Russel, how has this year been for Brenntag so far?
2018 has been incredibly successful for us. We are continuing to work on exciting large scale programs of strategic investment in people, training, acquisitions and infrastructure, to underpin our growth in key areas, and some significant network and logistical projects are nearing completion. Work has been continuing on the new major distribution facility in the North East (reportedly in the region of £7m total investment- CIJ) which comes just as the existing Newcastle depot marks 100 years as a chemical manufacturing and distribution facility in the region. The new site is planned to be operational by December 2018, and having been designed bespoke to cater for our customers’ business needs will have specialised dedicated storage for life and material science products, state of the art tank farm, blending facility and associated filling systems, and many more.
Following the opening of the multi-million pound Midlands Industrial Blending facility last year, our Midlands, Lutterworth site is currently having a major Acetic Acid filling facility installed. The facility is due to be fully operational by November, with ISO 9001, FEMAS, ESAD and British Retail Consortium (BRC) accreditation and registration for Food and Feed storage.
Exciting projects are ongoing to further enhance our fleet, blending, packaging, liquid filling and specialised storage capabilities. Our teams are progressing a strong pipeline of commercial and technical developments across life and material sciences and water treatment: for instance Clorious2, the first continuous chlorine dioxide generator to employ the peroxodisulphate process, the “Total Concept” which is the innovative drinking water solution for animal nutrition, AdBlue products for the consumer market, to mention just a few. These are exciting times for our teams!
The Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) is a hot regulatory topic currently
Indeed, the Biocidal Products Regulation which establishes a system for making biocidal products (BPs) available in the EU, features the fast approaching deadline of 1 January 2019 for all applications for authorisation of BPs based on sodium hypochlorite.
We have over 3,000 customers in the UK & Ireland with an interest in Sodium Hypochlorite for biocides, and from what we are seeing the implementation of the BPR poses a challenge across the supply chain, with some key industry players describing it as “a race against time”. However, as a member of EuroChlor and the Pure Sodium Hypochlorite Product Group, Brenntag sees both the challenges and benefits to this regulation. One of the over-riding principle aims of the BPR is to make sure the products that are used on the EU market are safe to use and can provide the biocidal effectiveness the supplier claims. As a long-term producer and marketer of Sodium Hypochlorite we are well placed to ensure our customers understand their obligations and also help them navigate the complexity of the regulation.
I urge the companies involved in branding, packaging or diluting (and therefore selling) Sodium Hypochlorite solutions into the UK / European market as a Biocidal Product (BP) to take action, as failure to do so will result in their products being taken off the market at the end of 2018. This is necessary for both existing and new BPs based on Sodium Hypochlorite to remain on the market until the final BP authorization which is likely to be granted in 2021. Our Biocides team can offer further advice and discuss options that are best for all of our customers and suppliers.
Let’s talk about Brenntag Sustainability and Responsible Care initiatives
We manage the largest fleet of chemical returnable packaging within the UK & Ireland chemical sector, and take responsibility for our impact on the environment extremely seriously, always seeking the ways to reduce this impact further. For instance, we believe that initiatives in areas of plastic use, including the packaging used to supply chemicals, could help to address the issue.
The use of plastics has seen an increased public focus, and the UK Government has made it very clear that it is their intention to reduce the amount of plastic in circulation and the associated waste. Many companies, including household names, have signed up to the UK Plastics Pact to cut plastic pollution over the coming years. Our commitment to returnable packaging options includes the management and maintenance of the packaging, applicable certification, testing and tracking through the course of their life-span, from the point of first use through to the end of its use. We work with our customers to find the best solution: clearly there is the potential to positively impact sustainability credentials by using returnable packaging, plus of course the added benefit of eliminating any disposal costs that are currently paid for the collection and disposal of empty chemical packaging.
We do have an option for non-returnable packaging which is an area we are conscious does not promote the best use of a container. To that extent, we make every effort to ensure that all our customers are aware we offer a returnable packaging option- it is important to foster a collaborative approach across the supply chain.
As a member of the UN Global Compact since 2014, and one of the top performers for Ecovadis, where Brenntag are operating to Gold Recognition Level, we are dedicated to delivering in the area of responsible care. For many years now, we have taken part in the Responsible Care/Responsible Distribution (RC/RD) programme and as such we implement the eight guiding principles laid down in this global programme covering Legal requirements, Management of risk, Policies and documentation, Provision of information, Training, Emergency response, Ongoing improvements and Community interaction.
We have recently obtained our Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Membership. This is exciting news and yet another sign of our commitment to quality as we pursue industry specific third- party verifications. All our distribution sites are BRC accredited: Brenntag Bradford, Dublin, Bristol, Glasgow, Lutterworth and Swansea sites are of the highest AA grade with regards to BRC Storage and Distribution, whilst Manchester, Widnes, Belfast and Scunthorpe are AA with regards to BRC7 Food Safety Standard. Our Widnes site, which stores food, pharma and animal nutrition ingredients and provides food solutions blending services (along with Belfast site), and is home to our Food Application technical facility, has held the BRC certification continuously since 2012.
How active is Brenntag in the community?
The duty of care we as a business feel we owe to our local communities is very important to us. Community interaction is an integral part to Brenntag’s concept of sustainability, and indeed is one of the eight guiding principles of the Responsible Care Programme. We believe it is important to address the question: how can we, as part of a globally active company, define our role in the supply chain and in our society?
We see ourselves as part of each of the local communities where Brenntag operational sites are located, as a “corporate citizen”, and we maintain a close dialogue with them. Each of Brenntag’s facilities across the UK and Ireland has a long history of engaging with local communities via a variety of projects and initiatives. Due to the diversity of local charitable engagements at regional and local levels of our operations, we realise the need to ensure the voices of each of the local sites are heard and the efforts of employees supported and recognised across the company. Back in 2015, as part of our People Focus Agenda, our employees developed the BrenntagGiving Programme, which three years on has delivered literally hundreds of projects across the UK & Ireland, truly making a difference where it matters the most: at causes close to our employees’ hearts.
Only last year we raised close to £30,000 in the UK & Irelanda reflection of the efforts of our many colleagues who have taken part in various activities, whether by contributing funding, donations in kind, expertise or personal commitment to fundraising. I am amazed and proud of the work and efforts our colleagues put into making our community better, and was delighted to support our teams further with the introduction of a Volunteer Day where our employees can spend their working day at a registered charity of their choice- giving the potential of over 700 days per year of Brenntag employees directly contributing.
What do you think has been the reason behind the success of BrenntagGiving?
Each site is empowered to make their own decisions on how to get involved and where to direct their efforts. BrenntagGiving encourages individuals and groups of our employees to become more active and mindful in their local community as well as national fundraising awareness. In many cases, our employees get involved personally, collecting money and donations in kind or investing time and manpower in support of a wide variety of charitable causes, often for some deeply personal reason. We are immensely proud of our efforts to build relationships with communities across the UK & Ireland, benefitting the general public, our business partners and the chemical industry. I think the success of our ongoing community programs lies in ensuring the Community Interaction is truly a “people’s business”. Everything we achieve as a business is accomplished with and through our employees, who generate ideas, connect people within the communities and deliver projects that benefit various public groups, both immediately and in the future.
Last year we spoke about innovation in the chemical industry...
Indeed, and how innovating for added value can take a number of forms. We look to achieve excellence in every aspect of our business, such as to supply products quickly, efficiently, safely, conveniently and in full regulatory compliance. As a business we continue to raise the bar in terms of safety, in regards to our organisational safety culture and, as a distributor, setting the standards for the safe delivery of chemicals in the industry. At the end of last year we started an implementation of a major project: Brenntag Mobile Delivery Management System (or “TranSend“, as it has become known internally).
This project has proved to deliver a true step change in management of chemical delivery through our bulk and distribution fleets. Safe transportation of chemicals is essential in responsible distribution, whilst the nature of chemical distribution traditionally dictates vast amounts of paperwork to handle specific delivery, compliance and safety instructions, especially for multiple delivery types and different products. Our goal was to implement a mobile solution to rationalise business processes across different fleets and remove the need for drivers to handle paper documentation- which is yet another sustainability initiative generated by our teams. We were also looking for a system to provide accurate delivery information and data integrity to validate all compliance and safety checks, including deliveries made by third parties (Brenntag operates over 100 own fleet, supplemented with third party vehicles where required- CIJ). The System App ensures that drivers follow our specified safety and compliance checks before departure and at the customer site.
As a result, we now have full transparency of our delivery and collection process in real-time and can react quickly to any exceptions as they arise. Brenntag is the first chemical distributor in the UK to go live with this revolutionary delivery management system. Safety of our employees, our business partners and members of public is an absolute priority to us. Our safety initiatives – such as the global Brenntag Enhanced Safety Thinking, including Personal Safety Action Plans- are all developed to encourage our employees to ensure safety is in our cultural DNA. It is their direct involvement, ideas, initiatives and understanding of the importance of safety that enable us to continuously raise the bar on safety performance. This is of course only one example of the major strides Brenntag are making as part of our digital future, and 2019 will see major new launches from us. Exciting times ahead: our aim is to drive change in the industry, and it is coming.