Olympics season is back – Polyurethanes ensure stadiums are built sustainably

Olympics PU

There are only two weeks to go before thousands of people flock to the newly built stadiums in Rio for the Summer Olympics. With the focus on the sporting spectacle, few people would know, that resource efficient infrastructure contributes to the Games’ success as it secures long term return on investment for a city where economic growth and social inclusion are much needed.

We would also venture that even fewer people would know that polyurethanes play a key role in building sustainable stadiums! Here’s why:

  • Poorly insulated buildings waste a large proportion of the energy that goes into them. Polyurethane insulation is a cost-effective, durable and safe way to reduce a building’s energy use. It plays an important role in keeping buildings cool, which means less investment is needed for cooling purposes.
  • Polyurethane is a high quality and long lasting material. Therefore costs are reduced; ultimately saving Rio’s municipality millions of dollars in maintenance and renovation.
  • Polyurethane is the material of choice for coatings and adhesives because of its quality. Cables, floors, and walls last longer because the properties of polyurethane prevent corrosion.
  • Polyurethane is recyclable. Did you know that, for example, end-of-use vehicle tyres can be turned into sports tracks or surfaces for sports stadiums thanks to polyurethane’s adhesive qualities?

Building stadiums for Olympics requires a huge amount of resources and energy. Similarly to previous organiser cities, the Rio municipality’s objective is to ensure that future generations will be able to reap the benefits from organising such a prestigious event. However, overtime, there will likely be few funds available to maintain the infrastructure in its current state. This is where polyurethane has a role to play –in ensuring that the next generation of Brazilians can practice their favourite sports in facilities that maintain their quality through the durability of their construction products.

It’s not all construction! Find out more about polyurethane and sport in the video below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2TmGHSObfI

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Interview with ISOPA’s President Mike Fowles – “While challenges will continue to emerge, hard work and positive spirit can turn difficulty into opportunity”

After serving as Vice-President for two years, Mike Fowles was appointed ISOPA President last December. With 30 years of international experience at Huntsman in MDI product development, project and asset management, as well as leading the Global Supply Chain team, Mike is ready to lead ISOPA into a new era of opportunity.

isopaWhat is your vision for ISOPA?

I strongly believe in the Polyurethanes industry and the benefits it brings to society.  As ISOPA is the voice of European diisocyanates and polyols manufacturers, it is important to continue engaging proactively and positively in order to harness opportunities and respond to today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.  With policy makers especially, we ought to remain a committed and constructive partner both at European and national level. Going forward, improving Responsible Care programmes to provide sustainable solutions will be an imperative to ensure that our products are handled safely.

What do you think ISOPA’s first priority should be going forward?

Creating a sustainable future has been ISOPA’s commitment since its creation in 1987. For ISOPA member companies and the entire polyurethanes value chain it is paramount to foster interaction with society and stakeholders on the benefits of polyurethanes and our industry safety culture. The “Product Stewardship for a Sustainable Future” initiative is an excellent example of cooperation our sector is capable of in order to ensure safety standards are implemented at the highest level.

What do you feel the role of an association should be in Brussels?

Associations are an integral part of the democratic apparatus in Brussels; they give voice to companies and thousands of employees from across Europe. This is the reason why forward-looking associations should regularly interact with the European institutions; it is important to explain our products’ applications, promote their added value for European manufacturing, and emphasise the contribution of polyurethanes to our society’s needs.

What do you think is the future for diisocyanates in Europe?

As the building block of a very exciting material – polyurethanes – the future for diisocyanates in Europe can be nothing but bright.  We have a chemistry that enables a unique combination of properties and has proven to be a suitable response to a number of global challenges. In transport, construction and appliances, polyurethanes are the energy efficient solutions. With Europe focusing on a sustainable future, diisocyanates have a critical role to play.

Which policy areas will you be closely following in the next year?

Besides our product stewardship initiatives, all eyes will be on the circular economy package as well as the energy efficiency initiatives to be presented in the autumn. As the regulatory process advances we will be working closely with downstream associations in order to proactively communicate with all stakeholders on these important issues.

What do you think the EU should do to improve its competitive advantages at global level?

As an energy-intensive industry competing at global level, we need reliable supplies of competitively priced energy; Global demand for chemical products is set to grow and our European economy can participate in this growth with carbon efficient manufacturing. The European polyurethanes industry can play a key role in providing the technological advances and innovative solutions that will enable the European Union to fulfil its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions and move towards a low-carbon economy. But if it is to do so, it must be allowed to innovate and grow, enabling it to be competitive vis-à-vis other regions of the world.

On chemical policy, which issues do you think should be addressed during the review of REACH in 2017?

Recognising the complexity of implementation by the individual member states is key to find solution on harmonisation. While REACH has brought some clarity and structure, enforcing REACH across 28 Member States, while understanding the costs for manufacturers, is no simple task and needs to be simplified and effective.

In your 30-year career, what has been your proudest achievement?

From the building of new chemical units in Europe, to helping establish a brand new Supply Chain capability in China, I have been lucky to experience many proud moments in the past 30 years. Challenges will continue to emerge both in my Company career and ISOPA, yet even in those moments clarity of vision, hard work and positivity will help turn difficulty into opportunity – this is how great moments are created; and I am confident many more will come with ISOPA.

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3 Questions to Frank Rothbarth, Chair of ISOPA’s Communication on “Communicating about chemicals: Lessons learned from communicating on polyurethanes”

Communicating the benefits of polyurethanes for society, and the environment is an ongoing opportunity for ISOPA, the voice of European manufacturers of diisocyanates and polyols. For this purpose, the association keeps close contact with various stakeholders and uses a variety of media communication channels to engage with its audiences.

What are the objectives of ISOPA’s communication strategy on polyurethane?

With Europe focusing on a sustainable future, polyurethanes – and isocyanates as their chemical precursors – have a critical role to play. In past decades, the polyurethane industry has developed numerous sustainable solutions, which contribute to combating climate change, protecting the world´s food supply, and improving our quality of life. Communicating these benefits is an ongoing opportunity for ISOPA to connect with society and decision makers. To this end, the association shares its voice though traditional and social media; from trade publications to Twitter.

Has ISOPA’s strategy changed over the years?

It’s always important for an organisation to stay relevant so that its messages resonate. With this in mind we strive to follow the political agenda and the conversations our audiences are having. Luckily polyurethanes have a great story and offer solutions to some of the most pressing challenges such as climate change, sustainable development, and the need for jobs and economic growth. For example, ISOPA is currently developing its position on circular economy, one of the top priorities on the EU agenda.

But we’re not alone in this. Our industry is part of broader value chains. Hence, overtime it has built up strong relationships with upstream and downstream associations in order to strengthen our voice.

How do you manage to bridge science and public perception?

Debunking chemophobia and explaining complex technical information in layman’s language are key for ISOPA. The choice of communication channels is therefore critical in that regard. ISOPA has been relying on its online presence and social media channels for quite some time, as they are the platforms of choice for the general public. The activities are supported by the use of infographics and videos, which facilitate the understanding of complex realities. By providing matter-of-fact information, the association aims at contributing to an objective discussion with different stakeholder groups.

Is there a project you have been particularly proud of in the past years?

We are particularly proud of our websites, www.polyurethanes.org and www.isopa.org, which provide important information on issues such as safety of polyurethanes. While www.polyurethanes.org presents the extent of  polyurethane applications to a broad audience, www.isopa.org as the official website of the association has been completely revised in 2015 and been adapted to its major user groups in the polyurethanes industry and the European authorities. www.isopa.org is now fully responsive and has a clear structure, for ease of use. From  sustainability to product stewardship, users can now easily find the information they are looking for.

What is the role of social media on communicating about chemical substances?

Social media have played a major role in ISOPA´s communications activities over the past years, and their importance is further increasing. Besides the blog and our YouTube channel, our association actively uses Twitter. Users can now also follow latest news and updates on our recently created ISOPA´s LinkedIn page.  The page will soon also serve as a platform to share regulatory information on diisocyanates and polyols.

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The future of the construction industry needs to be based on circular economy principles

During his visit to Malta on 18 March, Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella underlined the importance of aligning circular economy principles with the European construction sector priorities. As an architect, Commissioner Vella knows the importance of well-designed and well-renovated buildings, not just for aesthetics and comfort, but also for the environment. At ISOPA we strive to make buildings more resource efficient and constantly look for options to “close the loop”. However, we shouldn’t be alone in this; it is important to get all stakeholders in the construction industry on board. In the words of Commissioner Vella:

  • “It’s about the whole lifecycle of products. It is about rethinking and incorporating sustainability into products from the very outset – rethinking design, rethinking production processes, educating and giving better choices to consumers, and it is about changing our existing business models.”

This is absolutely true. Since 1995, ISOPA has made use of Life Cycle Thinking to better understand the environmental impact and the benefits of a holistic approach to product development. This enables all members of the value chain to make more informed decisions when it comes to environmental protection. Going forward, Life Cycle Thinking will guide initiatives to further innovate and enable polyurethane to maintain excellent qualities while limiting its environmental impact.

  • “For Europe to regain its competitiveness, we must use our resources more efficiently. For Europe this economic model is not an option – it is a must.”

The future will be about efficiency. Polyurethanes use less than 0.1% of oil consumed worldwide and can save up to 100 times more. However, we can always do better. The polyurethane industry invests heavily in research to continuously improve the sustainability of its products through the use of renewable and bio-based raw materials.

  • “Across the EU, the construction sector uses half of all our materials, half of all our energy and a third of our water. It generates a third of our total waste.”

Polyurethane producers are always concerned about their products’ quality and end-of-life. Over the years, they have made sure polyurethanes can be recovered and recycled, thus cutting down waste and improving resource efficiency. Furthermore, the qualities of diisocyanates, the chemical substances used to make polyurethane, can facilitate the development of new applications from other unrelated products that have reached their end-of-life. For example, diisocyanates make it possible to produce high quality, water resistant, bonded construction products from wood that would have otherwise been discarded and burnt as waste. That means, compared to 50 years ago, fifteen times more useable wood per square kilometre logged can be obtained.

  • “The prediction showed a 10% higher asset value after the green retrofit as opposed to the conventional retrofit.”

Polyurethane has increasingly showed its relevance and importance in the building sector at local, national or European level, thanks to its versatility and sustainability. For example, the Polyurethanes Passive House features polyurethane solutions in an extremely efficient and optimal building envelope. Besides using up to 85% less energy than a conventional building, passive houses “only require[e] the capacity of an iron to maintain comfortable warmth throughout the winter.” That’s good news for both the regulator and for the consumer!

The construction sector is vital to the European economy. Nevertheless, it has to adjust to the current realities and harness opportunities to remain competitive in the future. For those who are willing to start innovating today, polyurethane is ready to support them!

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Public consultation on Energy Efficiency Directive review: The polyurethane industry puts its vision forward

Why does the European Commission carry out public consultations? Because engaging with external stakeholders is an essential part of the democratic process. For this reason, before presenting new legislative or regulatory proposals, the Commission seeks the position of industry, civil society organisations or anyone who has a position in order to get feedback on its intentions and plans.

With energy efficiency topping the agenda at EU level, and in light of the review the Energy Efficiency Directive – due to be published in the autumn of 2016 – the Commission called on stakeholders to submit their positions by 29 January. Did you submit yours?

At ISOPA, we look forward to the Commission’s proposal and hope industry’s comments are being taken on board. After all, polyurethanes will play an important role in achieving energy efficiency objectives in a number of key sectors such as transport, construction, and appliances.

The review of Energy Efficiency Directive has indeed important implications for our industry and value chain:

  • First, with buildings accounting for 40 per cent of energy use in Europe, it will be key to develop new solutions for consumers to boost their energy savings. Harnessing energy efficiency in buildings is a huge opportunity for Europe. It can incentivise the development of innovative technologies, create jobs, and enable all consumers (particularly vulnerable ones) to save money. However, this initiative has to be set in a cost-effective framework. For example, emphasis ought to be put on deep renovation delivering long-term results. Yet, as this is not financially possible for everybody, the Commission and Member States should develop supporting financial schemes. Meanwhile, performance standards and labelling have to be very clear, yet adapted to different national needs; some countries are more advanced than others in their efficiency requirements and EU legislation should not hamper efforts to create a level playing field.
  • Furthermore, energy intensive industries, such as the producers of diisocyanates, the building blocks of polyurethane, will be impacted from the review of energy efficiency legislation. With the Commission emphasising the importance of restoring competitiveness and creating new jobs in Europe it is critical policy makers take into account the socio-economic impact of regulation on the European chemical industry, in particular with regards to costly regulatory overlaps. The chemical industry is indeed already subject to the European Emissions Trading System (ETS); a scheme that secures the most energy efficient choices are made. Therefore, should an energy cap be imposed on energy intensive sectors such as chemicals, European industry would face an unprecedented competitive challenge. Europe would become the only region in the world where manufacturing growth would be limited. Instead of setting targets to be met at any cost, the European Union should provide more precise regulatory and financial incentives for innovation. At European level, as at global level, it’s flexibility and innovation that will bring future solutions.

Once all contributions are processed, the Commission will publish a report presenting its analysis of the responses. Hopefully the report will feed the Commission’s review which is expected to come out this autumn.

Did you participate and want to share your views on the future of EU energy efficiency policy? Connect with us on Twitter!

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The Benefits and history of polyurethane flexible foam

From your car seats, to your mattress and your running shoes, polyurethane flexible foam can be found in more places than you think. Without it, it is likely your life would be much less comfortable. But how did it all start and what’s the outlook for the years to come? Michel Baumgartner, Secretary General of the European association of flexible polyurethane foam blocks manufacturers (EUROPUR) explains.

Let’s start from the beginning, when and how was flexible foam first created?

Polyurethane was first made in Leverkusen (Germany) as early as 1937. However, the real history of flexible foam started in 1954 with the first commercial production in Europe and soon thereafter in the United States. From then on, the success was unstoppable. In just a few years flexible polyurethane foam became the material of choice for furniture upholstery and car seats; it also gained a very significant share in the mattresses market. Over time flexible polyurethane foam conquered new markets due to its unique properties; today, it can found in many different applications, from kitchen sponges to clothing, packaging, filters, or sound insulation, just to name a few. Polyurethane foam has become crucial to our daily comfort, without us ever hardly noticing it.

foam

What is the comparative advantage of polyurethane flexible foam versus its competitors?

Polyurethane foam is versatile, lightweight, cost-efficient, and durable. The different families of polyurethane foam that have been developed over time allow producers to develop a virtually endless range of foam types each with specific properties to serve today’s multiple applications foams. No other material used for comfort applications can cover the same broad range of applications. It maintains its properties so well in time that products made out of polyurethane can last for many years.

In addition, flexible foam has environmental benefits. Being composed mostly of air, foam is extremely lightweight and therefore helps in emission reduction in transport applications.

foam2

How do you see the market develop in coming months and years?

Just to put things into perspective: we produce around 900,000 tonnes of flexible foam annually in the EU. If you put that in volume, it is equivalent to 9 times the Great Pyramid of Giza, every year. The polyurethane foam market in Europe has a dominant market share in the main applications it is used in (bedding, furniture and automotive). Generally, it evolves in line with the growth rate observed in the economy; however, in the mattresses market polyurethane foam keeps gaining in market share with competing products.

But foam manufacturers are not resting on their laurels. They are constantly developing new products harnessing the foam’s unique properties. So, as European growth is slowly picking up, we are confident that the future will remain bright for our market.

As the discussion on sustainability is more pertinent than ever, what initiatives has the industry taken to improve the product’s life cycle sustainability overtime?

Industry – and thereby I mean the entire supply chain, including raw materials producers – has worked hard to reduce its carbon footprint. In the past 10 years CO2 emissions for the production of flexible PU foam were reduced by 24%, as shown in a study EUROPUR released this year.

In addition, we are one of the few industries with virtually no production waste. Trim (or waste foam from cutting operations) is re-used to produce new products, such as carpet underlay or bonded foam.

Looking ahead, it is all about continuous improvement. Our attention is now turning to end-of-life polyurethane foam, coming back in end-of-life mattresses, furniture or other products. Such foam is currently mostly sent to waste-to-energy plants where its energy content is recuperated in the form or heat or electricity. That is certainly good, but as an industry, we also want to evaluate other options for end-of-life foam, from re-use to recycling. It is not always easy because it requires finding options that are technically feasible on an industrial scale, economically viable and accepted by consumers.

A number of the challenges we have to overcome are outlined in a contribution we sent to the public consultation on a circular economy organised by the European Commission earlier this year. But with a positive attitude and the many talents we have in our industry, we will surely be able to progress on many fronts in the years to come.

Should you have more questions on our products’ environmental footprint, don’t hesitate to email us and engage with us on Twitter.

 

 

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COP 21 – The polyurethane industry is on board!

COP21, the most anticipated event of the year, has now started. While countries come to the negotiating table to find a global agreement, we feel it is our duty to remind our political leadership of the importance of the moment and its implications for European industry.

Green is the warmest colour

Before climate change was on everyone’s mind, our technology was already contributing to reducing energy consumption in a huge range of sectors that impact all aspects of our daily life. From buildings to transportation and refrigeration, polyurethane (PU) materials enhance the energy efficiency of goods and infrastructures and help save our planet’s natural resources.

And this is only the beginning! Our member companies and their customers constantly innovate and improve the PU’s performance and recyclability in order for users to be 100% sure that by using polyurethane they contribute to preserving the Earth’s resources.

In addition, the industry has profoundly changed itself and taken immense strides over the past 20 years to go beyond existing climate and energy rules. Through self-regulation and impeccable compliance to European and national rules, we managed to cut down on our emissions at all stages of the manufacturing process and become more energy efficient.

We have also been thought leaders in environmental industrial sustainability, introducing, in 1995, Life Cycle Thinking in our operations. Our objective has always been to better understand the environmental impact of our industry and products, so that we take most informed decisions when environmental protection is needed.

Be ambitious, be smart and make Europe competitive again!

As leaders come together in Paris, the chemical industry reminds them of the invisible yet essential role chemistry plays in developing the most innovative solutions without which climate targets could not be met. Despite what one may think, industry and the environment can go hand in hand.

Industrial competitiveness is therefore key to meet European and global environmental objectives. European policy makers in Paris must ensure that energy-intensive industries are not exposed to an investment leakage that would lead to further deindustrialisation on our continent.

ISOPA, over the years, has spoken up in favour of smart regulation that accounts for the challenges that doing business in Europe implies. Today more than ever, as Europe struggles to recover from the economic downturn, decoupling climate and economic development policies could put industry at risk in Europe. The road to decarbonisation would take us nowhere without the chemical industry.

So, in Paris, be ambitious, be “smart” and make Europe competitive again.

Should you have questions on our products’ environmental footprint or our position on policy issues beyond climate change, don’t hesitate to email us and engage with us on Twitter.

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3 Questions to Els Van Eetvelde, Chair of ISOPA’s One Step Ahead group: “Spreading good practices for product stewardship”

17 years ago, ISOPA created the One Step Ahead programme in order to promote the safe handling of chemicals by all members of the value chain in Africa and the Middle East. Since then, much progress has been accomplished. Much more still needs to be done though and this is why ISOPA seizes all opportunities to be proactive.

Today, Els Van Eetvelde, Chair of ISOPA’s One Step Ahead group takes us on a journey to the past and shares her vision for the Programme’s future.

What was the thinking behind launching the “One Step Ahead” program?

Product stewardship is of vital importance for ISOPA. By elevating safety standards in the industry, we can ensure the highest quality of polyurethane products throughout the value chain while reducing the potential impact on human health and the environment.

The polyurethane market has become global, thus, product stewardship practices cannot be limited to Europe. For example, the manufacturing of polyurethane products has been a dynamic sector of the African and Middle East economies, generating wealth and employment. It was therefore a logic step for ISOPA to develop a dedicated Product Stewardship program for these two regions.

One Step Ahead was launched in 1998 to increase the safety awareness and standards for the use of di-isocyanates in Africa and Middle East. The first workshop in Kenya was so successful that many others followed. Nowadays, workshops are planned on regular basis and the information shared with the audience is adapted to local needs.

What are the main learnings for ISOPA?

Feedback provided by participants to the One Step Ahead workshops over the past two years, has shown that on average 65% of participants know ISOPA and its activities before they join the event. A few lessons could be drawn from that:

  • Product Stewardship initiatives are beneficial for ISOPA’s global reputation.
  • Nonetheless, untapped opportunities remain and ISOPA should maintain its energy and continue to organise workshops to increase awareness on the safe use of diisocyanates.

As for ISOPA member companies it is important to acknowledge that:

  • Resources and energy invested in the “One Step Ahead” program have created impact for all members of the value chain.
  • Further support is essential to bring the Product Stewardship message to go from “gold” to “platinum”.

By aiming high, without compromises, ISOPA can make the difference and ensure that the building blocks of polyurethane are handled in the safest way.

Have workshops evolved since the program started? Which countries are you planning to focus on in 2016 and ahead?

The workshops’ agenda has evolved over the years to increase dialogue during the presentations in order to allow for more interaction. It is now made easier for everyone to learn from each other’s experiences.

In addition, the slide packs used during the workshops undergo a continuous process of improvement. The core messages on the safe transport, storage and use of diisocyanates and polyols have been consistent over the years. However, specific questions raised during the workshops and feedback received from participants have led to important fine-tuning.

A good example of improvement would be the introduction of an Arabic version of the “One Step Ahead” documents, in addition to the English and French versions. This allows polyurethane operators in Middle East and North Africa to receive the training in their mother tongue.

Looking to the future, the workgroup members have identified 5 sub-regions of interest. More specifically, two sub-regions were selected in the beginning of each year by all ISOPA member companies. The next training will take place in Accra, Ghana with more to come. Stay tuned!

Should you have questions on the “One Step Ahead” Programme, don’t hesitate to email us and engage with us on Twitter.

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Driver Carrier Day 2015: Engaging transport companies to increase safety

On 21-22 September 2015, BASF – with ISOPA’s support – organised the latest Carrier Day in Antwerp, Belgium. “What’s a ´Carrier Day´?” – you’ll rightfully ask, if you’re not familiar with the polyurethane industry jargon. Carrier Day is a workshop organised every two years by the diisocyanates and polyols industry in order to “nudge” transport operators to ensure outmost safety when handling chemical substances.

What makes Carrier Days useful?

Over the years, safe handling of chemical substances has improved tremendously. Nonetheless, according to Frederick Pieters, BASF’s Head of supply chain for isocyanates, ensuring the safety of unloading operations requires constant effort; this is due to fragmented rules and often a lack of communication between all actors in the value chain.

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This is the reason, as underlined by Kristine Dewaele, ISOPA’s Office Manager, why ISOPA has been working with its members and the value chain producers in order to:

  • Raise awareness and increase understanding of best practice in the handling of chemicals.
  • Develop awareness of the risks involved in the use of chemicals. For example, in case of an incident during unloading operations, the driver has to follow the instructions given by the unloading crew. He remains responsible for his own safety; however, he must comply with the safety rules on site.
  • Provide advice on first aid and managing spillages.

This year, BASF’s fire department provided an introductory presentation; it focused on instances when the chemical industry has to work with authorities in the context of an incident. The contribution was a showstopper – the audience was all ears, considering operators’ commitment to safety in the workplace and that all successful safety trainings will have benefits for compliant companies.

Aside from the series of presentations, transport operators who participated in the Carrier Day attended a live exercise simulating an emergency scenario. It was an excellent opportunity for operators to put the knowledge they acquired to the test and to manage extreme circumstances, similar to the ones they’d get in an emergency situation.

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What are the main learnings for ISOPA?

The Carrier Day re-confirmed that transporting chemicals is a specialist activity that requires a high level of responsibility. The carriers contracted by ISOPA’s member companies, are specialised in the transport of MDI and TDI and their drivers have followed a special training in the transport of these substances. However, the Carrier Days are attended by their managers and not the drivers themselves.

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What’s next?

In its upcoming editions, ISOPA would like to take Carrier Days a step forward.

The objective: Engaging directly with the drivers themselves, in addition to engaging with managers of transport operators. Learning from the drivers’ experience will make the Carrier Day even more relatable as it will enable interaction between managers and their drivers, as would be done in reality.

Drivers already receive a dedicated ISOPA training however working closely with their employers on safety issues would enable to bridge some potential communication gaps and ensure the highest level of safety.

Unanswered questions on ISOPA’s “Logistics” Programme? Don’t hesitate to email us and engage with us on Twitter.

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Driving European competitiveness: Polyurethane industry’s socio-economic contribution

Back to school in Brussels! Going into what appears to be a busy end of the year in terms of the regulatory agenda, discussions between business and EU regulators will focus on a very important issue: The future of the European industry.

Considering the industry accounts for about 15% of economic performance, its importance for the recovery of the European economy cannot be underestimated. Europe’s traditional manufacturing, which of course includes the chemical sector, is one of Europe’s key competitive advantages at global level. Europe is, after all, the world leader in the development of innovative high-quality products.

Industry aligns with regulators´ priorities for Europe’s good

As the Digital Economy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, described it, “the fourth industrial revolution […] will change all our industries, will change our economy and will change our lives.” In the polyurethane sector we fully align with the Commission’s vision: with 240,000 European   companies   involved in   the process   of   manufacturing, transforming and using polyurethane, of which 85% are SMEs, it is safe to say that our industry at all levels of the value chain plays its part in innovating and investing. This is the best way to prove Europe is still the leader in quality and that our customers deserve the best materials to meet their needs.

However, in order to fully seize the opportunities brought to us by technological innovation we need the support of the policy makers both at EU and national level. According to the European Commission, the modernisation of industry is at the core of some major initiatives such as the Circular Economy Package to be presented at the end of the year and the Internal Market Strategy to be presented in the fall.

European recovery should be based on cost-effective regulation

At ISOPA, we have been vocal supporters of EU initiatives. Nonetheless, as we pointed out in our response to the public consultation on the promotion of the circular economy in Europe, what is of paramount importance to us is that EU regulations are “fit-for-purpose.” A “one-size-fits-all” approach does not account for potential abatement costs sectors could face in implementing regulation and could hold some back in the development of innovative services or materials.

This is particularly true considering that using digital technologies could enable the industry to develop better products for its customers. This is a huge opportunity for European companies. If we manage to “ride this wave” this would lead to more jobs for Europeans and more competitive products on the global market.

The polyurethane industry contributes around €207 billion to the European economy each year: it is a clear ally of a job-rich recovery for the European economy. In turn, going into the “new school year” we are looking to bring the policymakers’ attention to what matters to us: jobs, innovation, and our commitment to sustainability.

Should you have questions on socio-economic impact of the polyurethane industry engage with us on Twitter and visit our website.

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