When the ‘British Chemical and Dyestuffs Trading Association’ was founded almost a century ago, little did its founder members know that 99 years later as the Chemical Business Association (CBA), it would be the leading organisation within the UK chemical supply chain. And while the founders might marvel at the incredible changes in today’s modern world and the advances in technology and globalisation, some of the original reasons for founding the association remain as relevant today as they were then, including dealing with raw material shortages and promoting the ‘cause of Free Trade’.

What is the CBA?

The CBA has grown to be the voice of the UK chemical supply chain where it has provided unswerving dedication and consistent support throughout the years. It represents distributors, manufacturers, traders, warehouse operators, logistics and transport companies in the chemical supply chain, many of whom are SMEs and who are the main industry interface providing products and services to thousands of UK downstream chemical users.

Such a diverse membership gives a distinct advantage and a 360-degree view of the chemical supply chain, along with an extensive and in-depth range of expertise and insight.

The CBA is governed by a member-elected Council which is currently chaired by Kate Mingay, Managing Director of Dakram Materials Limited, with Richard Gilkes, Managing Director of Stort Chemicals Limited, in the role of Vice Chair. The Executive Committee, drawn from the Council, is led by and provides ongoing support to the Chair.

The day-to-day operations of the CBA are managed by its CEO, Tim Doggett, former Managing Director of Clugston Distribution Services Limited, together with an experienced team of industry professionals based in Crewe, Cheshire. The association also runs various committees which focus on technical, operational, trade, and sustainability matters. These committees consist of representatives from member companies who provide specialist expertise, input and evidence, which further contributes towards achieving the objectives and the overall strategy of the association.

How the CBA supports the chemical supply chain industry

One of the chief roles of the CBA is to lobby on behalf of members. This is something it does at the highest levels and over the years, industry has benefitted significantly from the CBA’s interventions. Most recently, its leadership in highlighting and addressing the HGV driver shortage issue led to the introduction of various short and medium-term remedies, and it continues to work with various stakeholders towards more long-term solutions. In addition, its lobbying about concerns of the practicality, workability, and requirement for duplication of testing and costs to implement UK REACH achieved a major breakthrough when DEFRA announced it would consult on extending the deadlines for submission of data, and that it would explore a new data model that would be workable as well as affordable.

Besides lobbying for the industry as a whole, the CBA also offers advocacy representing businesses in both Whitehall and Westminster, as well as Brussels where it has effective working relationships with policy makers, regulators, and legislators alike.

The combined experience as well as capabilities of the CBA and its members enable it to take an active and instrumental role. In the UK, the association works closely with and engages at all levels of Government to provide evidence, feedback also advice directly to Ministers along with various departments such as the DfT and DIT, including bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive.

Further afield, the CBA is currently in discussions with the Indian High Commission as well as the German Embassy to promote trade between the UK and these two important economies.

The CBA also collaborates with other associations and is an active member of the Alliance of Chemical Associations (ACA). It works closely with the CIA (Chemical Industries Association) and BCF (British Coatings Federation) when appropriate. And while the organisations have very different remits, there are numerous areas of mutual interest.

It is also an active member of the International Chemical Trade Association (ICTA) in addition to taking a leading role and working with national chemical industry associations across Europe.

Practical support for businesses

Playing a highly valuable role, the CBA also supports UK businesses on the ground. This includes training in the form of workshops and seminars, which are now available online as well as face-to-face. These cover a wide range of subjects that are of value and benefit to both members and non-members, including compliance, regulations, and best practice. The CBA also offers Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA) services through its own in-house DGSA’s, as well as providing training and support on everything from the carriage of dangerous goods through to the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH).

The association also provides a helpdesk which members can contact for assistance on everything from technical advice through to questions on importing and exporting and customs formalities. This service has seen record levels of demand over the course of the last few years, not least due to the significant changes and continuing challenges that have arisen as a result of Brexit, the ongoing impacts caused by Covid-19 along with extraordinary and unparalleled disruption throughout the entire global supply chain.

In addition to the services it offers, the CBA understands the importance and value of networking for members and facilitates this through events such as regular member engagement days, attending exhibitions and not forgetting its annual lunch. Held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London and affectionately known as “Floggers,” the annual lunch has for decades been a ‘must attend’ for anyone and everyone in the chemical supply chain. Attracting attendees from all over the world, quite simply it is the biggest event of its kind in the UK.

The CBA offers support throughout the entire chemical supply chain. Following Brexit, it has played a key role in helping members understand transport in the EU, customs formalities and guiding them through changing import and export rules. It is also internationally recognised for its expertise in chemical security, as well as for providing workshops on transport site security and countering the threat of terrorism to members. The CBA also provides representation and consultancy services to various overseas security and government agencies.

A sustainable supply chain

Like every other sector, the chemical supply chain industry needs to make considerable progress towards sustainability while reducing and minimising the impact of its operations on the environment as a whole. Indeed, contrary to belief, the chemical industry is heavily involved in finding solutions to solve the problems of climate change.

The CBA’s commitment towards sustainability dates back to at least 1993, since when it has been actively involved with the Responsible Care Programme. This global, voluntary initiative goes beyond legislative and regulatory requirements, providing the chemical supply chain industry with an ethical framework for the safe use and handling of chemical products, while seeking ongoing improvement in health, safety, security, and environmental performance across the industry. Companies can benefit from and participate in the Responsible Care Programme through their membership of the CBA.

The CBA’s role in the future

Since its inception, nearly 100 years ago, the CBA has seen its remit expand and the issues affecting the industry change radically and dramatically. As chemicals become increasingly important and critical to industry as well as everyday life, and with constant changes not to mention divergence in regulation, policy, and markets, including continued and rapid innovations in technology, its vital role within the chemical supply chain will only grow and become even more important.

A steadfast presence for its members, the CBA will continue to ensure that their changing needs are addressed. It has already become increasingly more proactive, as evidenced by its persistent lobbying of the UK government, and featuring heavily on BBC, ITV, and other national news programmes to raise and highlight concerns on supply chain issues.

Another important aim is to raise the profile not just of the CBA itself and the chemical supply chain industry it represents, but of the wider and far-reaching role that chemicals play in society, such as in pharmaceuticals, food supply, health and beauty, fashion, construction and almost every other sector and industry. As part of this, the CBA’s activities will continue to cover the entire supply chain giving a 360-degree view. This will include maintaining its position as a thought leader and influencer in areas such as science, innovation, and investment, which are integral and vital to the future success of the industry.

While the CBA may have nearly reached 100 not out, it’s obvious this national treasure still has a lot more batting to do.