Chemical and pharmaceutical businesses in the UK represent a £60 billion industry. In the past decade the sector has added £20 million to the UK balance of trade every day, while the rest of UK manufacturing has shown a £200 million daily deficit. The sector is composed of large, multinational companies as well as many successful small and medium sized entities spread across the UK. The sector has a long tradition of voluntary commitments to promote improvements in occupational health and safety as well as in its environmental performance, and continuously develops those commitments even further, with the Responsible Care Initiative being one of the most important examples of this. For many years the sector has had a successful employment relations culture, especially at national level.
The chemical and pharmaceutical sector employs 600,000 people in the UK, both directly and indirectly. The workers in this sector perform high quality, skilled jobs. They work to high standards of health, safety and environment performance and the companies build relationships with those who live and work near factories. Companies in the sector are committed to a sustainability agenda that includes setting economic, social and environmental standards and reporting against performance. 70% of chemical and pharmaceutical businesses in the UK are foreign owned, therefore the UK must not only be, but be seen to be, a favourable place to invest and manufacture.
The products coming out of the laboratories and factories of the companies in the sector can be found in every area of life, from vital medicines, food and clothing, housing and transport, to communications and leisure activities. The paper, textiles and electronics sectors are just three industries that depend on chemicals for their manufacturing operations.
The sector is at the heart of manufacturing and the low carbon economy, both in the challenges and in the opportunities presented.
Recent changes in the industry
The chemical and pharmaceuticals industry has had many changes over the last two years, with many employers in the Pharma section going through major restructuring and closures, especially in research and development (for eg Pfizers, AstraZeneca).
The Chemical sector has had a period of uncertainty where we see fewer and fewer larger companies, with SMEs (small and medium enterprises) becoming more prominent.