chemical companies face in terms of social responsibility behavior

Scholars have studied the various pressures that chemical companies face in terms of social responsibility behavior when stakeholders are aware of the specific social issues under consideration. Many people have studied social responsibility and the general approach adopted by companies in environmental management in the context of environmental responsibility. The general public is not fully aware of the current unregulated but potentially dangerous chemical substances in consumer products, but some proactive consumer product companies have voluntarily adopted strategies to minimize the use of such chemical substances. These companies exceed regulatory requirements by restricting chemicals that may harm human or environmental health in their products, even though these actions are costly. They usually do not advertise the details of their strategy to end consumers. This article uses interviews with senior environmental executives of 20 multinational consumer product companies to investigate the reasons why these companies voluntarily engage in chemical management. The author concludes that the most important reason is to gain a competitive advantage, stay ahead of regulations, manage relationships, maintain legitimacy with stakeholders, and put management values ​​into practice. Many characteristics related to chemical management cases can be extended to other areas of stakeholder management, in which the risks faced by stakeholders are either unknown or not understood.
Consumer goods are a common part of our daily lives. Although most consumer products are made or treated with chemicals, the average consumer usually does not think about or understand the chemical composition of these products. Consumers generally believe that if the product can be sold to the public, they believe that the product is safe, and further assume that appropriate laws are in place to prevent humans and the environment from being exposed to hazardous chemicals (Shapiro, 2007).

However, chemical regulations have historically been weak and have not provided incentives for consumer products companies to ensure that the chemicals used in their products are safe (Wilson, Schwarzman, Malloy, Fanning, & Sinsheimer, 2008). News about various products that may contain hazardous chemicals, such as toys, furniture, electronics, and clothing, continue to surface (Shapiro, 2007; D. A. Taylor, 2010). It can be difficult and expensive for a consumer product company to determine (a) the specific chemicals used in the supply chain to manufacture specific products and (b) the risks to human and environmental health caused by the chemicals used in its products. There are many reasons why these decisions are challenging. For example, the supply chains of large companies tend to be large without vertical integration. The supply chain can be complex and opaque, which makes it difficult for companies to obtain information about the identity or hazards of the chemicals used to produce the products. The company reports that the required information may be unavailable, conflicting, protected by trade secrets, or lost in the supply chain (Scruggs & Ortolano, 2011).

Based on these observations about the use of chemicals in the market, the author hopes that the company will choose not to internalize and determine (a) which chemicals are used in the supply chain and products and (b) the costs associated with the risks associated with these chemicals. After all, if the primary consideration of a company’s environmental policy is to “minimize the cost of tangible pollution, any company that exceeds the scope of compliance will lose its profits by simply (legally) continuing to externalize these costs” ( Russo & Fouts, 1997, p. 535). In other words, we hope that companies will only select chemicals based on function, price and performance and accept products from suppliers. Only when these chemicals are regulated, will they try to restrict other applicable hazardous chemicals from their products.

However, the author’s research shows that the above predictions are not true under all circumstances, especially for leading companies. Our research is based on the latest data collected from interviews with representatives of 20 multinational consumer product companies, which have been nominated by a number of NGOs and government agencies as leaders in chemical management. The companies participating in the survey are all in the United States and Europe, and at least seven European companies are Swedish. 1 The author conducted an in-depth, semi-structured interview with each company, with one to two participants in each interview. Participating companies spend a lot of resources to determine which chemicals are used in their supply chains, and minimize or avoid the use of potentially dangerous but currently unregulated chemicals in their products.

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