In 1996 I joined the Canadian Chemical Producers Association, now the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC). That was the best career decision I ever made for me and for my family.

During the past 19 years I have been fortunate to work with industry leaders who were dedicated to the development of a sustainable chemistry industry in Canada and to our global leadership in Responsible Care (RC). I was also fortunate to follow a great leader, Jean Bélanger, widely recognized as one of the founders of RC, who helped establish CIAC as an association that always worked well with stakeholders and governments to “do the right thing.”

As you know, RC is the chemistry industry’s continuing commitment to the betterment of society, the environment and the economy through the production of safer and sustainable products and processes. Every CIAC member-company supports and upholds the principles and ethics of RC including community engagement and transparent third-party verification. In fact, some CIAC members are now on their seventh verification and continue to innovate in their management practices, sustainability initiatives and work with communities.

After 30 years, one might expect the enthusiasm and dedication for RC to atrophy. It has not.  In fact, the everyday commitment by CIAC industry members to the core principles has never wavered. And from that solid foundation the initiative has been able to remain adaptable, flexible and relevant to changing needs. When it became clear that society was demanding its businesses act in more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways, the association’s members took another significant leap in 2009 and incorporated sustainability principles into RC.

This change to integrate sustainability into RC was timely and important. It improved the overall vitality of RC and its alignment with community expectations. The innovations by members that resulted were inspiring and continue to this day.

RC has enabled CIAC to be accepted as a leader in sustainability as evidenced by the conferring in 2014 of the GLOBE Leadership Award, which recognizes the commitment to sustainability of Canadian companies, to the association. It has also enabled us to work with communities and governments who trust our performance and know we are committed to the environment. This license to operate is now more critical in an age of active communications and social media. Other industrial sectors have not followed this path and they have paid the price in terms of public credibility and acceptance with serious economic consequences.

Notwithstanding the continuous evolution of the industry and the challenges of dealing with different government agendas, CIAC has maintained a laser focus on two interrelated movements: promoting investment and growth opportunities for the sector in Canada and the enhancing of RC and its sustainability agenda.

Make no mistake, it is not easy to attract and maintain major chemical investments in Canada. All the business factors: transportation networks, taxes, electricity, labour force requirements and regulations, have to align properly.

On the contrary, good business practices in the 21st century mean being responsible and responsive. It means working for solutions that enhance the potential for investment and growth and the principles of RC. In my 19 years as president, CIAC members never wavered from this two-pronged core belief in how to do business in Canada.

In 1996, CCPA members produced shipments in the range of $10 billion. Last year, CIAC members made $20 billion worth of products that were shipped to customers and clients in Canada and around the world. We continue, and will for some time to come, to be the sector that serves as the link that takes Canada’s abundant natural resources and turns them into highly innovative and differentiated products that Canadians rely on each and every day.

I will miss working with this amazing association and the companies that belong to CIAC but l know the association is in good hands with my successor, Bob Masterson, and the leaders of our industry.

Richard Paton retires Dec. 1 as president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC). SCI Canada, the business forum of the Chemical Institute of Canada, honoured Paton with the 2014 Canada Medal for outstanding service to the Canadian chemistry industry. He teaches management courses in Carleton University’s Masters Program in Public Policy and Administration.