Europe’s policymakers acknowledge the role of the chemical industry in the region’s innovation and economic growth, but they hesitate to support the sector and its products because they see a lack of public trust around chemicals.
That’s the key conclusion of the first-ever survey of European Union policymakers commissioned by the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC). The trade association released the results at its general assembly, held Sept. 29–30 in Madrid.
The survey found that 92% of officials across three EU institutions—the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the European Union—agree that the chemical sector makes an important economic contribution; 82% of respondents see the sector at the heart of EU innovation and economic growth for the foreseeable future.
But policymakers also know that the industry is seen poorly by the public. Of survey respondents, 90% agreed or somewhat agreed that chemicals suffer from a general perception of mistrust. “The results show that policymakers find it difficult to support the sector due to its perceived lack of transparency in the eyes of other groups and the general public,” said Giorgio Squinzi, president of CEFIC and head of the Italian specialty chemical maker Mapei.
Squinzi and others participating in a panel discussion at the CEFIC meeting acknowledged that the industry needs to engage with society more effectively. “The industry needs to be on the front foot, go out, show passion, and innovate in the way we engage,” Squinzi said.
Also at the meeting, CEFIC’s economic task force revealed a downgrade in its outlook for the European chemical industry this year. It now predicts that 2011 growth in EU chemical production, not including pharmaceuticals, will be 2.5%. In June, CEFIC had forecast industry growth of 4.5%. CEFIC’s forecast for 2012 remains unchanged at 2.5%.
CEFIC economists said the revision was due to a slowdown in growth in the second quarter and even worse performance in the third quarter. But the poor third quarter is “a temporary pause—no ‘double dip’ is expected,” they said.