis on the understanding of existing products and their uses
and ensure that a high level of understanding of new products and their potential
hazards is achieved prior to and throughout commercial development.
• Comply with all legal requirements which affect its operations and products.
• Be responsive and sensitive to legitimate community concerns.
• Work actively with and assist governments and selected organizations to foster
and encourage equitable and attainable standards.
In 2003, the CCPA reviewed its commitment and revised the Statement of
(CCPA, 2003): “We are committed to do the right thing and be seen to do
the right thing. We are guided towards environmental, societal, and economic
sustainability by the following principles:
• We are stewards of our products and services during their life cycles in order to
protect people and the environment.
• We are accountable to the public, who have the right to understand the risks and
benefits of what we do and to have their input heard.
• We respect all people.
• We work together to improve continuously,
• We work for effective laws and standards, and will meet or exceed them in letter
• We inspire others to commit themselves to the principles of Responsible Care”.
History of Responsible Care Page | 10
In 2007, the CCPA again reviewed its ongoing initiative and concluded that public
concern about sustainability principles had increased and there was now an expectation
that the private sector would reduce its impact on the environment as it developed
economically (see CCPA, 2008a; and CCPA National Advisory Panel, 2009). Taking a
proactive posture, the CCPA looked to improving people’s lives and the environment
while striving to do no harm. The result of this extensive consultation between the
CCPA, board members, the advisory panel and industry leaders was a restatement of
the Responsible Care commitment as follows (CCPA, 2008c):
The Responsible Care® Ethic & Principles for Sustainability state that: we are
committed to do the right thing, and be seen to do the right thing. We dedicate
ourselves, our technology and our business practices to sustainability, the betterment of
society, the environment and the economy. The principles of Responsible Care are key
to our business success, and compel us to:
• work for the improvement of people’s lives and the environment, while striving to
do no harm;
• be accountable and responsive to the public, especially our local communities,
who have the right to understand the risks and benefits of what we do;
• take preventative action to protect health and the environment
• innovate for safer products and processes that conserve resources and provide
• engage with our business partners to ensure the stewardship and security of our
products, services and raw materials throughout their life-cycles;
• understand and meet expectations for social responsibility;
• work with all stakeholders for public policy and standards that enhance
sustainability, act to advance legal requirements and meet or exceed their letter
• promote awareness of Responsible Care®, and inspire others to commit to these
In addition, the CPPA added the following to its logo: “Responsible Care: Our
commitment to sustainability.”
History of Responsible Care Page | 11
Integrating the Social Dimension
RC’s goal of developing public trust necessitated a focus on addressing
environmental and health concerns. In 1983 the United Nations appointed an
international commission to examine the state of the environment globally, and to
propose strategies for improvement. This commission, chaired by Norwegian Prime
Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, culminated in the publication of a report, “Our Common
Future” (Brundtland Commission, 1987) focused on the interrelationships between the
economy and the environment. The report underlined the crucial role played by the
social dimension in achieving this precarious balance.
The social dimension was, therefore, never far from the surface of Responsible Care
thinking. While a causal relationship between the chemical industry and its
environmental impacts could be drawn, the social dimension and its effects on society
presented a challenge to the entire industry and possibly all agents of economic society,
in the larger context of corporate social responsibility. In cooperation with a number of
other Canadian industry associations, the CCPA (1994) concluded that social
responsibility had to be examined on two levels: (1) a societal level where all
stakeholders must reach consensus on their ever-evolving needs and the allocation of
resources to each stakeholder in meeting them; this can include consideration of
poverty, third world development, human rights and many others and (2) a sectoral or
company perspective where industry must preserve and grow its natural and human
In 1994, the CCPA published “A primer on Responsible Care and Sustainable
Development” in which it tried to describe both the cohesion of these two concepts and
areas where the scope of sustainable development extended beyond Responsible Care.
A review of sustainable development principles was conducted while integrating
organizations such as the International Chamber of Commerce Business Charter for
Sustainable Development, the Canadian National Round Table on the Environment and
the Economy and the Economy Objectives for Sustainable Development, Agenda 21, of
the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (CCPA, 1994). It
chose 18 sectoral themes common to many of these organizations and, in its primer
provided an attempt to describe visually their relationship with Responsible Care. There
is a high degree of congruence between the themes of sustainable development and
those of Responsible Care as related to the economic-environmental interface.
History of Responsible Care Page | 12
However, certain social elements are truly societal in nature and beyond the scope of
direct company actions.
As elements of social concerns were identified by the public through the Community
Advisory Panels (CAPs), they were integrated into each company’s responsibility
portfolio. Community concerns have varied greatly from company to company, because
of their operations, resulting in a diversity of social integration by individual companies.
While Responsible Care had initially focused on Environmental Health and Safety
(EH&S) concerns, it was often the more social issues at the local plant level that had to
be addressed first.
Transition at the International Level: Global Expansion
In 1988 the CCPA presented its Responsible Care concept to representatives of the
US Chemical Manufacturers Association (now the American Chemistry Council) and it
was adopted by that association. Soon after, an effort was initiated to bring together all
national chemical associations, with the intention of establishing Responsible Care
worldwide. This led to the formation of the International Council of Chemical
Associations (ICCA) and the formation of the ICCA Responsible Care Leadership Group
which exercises guardianship over Responsible Care globally and connects with other
international institutions such as the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
In 2004, a study, including an external stakeholder survey (SustainAbility, 2004)
conducted by the International Council of Chemical Associations into RC development
and implementation at the global level, led to the adoption of a set of Global Responsible
Care Core Principles within a Responsible Care Global Charter as follows (ICCA, 2006):
“The Global Responsible Care Core principles commit companies and national
associations to work together to:
• Continuously improve the environmental, health and safety knowledge and
performance of our technologies, processes and products over their life cycles so
as to avoid harm to people and the environment.
• Use resources efficiently and minimize waste.
• Report openly on performance, achievements and shortcomings.
History of Responsible Care Page | 13
• Listen, engage and work with people to understand and address their concerns
• Cooperate with governments and organizations in the development and
implementation of effective regulations and standards, and to meet or go beyond
• Provide help and advice to foster the responsible management of chemicals by al
those who manage and use them along the product chain”
• Additionally, every national Responsible Care program must include eight
• A formal commitment by each company to a set of guiding principles, signed, in
most cases, by the Chief Executive Officer.
• A series of codes, guidance notes and checklists to help companies fulfill their
• The development of indicators against which improvements in performance can
• Open communication on health, safety and environmental matters with interested
parties, both inside and outside the industry.
• Opportunities for companies to share views and exchange experiences on
implementing Responsible Care.
• Consideration of how best to encourage all member companies to commit
themselves to, and participate in, Responsible Care.
• A title and logo which clearly identify national programs as being consistent with,
and part of, the Responsible Care concept.
• Procedures for verifying that member companies have implemented the
measurable or practical elements of Responsible Care.”
In June 2008,(ICCA, 2009) the ICCA Leadership Group unanimously adopted the
concept of changing the official global identity of Responsible Care "Responsible Care
IMPLEMENTATION CHALLENGES IN GAINING
History of Responsible Care Page | 14
In examining the development of Responsible Care in Canada, it is important to
define what drove industry CEOs to pursue this approach and the challenges overcome
during initial implementation.
Reflection on Drivers
The factors that drove the creation of Responsible Care by the Canadian chemical
industry are multiple. At the outset, the initiative came from the need to enhance public
trust in order to maintain the industry’s license to operate. Over time the industry’s CEOs
came to appreciate the intrinsic value of moving towards responsible behavior. From this
base, a first set of interlaced stakeholder drivers were focused upon.
The Canadian chemical industry strongly believed that Responsible Care was an
ethical and cultural approach to the issues and CEO/Board commitment became the
cornerstone of success and the driver within individual companies. This helped to
cement company-wide commitment developed through implementation activities, review
processes and job performance criteria. Employee demand surfaced as a driver when
pride in their company’s commitment to Responsible Care improved employee morale,
performance and recruitment (Willard, 2005; CCPA, 2005b).
Building trust with environmental groups, and NGO/Advocacy Groups through the
the National Advisory Panel is also an important driver which has been transparent from
the outset and maintained the NAP’s independent oversight (CCPA NAP, 2003)
Because the CCPA is mainly focused on manufacturers of industrial chemicals,
member companies, rather than the public, were the consumers of the industry. The
product stewardship aspect of Responsible Care, or supply chain management, became
an adaptation to public consumer/customer demand and the means whereby companies
could identify other member’s commitment to the RC ethic. This concept is represented
in the verification process which ensures that non-compliance by some members does
not create problems for all (CCPA, 2008b).
Securing Initial Commitment
The principle that guided the initial commitment to RC was “Evolutionary buy-in”. All
of the actions required by RC could not be defined at the outset without proper
History of Responsible Care Page | 15
preparation of CEO’s. It was necessary therefore, to allow participants to gain
confidence with each step and an understanding for the necessity of taking the next.
Securing and maintaining commitment has been an ongoing process. Several crucial
actions were taken at the outset, which allowed the process of adoption of RC to move
The CEO’s of larger companies identified the threat to their continuing mandate to
produce and worried about the threat of an inflexible regulatory regime that did not
encourage progress beyond the regulations and stifled industry evolution (Willard, 2005).
They came to the conclusion that the economic bottom line could no longer be kept
distinct from its environmental responsibility. In turn, they took on the leadership role and
responsibility of convincing their peers. Eventually, in 1984 they helped develop the
“Statement of Guiding Principles of Responsible Care” The members of the CPPA
signed on to the statement and agreed to seek the voluntary commitment of all other
CEO members of the CCPA. This work was completed in early January 1984, pre-dating
Bhopal by 11 months.
In Responsible Care’s early years, public opinion of the industry was negative and
much of the public believed that the industry knew of problems inherent in its products,
but hid this information from the public (King & Lenox, 2000) . They believed that the
industry dealt responsibly with its products during the manufacturing stages but concern
increased further into their life-cycle, during transportation, distribution, use and final
disposal. Seminars with CEO’s and other company employees were held to increase the
process of sensitization. In an unprecedented step, the CCPA Board Chair met with
editorial Boards of major Canadian newspapers and provided them with the highly
critical study results. By presenting the results in a factual, if unflattering, manner, the
industry took a crucial first step in establishing credibility with the public (Belanger,
The Need for Risk Communication
The importance of appropriate risk communication was emphasized from the
inception of RC. Conventional wisdom within the industry argued that public
misunderstanding of the industry was a result of the public’s inability to comprehend
complex science. What the leaders of industry failed to recognize was that public trust
had to be earned. The CPPA consulted with experts in the field of risk communication.
History of Responsible Care Page | 16
One was Prof. Peter Sandman, formerly of Rutgers University who developed the
equation “Risk = Hazard + Outrage” (Sandman, 1993). Another was Professor Vincent
Covello of Columbia University who instructed industry leaders on conducting public
consultation, with a focus on building trust through empathetic listening. These
workshops were instrumental in convincing CEO’s of the impact of public opinion and
how to influence it (Covello, 2005).
The Business Case for Responsible Care
Early in the process of adoption of RC principles by the Canadian chemical industry
some smaller companies expressed concern that Responsible Care could add to their
costs and perhaps render them uncompetitive. The leader CEOs reinforced that
Responsible Care was not idealistic, but rather a commitment to ethical practice. Leader
CEOs offered help in designing systems and even tutoring to member companies,
demonstrating the business case for Responsible Care and corporate social
responsibility (CCPA, 2005b).
Leaders in the industry began to recognize a new array of opportunities through their
responsible efforts, which became economic drivers. The focus on sustainable
development issues meant companies could seize new markets through innovation, and
gain operational efficiencies and competitive advantages. As a result, this new set of
potential advantages became a second wave of drivers for the leading companies in the
chemical industry (Willard, 2005; Elkington, 2003).
Corporate Social Responsibility
Finally, it is important to examine social responsibility and its position as a driver. The
recognition of social responsibility in capital markets has been a niche element that is
still in its gestation period. As a result, many companies have not yet seen this as a
driver for stock performance and for access to capital for growth. Demand for socially
responsible investing is still in its infancy, but steadily growing. There is a strong belief
that this will be a successful investment strategy in the near future and will become a key
driver (Tschopp, 2005). At this time, only a few companies are seeing the full potential
of this opportunity in providing value for their shareholders. This is evidenced in the
various SRI indexes including the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
History of Responsible Care Page | 17
These drivers represent a generalization for a broad sector of industry. Various
companies within the sector evolved at different rates and responded to the array of
drivers with different intensities and timing.
RC’s focus on ethical concepts, as opposed to the more traditional regulatory
compliance approach, has meant that the mindset of many member companies had to
be radically challenged and modified during the initial implementation of the concept.
Overcoming a legal mentality
Initial attempts at writing guidelines governing chemical industry practice had been
rejected on the advice of legal counsel who advised that subscribing to such guidelines
would create undue liabilities. However, the context was such that regulatory pressures
were building to a point where CEOs began to worry that the resulting constraints on
their operations would essentially withdraw their mandate to produce. The CEOs came
to realize that the choice was not between regulations or their absence, but rather
among approaches designed to achieve certain defined objectives. If the objectives
could be met strictly by industry’s own efforts and outcomes were demonstrable, visible
and measurable, the resultant market would be cost-efficient and flexible in its
management. If the process was to be initiated before the implementation of regulatory
constraints, there may be further positive benefits in terms of public recognition. Given
that the legal and regulatory context is not static, meeting today’s legal commitments did
not mean one would meet later demands and remain competitive (CCPA, 2005a,
Ethical behaviour has a societal context, upon which trust will be built through
Some companies believe that their singular responsibility is to create economic
wealth. This can re-enforce an “us-them” mentality in the rest of society and the concern
History of Responsible Care Page | 18
that industry cannot be trusted to respect greater social interests (Elkington, 2003). In
contrast, the chemical industry set out to enhance recognition of companies’ wider social
responsibilities to position itself as a part of the solution rather than the problem by
balancing economic objectives with social responsibility.
Behind this was the recognition that companies had to accept the concept that
“perception is reality”. Prof. Peter Sandman’s equation of RISK=HAZARD+OUTRAGE,
(1993) states that hazard reflects scientific aspects of operation, and outrage combines
social factors into the equation. Outrage increases when individuals feel controlled by
others, or feel that a situation is unfair and morally relevant, or when sources are
considered untrustworthy and when processes are considered unresponsive. According
to this analysis, the chemical industry must listen, understand, and address public
concerns. It must be transparent and responsive to community inquiry in order to gain
Seeking and acquiring full CEO commitment
Initial reaction to RC in the chemical industry was mixed. Some saw it as just another
initiative in a series of environmental management programs to be implemented over the
years. Responsibility for its implementation could be assigned to an employee and
interest in it would be time-limited. Alternatively, some saw it as new regulations
imposed by the industry association (ENDS, 2005). These misapprehensions needed to
be addressed if the initiative were to bring about a lasting change in company and
industry behaviour. RC had to be embraced by CEO’s, who in turn had to signal clearly
to employees that RC would form their companies’ guiding principles going forward. One
method was the implementation of performance evaluations (CCPA, 2005c; CCPA,
2008b) based on the new mentality. The CPPA recognized that changing the culture of
the industry required time for absorption so that the strength of its success would come
from employees themselves.
Another assumption that had to be overturned was the desire for a prescriptive
implementation plan with fixed criteria and endpoints. Instead, RC requires that member
companies consult with stakeholders as to what “the right thing to do” would be in their
circumstance, and do so in a publicly accessible fashion. Individual CEOs must affirm
that his or her company has taken all practical precaution to ensure its products do not
present an unacceptable level of risk to its employees, customers, the public, or the
History of Responsible Care Page | 19
environment. Meeting the codes of RC is a constant, dynamic process without
endpoints, and becomes the culture of operation rather than a prescribed program
(CCPA, 2005c; CCPA, 2000).
Acceptance of the need for comprehensiveness
Initially there were concerns about the resources required to adhere to RC codes in
all areas of operation. However, since it is cultural and not programmatic in nature, RC
must pervade all areas of operation. An important part of the evaluation is the measure
of RC “embeddness” in the company structure and corporate culture. One of the ways
evaluators determine how well an RC company has incorporated the ethic into their
mandate is to measure the employee buy-in that exists in the company. This allows the
evaluator to gain a better understanding as to how well RC is being implemented in a
bottom-up fashion (Reisch, 2003)
Recognizing that the weakest link could defeat the initiative
Each company has a stake in each others’ performance, necessitating cooperation
and mutual assistance in implementation of RC codes. Expertise was shared through
workshops and one-on-one help between CEO’s. This mutual help concept is what
fostered small company adherence to the initiative. For example, RC proved to be very
successful for Sulco Chemicals, the small company test-pilot for the implementation of
Responsible Care. This helped increase the adoption of RC in smaller organizations
across Canada (Chartrand, 2005).
RC codes are a way of demonstrating the care with which companies handle their
products. For companies who meet the codes, this may be used in a court of law in a
defence of due diligence demonstrating that they have been following accepted industry
practice as reviewed by external stakeholders. Those who do not adhere to the codes
may leave themselves vulnerable to legal prosecution (CCPA, 2005b).
Overcoming fears of RC as undue competitive burden
The concern voiced most often by company CEO’s was that Responsible Care and
other environmental management systems would cost too much money to implement
History of Responsible Care Page | 20
(Willard, 2005; Hawken, 1999). However, Responsible Care describes what a diligent
company must do to ensure that its products do not present an unacceptable level of risk
to its employees, customers, the public or the environment. Its codes were designed by
industry insiders and the means of a company’s compliance to the code is at the
discretion of the individual company. Alternative, government-imposed regulations with
the attendant negotiations and uncertainties are generally believed to be more costly
Companies report that after reviewing their Responsible Care commitment and
management systems with their insurers, rates were reduced. Some companies have
reported bankers, worried about environmental liabilities, have responded positively to
their Responsible Care commitment, resulting in lower financing rates. There have also
been examples of expedited permitting, marketing advantages and lower workers’
compensation premiums and costs as a result of RC participation (CCPA, 2005b).
MAINTAINING COMMITMENT TO RESPONSIBLE CARE
Having established the crucial role of public opinion and consultation during the initial
phase of RC implementation, attention then turned to the best means by which the
industry could address public concerns.
This set of principles describe the commitment of the CCPA to Responsible Care.
Initial requests to chemical industry CEO’s for voluntary adoption of these principles
were met with 95% compliance. Subsequently, subscription and adherence to these
principles has been made a mandatory component of CCPA membership. Companies
are also encouraged to prominently display this signed document within their
organization. The commitment to guiding principles governs chemical operations;
however, diversified companies are encouraged to implement the principles in their non-
chemical operations as well. Today, non-chemical producers, such as chemical
transporters and producers are welcomed as Responsible Care Partners with the same
compliance requirements as regular members.
History of Responsible Care Page | 21
Codes of Management Practices
The codes describe in concrete terms the implementation of management practices
which ensure products and associated processes and operations are handled safely
throughout their life cycle. The codes were developed over three years by a team of
functional experts from a cross-section of Canadian chemical companies. It was
recognized that each member company would encounter unique challenges in meeting
the codes’ requirements, and therefore a rigid schedule of compliance was decided
against. The Board of Directors of the CCPA advised member companies that they were
expected to complete the process within three years of initiation in order to maintain
public credibility. Every 6 months, companies report to the CCPA regarding compliance
rates. As a final aspect, the six codes cover: research and development, manufacturing,
transportation, distribution, hazardous waste management and community awareness
and emergency response.
Conformance includes detailing how operations are carried out by associated groups
such as suppliers, customers, transporters, or university labs conducting contract
research for a company. Following completion of this procedure, the CEO must attest to
the CCPA that code requirements have been met. (CCPA, 2000)
The CCPA secured public input into the RC development process by having a third-
party consultant assemble a cross-sectional group of activists, academics, consumers,
seniors and youth to follow the development of RC from its inception. The independence
of this consultative body and its inclusion of members critical of the Canadian chemical
industry were vital to ensure the credibility of the panel. The National Advisory Panel
(NAP) continues to meet today with rotating personnel. Its advice has been sought
before every important decision being taken by the Board of Directors of the CCPA. For
example, each code of practice was submitted to the panel before going to the Board for
final approval. Additionally, an unedited message from the National Advisory Panel is
included in the annual report of the association on Responsible Care. Beyond the
national level, every member company site must have a Community Advisory Process in
History of Responsible Care Page | 22
place to meet the Community Awareness and Emergency Response code (CCPA,
Responsible Care calls for a new mentality embraced by member CEO’s and
entrenched within each company. The CEO must back his or her commitment by
ensuring that performance of individuals will be evaluated along the lines of this new
mentality. CEOs are also best placed to convince their colleagues of the merits of
compliance with RC. These industry leaders are subdivided into groups of 8 to 15 by
region and meet at least 4 times a year to monitor the compliance progress of each
member and exert peer pressure to ensure that efforts are constant.
Results Confirmation Process
To counter the argument that RC is simply a public relations tactic, CCPA initiated
two important activities. First is third party verification by a four member team comprised
• Two experts in the implementation of Responsible Care. These are often people
who have retired from the industry after being coordinators themselves.
• One expert in environmental matters. Often these have been professors of
environmental science or environmentalists familiar with the development of
• One representative of the community in which a company operates. This can be
anyone with credibility in the community, for example a high school principal, or
activist. The role of this individual is to confirm to the community that the process
has indeed been a serious one.
The second activity in the results confirmation process is the production by each
participant company of an annual report of all air, water and ground emissions, including
waste and a five-year forecast. This Reducing Emissions Report is mandatory for all
companies and results must be made available to community stakeholders (CCPA,
History of Responsible Care Page | 23
2009b). The CCPA also provides information to the public on its overall progress in
Responsible Care including the unedited message of the National Advisory Panel.
The name “Responsible Care” and its logo have become recognized as one of the
most significant assets of the chemical industry, and in recognition of this, are copyright
protected. Only companies who are willing to participate in adoption of RC codes and
culture are permitted to use these symbols (CCPA, 2005a).
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
While Responsible Care is an initiative conceived and implemented by industry,
government has indicated it considers RC a valid, credible alternative to moderate
regulatory pressures. In 2001, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the
ministers of Industry and Environment and the President of the CPPA to meet
periodically at the senior officials level, and review progress by the industry in its efforts
at emission reduction and to discuss Responsible Care in general (Environment
Canada, 2001). The Environment and Industry departments have encouraged other
economic sectors to follow the chemical industry’s example and implement initiatives
similar to RC. In 1990, Environment Canada nominated Responsible Care to receive the
United Nations Environmental Program’s Global 500 Roll of Honour Award for
outstanding contribution to environmental improvement. Responsible Care was the first
industry sector to receive the award, for what UNEP described as “ outstanding practical
achievements in the protection and improvement of the environment.” (UNEP, 1990).
THE FUTURE OF RESPONSIBLE CARE IN CANADA
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has acknowledged the shortcomings the
American Responsible Care system, which differs significantly from the Canadian
implementation, specifically in that it did not have a verifiable set of standards to
evaluate the performance of firms and their adherence to Responsible Care. Many
chemical associations, such as the CCPA, have recognized that insufficient third party
History of Responsible Care Page | 24
monitoring of a firm’s performance has been a major deterrent to the success of
Responsible Care. In response to these issues, as of 2007, the ACC requires firms to
subscribe to a hybrid Responsible Care/ISO 14001 environmental management system
or a revamped Responsible Care Management System (American Chemistry Council,
2007; Schmitt, 2002). The ACC’s RC-14001 overlays Responsible Care codes onto
ISO 14001 codes and requires that only one evaluation be done for both standards
simultaneously. This type of policy is a major step towards legitimizing Responsible
Care and ensuring transparent reporting and true accountability in the United States
(American Chemistry Council, 2007; ENDS, 2005).
In Canada, verification is already an integral part of the process; however,
checklist-based monitoring has not been the direction that the initiative has moved
towards, largely because it fails to measure the extent to which the ethic has been
integrated into the corporate culture of a firm. Given the Canadian Responsible Care’s
movement towards the integration of precautionary policies and the use of inherently
safer technologies, one possible path for the evolution of the ethic is to require
companies to report on standardized indicators such as those outlined in the G3
Sustainability Indicators of the Global Reporting Initiative, which would complement the
reporting already required through NERM. Rather than hybridize the verification
process, such as was done in the US, the CCPA could explore hybridizing the GRI with
NERM, which could establish a more robust reporting standard.
The United Nations developed the GRI in order to ensure that companies which
enroll in the program report on all relevant indicators and not just on the ones in which
they show positive performance (G3 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, 2006).
According to Tchopp (2005), there are many examples of companies that report on their
environmental successes but not on their failures. This can give the public an
incomplete picture of the company’s social responsibility strategy.
It is important to consider the issue of transparency and standards for companies
who embark on environmental management programs and sustainable initiatives.
Reporting standards provide investors and consumers with a transparent basis of
comparison for various companies. At the same time companies can use standards to
gauge their success and properly target necessary improvements which could lead to
even greater efficiencies and profitability (G3 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, 2006).
Reporting standards can also help identify the degree to which a company’s
sustainable initiatives are holistic and integrated. Positive performance on most
History of Responsible Care Page | 25
indicators would indicate integrated strategies as opposed to narrowly focused ones. An
integrated strategy is proven to yield greater profits and would be a more popular choice
for a socially responsible investor (Perrini & Tencati, 2006, p. 298). This type of
measurement would align better with the Canadian RC’s goal to have the ethic
embedded in the corporate culture rather than be more prescriptive and checklist-based
as is the case with other environmental management systems.
Responsible Care is a dynamic statement of ethical concern, in a continual state of
evolution in Canada. It was initiated in the early part of the 1980s as a simple one-page
statement of principles touching the singular aspect of environmental responsibility. It
has since evolved into a set of codes, verification processes, visible performance
measurement and deeper understanding of the principles first stated. There has been
one constant; building trust through ethical behavior, listening attentively to the evolving
concerns of the public and providing responses that clearly demonstrate concerns have
been taken seriously.
Sustainable development principles in the responsible care ethic have become
integrated in decision-making processes. The Canadian Chemical Producers’
Association, by pursuing a dynamic and evolving Responsible Care, enacts its ongoing
commitment to meeting the sustainable development aspirations of Canadian society. In
2007 the CCPA Board reviewed the state of Responsible Care in Canada and
determined that they were largely invisible on the issues of sustainability and global
warming; issues of major concern to the Canadian public. Once again, the leaders on
the Board stepped forward and ensured that these issues would be integrated explicitly
within the ethic of Responsible Care in the future.
It has taken leaders amongst industry CEOs on the RC Board, frontline workers who
implement the ethic in their daily work and citizens who have provided input and
oversight to push the borders of conventional thinking and convince other companies to
commit to do the right thing. These leaders realized that the health of the chemical
industry was at stake and responded by establishing a transparent, open and responsive
chemical industry whose commitment to public safety and consultation is well
documented and genuine.
History of Responsible Care Page | 26
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