The idea of ‘collaboration’ has a chequered history. During World War II, collaboration was a by-word for ‘sleeping with the enemy’ (at least metaphorically), and ‘Vichy’ and ‘Quisling’ became synonymous with national treachery.
In the business world, too, ‘collaboration’ was a concept only whispered, raising as it did ideas of anti-competitive behaviour, the sort of thing that would bring down the wrath of anti-trust authorities. More than once I was warned off using the word by trade associations wary of overstepping the mark, alert to the fact that some senior executives had spent time in prison and companies heavily fined for breaches of standards.
So it has been quite a change to see the word ‘collaboration’ bandied about freely during recent conference discussions. Those same senior executives now have no compunction in promoting the idea of working together along the supply chain and across industry horizontals, despite the fact that market capitalism (at least on the face of it) shuns the very idea.
Why the change in attitude? The answer is not hard to find. The petrochemical industry, as with its upstream cousin in the oil refining sector, is faced with navigating an immense transition. The UN, the EU and national governments around the world are foisting upon industry aggressive targets for decarbonisation, which for a hydrocarbon-based sector are raising serious questions about how those targets are to be met.
During last month’s virtual EPCA Annual Meeting, CEO after CEO talked about the need for industry to work together to find the solutions that will be needed to achieve the level of carbon reduction required. And not just work within the industry but to work with regulators to establish the sorts of regulatory and policy frameworks that will enable them to focus on the path forward.
That collaboration extends up and down the supply chain too. Petrochemical manufacturers want to show themselves to be part of the solution, not the problem, and in order to be able to give the figures needed to support that claim, they will need their logistics partners to be on the same track. Indeed, in a number of examples provided in this issue of HCB, there are very specific illustrations of the new way of companies helping each other to achieve the decarbonisation targets being set. In passing, one may wonder why some shippers are still using flexitanks, a single-use plastics bag that presents significant disposal issues.
Another salient finding from the debate about achieving a net-zero future has been the role of digitisation in providing the level of transparency needed to figure out exactly how each company’s emissions performance is progressing. That transparency can also directly feed into emissions reduction by improving asset utilisation and reducing waste in the logistics function.
And industry is being pressed to make the transformation at a time when operations are uncertain due to the Covid-19 crisis and, as many now expect, a deep and long economic recession to follow.
However it pans out, EPCA was probably right to ask its speakers to discuss how industry – and the world at large – can re-emerge into a post-pandemic environment that is smarter, more resilient and more sustainable than the ‘old normal’ that came before. The petrochemical industry has the tools and the experience to help make that future a reality.
Peter Mackay[post_title] => Collaborative letter from the editor [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => collaborative-letter-from-the-editor [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-10-21 07:46:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-10-21 06:46:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://hcblive.com/?p=29443 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )