As we look back on 2021, one abiding memory will be the stop-start experience of living with the pandemic. We now enter 2022 with that same challenge for society and for business. The response of Government, political parties, regulators, the business community and the population at large, shows what can happen – good and bad - when an issue like this confronts us all.
The approach and performance of chemical companies in responding to the pandemic and all of its unpredictability has been truly outstanding – underpinned by the industry’s continuous commitment to the highest health and safety standards. Within workplaces, the design and implementation of measures to ensure virtually zero transmission at work – all informed by specific risk assessments - has been excellent and I want to thank all our business leaders and their workforces for that commitment and performance.
The strength of the global economic recovery in 2021 saw a correspondingly strong performance by the chemical industry – chemicals and chemistry are involved in 96% of manufactured goods – but here too we have seen huge unpredictability, with supply chain disruption driven by raw material shortages and related distribution/logistics challenges. Add crippling energy cost increases to the mix – gas, electricity and carbon prices have risen to unprecedented levels in 2021 and with no sign of easing in early 2022 - and the fear is a coming year of more sustained than transient inflation, dampening demand in both industrial and consumer markets and challenging the case for continued and new investment.
To help minimise those threats and secure that investment, our wish in 2022 is that we work with Government, the devolved administrations, regulators and other key advanced manufacturing sectors to deliver a business environment that is truly supportive of manufacturing. For the chemical industry, that means achieving net zero through a transition that is sensitive to international competition and unprecedented energy costs; building a science and technology superpower through better incentivising innovation and a “create and make” culture and boosting UK chemical exports and investment through new trade deals and a more constructive relationship with the EU. Most immediately, it also means working in early 2022 with Government, regulators and the NGO community to deliver a pragmatic but effective UK REACH regulatory regime that reduces the need for replicating EU REACH data packages.
Addressing all of these issues will also mean that the chemical industry will be ideally placed to deliver real meaning to the Government’s long-promised levelling-up agenda. Through our regional clusters we already provide many highly skilled and well-rewarded jobs across the UK, and further investment in skills and infrastructure will help ensure increased prosperity for communities throughout the country. In 2022 let’s work together to turn that ambition into reality.
Happy New Year!
Steve Elliott, CIA Chief Executive
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