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Survey Puts Spotlight on Sustainability

Ask ten people what “sustainability” means to them and you’ll get ten different answers. Ask those same people how they apply it to their business, and you’ll no doubt get many more.

To get a clearer definition of how chemical distributors interpret this increasingly important issue, NACD has decided to survey its members and formulate a plan of action to provide guidance and practices of excellence.

Sustainability has been an issue NACD has been discussing for quite some time. In fact, our members were practicing sustainability long before the term was widely used – ­simply because it was the right thing to do and it made good business sense.

We’ve created this survey to help us be better prepared to meet their needs and expectations. I believe this is the right time for us to put a focus on sustainability and develop a framework of practices and procedures to emulate or strive for.

NACD formed a dedicated sustainability task force shortly after our August 2019 Board of Directors meeting and created a questionnaire that would initially be sent to a small target group representative of our membership.

In October, it was shared with 79 recipients on NACD’s board and its various committees – a cross-section of large, medium, and small distributors, and Chemical Handler Affiliates, and received a favorable response for conducting such a survey.

Questions covered everything from energy-saving measures, waste and recycling, community outreach, and volunteering and charity work – all of which are closely related to sustainability.

We shared the results with the NACD board during November’s Annual Meeting and have since sent the survey out to the entire membership.

One of the main issues we’ve learned is that sustainability is so much more than just being concerned about the environment. This survey has shown that it's actually a much larger concept. It’s about our industry creating sustainable businesses that perform well. It's about providing a fair wage and treating employees in a professional way. It’s about sustaining a successful business model, which inherently helps the community at large.

Here are just a few of the insights we’ve gained from conducting this survey:

  • Roughly 65% of NACD members actively look for more environmentally responsible alternatives for potential or currently stocked products.
  • More than half of NACD member companies take back drums and totes from their customers.
  • 80% of member companies source at least some of their inventory locally or regionally, and another 8% procure all their inventory from local/regional sources.

NACD members share the philosophy that it is important to capitalize on all available resources and minimize environmental impact. Social responsibility is central to this, with companies focused on promoting diversity and equality, and providing a safe and harassment-free workplace.

We’re hoping this survey will not only highlight members’ achievements but will prompt them to talk more openly about their efforts and initiatives.

Our members are reaching out to their communities in many admirable ways and providing great service to their employees, but I think they need to communicate better to the community at large to show that they are a good neighbor, and that they take care with the products and services they provide. 

We know our members are great stewards of the industry, but many don’t get enough credit for their successes in terms of sustainability. Now is the time to tell not only our communities but the producers and regulators too.

To highlight some of the topline results of the survey, NACD will soon be adding a dedicated sustainability section to our website, which we hope will provide additional guidance and insight to our members, the chemical distribution industry as a whole, and the broader public.

By being more sustainable, we can have a more vibrant future and provide for tomorrow's generations.

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