SOCMA President and CEO Lawrence D. Sloan discusses the key policy initiatives and activities of the association.
The Society for Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), the trade association representing custom and batch manufacturers, including producers of fine chemicals, intermediates, and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), is actively engaged in policy advocacy and other membership activities. Patricia Van Arnum, senior editor of Pharmaceutical Technology and editor of Pharmaceutical Technology’s Sourcing and Management, recently discussed the association’s key objectives and activities for 2011 with SOCMA President and CEO Lawrence D. Sloan, on a broad range of issues involving policy advocacy in environmental, health, safety, and security measures, drug-manufacturing inspections, and custom and border control.
PharmTech: Looking back at 2010 and 2011 to date, what would you identify as the key accomplishments of the association and its key objectives in 2011?
Sloan: As part of our ongoing efforts to provide exceptional value to the batch, custom, and specialty chemical industry, SOCMA last year began stepping up its offering of program and services to members and non-members alike. In 2010, SOCMA improved existing programs, such as our popular grassroots program, SOCMA CONNECT, which includes our Annual Washington Fly-in. We also launched new services, such as our Sales and Marketing Peer Group and new technical and sales training programs being offered through collaborative partnerships with the American Chemical Society and others.
SOCMA also developed its innovative Member Value Report, customized for every SOCMA member company, which documents a company's specific involvement with the organization in areas, such as Government Relations, ChemStewards, and Public Relations. It features a cost-savings analysis across each program and service. As an example, it calculates the cost of retaining a law firm in lieu of using SOCMA to illustrate the value of our advocacy program. No other US chemical trade association offers this type of member return-on-investment tool. The report, which has been well-received by members, not only serves to indicate the members’ level of engagement, but also reminds them of the programs and services they are not taking advantage of.
Last year, we also began work on a new services directory for SOCMA members and others in the chemical industry. The SOCMA Marketplace and Chemical Services Directory was conceived in response to the growing number of inquiries our staff was receiving for members who produce certain products. This new online tool will be a comprehensive directory and search engine of SOCMA member company capabilities. It will be launched by the end of the year.
PharmTech: In 2010, SOCMA launched member peer groups in human resources and sales and marketing, some of which you have alluded to already. Can you explain the reason behind establishing these groups and their function?
Sloan: As a benefit of membership, SOCMA members can participate in training programs and events throughout the year to broaden their knowledge on issues, network with industry peers, and exchange best practices. The Sales and Marketing Peer Group, for example, includes representation from nearly 30 SOCMA member companies, small and large. The group, which was launched earlier this year, provides virtual forums for SOCMA’s sales and marketing members to interact and learn from subject-matter experts in their field. Through learning, polling, conversations, and collaboration, SOCMA has been using members’ feedback to offer a series of programs through conference calls. Conference-call learning allows these busy individuals to participate from anywhere without the need of a computer. To date, the group held two conference calls in the first quarter, one on May 24, and two others are planned for the the summer and fall. The group has an advisory panel of more than 20 C-level members from a diverse mix of companies. The panel acts as a sounding board for ideas to bring to the larger Peer Group.
Environmental, health, safety, and security measures
PharmTech: In the area of environmental, health, and safety (EHS), how does the association’s ChemStewards program operate in relation to other industry efforts, such as the Responsible Care program, and how is it a useful tool for companies’ EHS efforts? Does the program serve a collateral role in the association’s policy advocacy with respect to EHS regulation and legislation? Are there other benefits from participation in the program from a business perspective, such as recognition of the program and reduction in insurance costs?
Sloan: ChemStewards is SOCMA’s environmental, health, safety, and security (EHS&S) performance-improvement program. The program was created by and for the batch, custom, and specialty chemical industry in 2005, and has quickly gained a reputation as both an efficient and highly effective management system. Among other things, ChemStewards promotes improving the performance of employee safety, lowering a facility’s environmental footprint, and continuously increasing the security of the facility. To date, 92% of SOCMA members are in compliance with ChemStewards.
The performance-improvement programs through industry today have many similarities, but some important differences as well. ChemStewards is the only management system that is totally facility based, thereby providing SOCMA members with adaptability and cost control. Also, ChemStewards verification is completed by third-party auditors approved and certified through ChemStewards as well as the Board of Environmental, Health & Safety Auditor Certification. The program also stands out in the area of support service. ChemStewards provides EHS&S webinars on policy and regulations, governmental audits, and other hot topics. Members also have free access to the Chemical Operator Training Manual, a handbook designed to ensure the successful performance of chemical plant operators, as well as the ChemStewards Integrated Management System, a new database that integrates SOCMA’s program with other government-sponsored performance improvement programs, such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OSHAS 18001.
ChemStewards creates an enormous return on investment that extends well beyond the company’s fence line. The third-party audit, for example, is an excellent cost/value proposition for members. Also, through the SOCMA Member Select Insurance Program, participants that incur verification costs after successfully completing ChemStewards audits are granted underwriting risk-management credits on policy premiums.
Also, more and more SOCMA members are finding there is a commercial advantage to practicing ChemStewards. We’re hearing that our members are becoming preferred vendors in many areas as their customers stipulate that ChemStewards is included in their purchase agreements. That is a pretty big deal because now companies are seeing a tangible effect on their bottom line.
PharmTech: Can you explain in more detail the ChemStewards Green Metrics standard, how it was developed, by whom, and how will it be used? How may it work with other industry standards, such as voluntary green-chemistry standards or other metrics of sustainability/green manufacturing, including corporate sustainability reporting?
Sloan: The ChemStewards program was founded upon sustainability principles six years ago. From the beginning, our members have been focused on energy and waste-generation reduction. Last year, our Board of Governors requested that greater emphasis be placed on sustainability. A working group made up of representative SOCMA members led by staff canvassed ChemStewards participants on documenting how batch chemical plants are operating in a more sustainable manner. Out of this research, the group recommended the addition of a voluntary new metric focusing on greenhouse-gas reporting. The SOCMA board recently approved this change as well as the launch of a new Sustainability Award, which will be presented at SOCMA’s 90th Annual Dinner in New York on December 5.
In May, more than 100 participants from industry and academia attended SOCMA’s first-ever EHS&S and Sustainability National Conference in Houston. The event focused on the concept of sustainability and how it’s defined for small and medium-sized chemical companies. SOCMA will continue discussions with members on the impact of sustainability on their businesses and what changes ChemStewards can make to meet their needs.