Senior Officials

The Review | Published September 04 2017

Parliamentary Review Foreword

By Stephen Elliot - Chemical Industries Association

In chemical and pharmaceutical businesses there is a continued feeling of optimism about the UK as chief executives look to the year ahead. While of course we are all monitoring and seeking to influence Brexit negotiations and the challenges it poses, right now our businesses feel positive about the outlook. And that view is from an industry where companies, in survey after survey, said they did not want our country to leave the European Union. What matters is to get the best outcome for the UK but also for the EU – our biggest customer market.

At the time of the last Review the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy had just been established. We had the name. Now we have a better idea of government thinking with the green paper published earlier this year. In our response we set out how, in partnership with government, we could decarbonise the economy, continue to provide jobs for thousands of skilled workers and set the innovative future the like of which the world has not seen.

An important part of our work is our reputation and ensuring that we listen to the public and to opinion leaders. In the latest survey across 12 European countries, the UK came a close second to Finland with both audiences and, in 16 ‘Reputation Drivers’ we are first or equal first in eight, second or equal second in seven and third in the other. We want our reputation to be as high as it can be, and we are not complacent. The UK general public’s view of the net benefits of chemicals versus the risk are 47% (survey average is 24) and with opinion leaders it is 48% (average is 38%).

There is more we would like to do to improve our reputation, which involves listening to feedback and comments about the industry. There is an argument that in certain circumstances the best thing to do, reputation-wise, is to simply listen. Not every point, every issue or every view demands an immediate comment. It can be better to not only give the appearance of listening or to listen just in order to reply; but to really listen to understand.

You don’t build a reputation by continually banging on about your own issues and not listening to the views of others. It is by regularly and proactively listening – something our companies do week in week out through town hall meetings on issues such as shale gas – that we can really drive a sustained change in the perception of our industry and, more broadly, business.