Chemical Sector

The performance of the UK chemical industry, including pharmaceuticals, has made it one of the world’s top chemical-producing nations.

Indeed, it is the second largest industry in the UK, in terms of both turnover and value added and the latest Government figures show the sector turned over £57.5 billion and added £18.8 billion in value. However, driving its success is not just the chemical companies themselves but businesses and organisations offering support services, everything from energy, raw materials logistics to financial back-up, advice on regulation and design expertise. Indeed, when the national UK Chemistry Growth Strategy Group (CGSG) delivered its vision of the future of the industry a couple of years ago, it identified support services as crucially important.

The CGSG, which was formed by industry leaders to identify recommendations that will accelerate national economic growth in the sector, included in its suggestions the securing of competitive energy and feedstock sources, support for a more robust supply chain, backing for innovation when it comes to new products and bringing industry and the financial community together to strengthen their understanding of each other’s business requirements.

One of the key areas in which the UK chemical industry receives support is in breaking into foreign markets. Indeed, the GCSG has estimated that by 2030, the UK chemical industry will have further reinforced its position as the country’s leading manufacturing exporter and enabled the chemistry-using industries to increase their Gross Value Added contribution to the UK economy by 50%, from £195 billion to £300 billion. Much of the support comes from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), which helps the UK chemicals sector do more business internationally. UKTI works with industry representative organisations as well as with individual businesses to help them engage with export opportunities overseas in close co-operation with the network of embassies and consulates around the globe. In addition, UKTI works closely with other Whitehall departments including Business Innovation and Skills to ensure that policies and initiatives are well co-ordinated with business.

UKTI helps UK companies to:

  • increase their presence in overseas markets
  • overcome difficulties getting in to markets
  • develop supply chain opportunities
  • partner internationally in technology innovation

UKKI does this this by:

  • promoting opportunities arising from prime contractors supply chains, ideally at pre-bidding stage
  • promoting the industry overseas through the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoys, and our Embassies and High Commissions
  • developing relationships with international chemicals companies, equipment manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers
  • aligning with UK-based Tier One contractors to position UK supply chain companies effectively for future business opportunities

One of the most useful UKTI services is the alert system which makes companies aware of opportunities for new contracts and partnerships, which can be  found at

Security is another important area in which the sector benefits from strong support, including from the Chemical Business Association (CBA), which won the chemical security category in the Cefic European Responsible Care Awards for 2015. CBA’s award submission outlined its recent work to preserve the security of hazardous substances in transit and its longer-term development of industry Codes and Guidelines to protect the chemical supply chain from terrorist threat. Peter Newport, CBA’s Chief Executive, said: “The award is an acknowledgement of the innovative work CBA has undertaken on behalf of the UK supply chain and the model it has provided across Europe and globally.”

As early as 2002, CBA developed a Security Code for its Responsible Care Programme that was subsequently adopted by its sister European organisations.  A Code of Conduct and Security Guidelines followed a few years later to promote best practice throughout the supply chain. These measures built on CBA’s existing Joint Code of Conduct relating to drugs and precursors for chemical weapons. The Code was revised to include explosives precursors within two weeks of the London bombings in July 2005.

After further development of the Code by CBA, it evolved into the European Voluntary Agreement on Trade Controls of Fecc in 2013 and that of the International Council of Chemical Trade Associations distributor’s organisation in 2014. CBA continues to deliver its security expertise to a wide range of international organisations and has been invited to share its expertise at international conferences in Tbilisi, Istanbul, Warsaw, Thailand, The Hague, Brussels, and India.

Safety is another important area of support for the industry and the most recent report from the Chemical Business Association showed that accidents to employees working in the UK chemical supply chain are at an all time low. CBA’s annual Indices of Performance Report – containing the aggregate safety, health, and environmental performance of its member companies – records the lowest Lost Time Accident Rate it has ever reported. During 2014. CBA members made more than one million journeys to deliver more than three and a half million tonnes of chemicals to virtually every sector of the UK economy. CBA’s Indices of Performance report, now in its twenty-second year, is based on returns from 93 distributor member companies employing 5,453 people.

Andrew Beck, Chairman of CBA’s Responsible Care Committee, said, “In at least two respects – reportable accidents and transport incidents – CBA’s data goes beyond the statutory minimum reporting requirements. Despite these self-imposed higher standards, member companies continue to demonstrate continuous improvements in their performance.” Distributor companies reported 16 accidents in 2014, a 20% reduction on the previous year. Four accidents resulted in serious injury, down from eight in 2013, and six resulted in incapacities of more than seven days. Accidents resulting from a manual handling process or a slip, trip or fall represented 44% of total accidents, down from 55% on 2013. Just two accidents resulted from an exposure to harmful substances, the same as 2013.

The Lost Time Accident (LTA) rate for those reportable under RIDDOR, plus the additional recordable accidents resulting in incapacities of more than three days decreased to 0.16, the lowest rate ever reported by CBA. The LTA rate is the ratio of reportable accidents to 100,000 man-hours – the assumed number of hours worked by one person during a lifetime. In 2014, CBA member companies made more than one million separate journeys to distribute over three and a half million tonnes of chemicals. Seven transport incidents were reported, the same as 2013. This equates to 1.9 transport incidents for every million tonnes of product distributed by CBA members in 2014 – a slight increase on the previous year.