Chemical distributors are responsible for processing, formulating, blending, repackaging, warehousing, transporting and marketing chemical products for over 750,000 customers in nearly every industry. Chemical distributors are a vital link to ensure a vibrant paint and coatings industry keeps running, providing critical products like coatings for life-saving equipment such as ventilators and vital signs monitors; cleaning products and mold/mildewcide treatments; the interior coating of steel and aluminum food and beverage cans that ensure food safety; and many other products. More than 60% of National Association of Chemical Distributors’ (NACD) chemical distributor members support the paint and coatings industry.

This year, NACD celebrates 50 years of creating connections and advancing stewardship of the chemical distribution industry, and marks the 30th anniversary of improving the safety and performance of the industry through NACD Responsible Distribution®, NACD’s mandatory, independent third party-verified management system.

Having a strong chemical distribution industry environmental, health, safety and security (EHS&S) program is undeniably critical. The manufacture, transport, storage and application of coatings includes wide-ranging safety risks, from exposure to harmful dust or irritating, toxic or combustible materials, gases or vapors, to injection injuries from the airless spray equipment that can result in significant injuries if proper precautions aren’t taken. Chemical distributors — as they process, formulate, blend, repackage and transport the products used to formulate paints, coatings and so many other products — face similar hazards and potential exposures.

Responsible Distribution urges us to focus on every portion of our chemical supply chain. We are better equipped to handle changes and safety concerns.” — NACD Member

First and foremost, Responsible Distribution helps lower occurrences of safety and environment incidents. However, Responsible Distribution is also invaluable to ensuring practices of excellence and quality systems, engaging in better communication with local communities, and reducing audit costs and time spent on audits, among other benefits. As we reflect on the tenets that have allowed us to deliver the stewardship, knowledge and connections that move our members’ businesses forward and support continuous improvement in every phase of chemical handling, two rise to the top. Those tenets are ensuring that management leadership — the key decision makers at our member companies — are committed to the values of Responsible Distribution and are engaging employees to tap into their collective experience, knowledge and insight to support these goals. As a result, NACD has developed innovative programs that help to support education and engagement for employees at every level.


Critical Learning — Virtually

NACD’s online learning portal, NACD U, was launched several years ago with a handful of courses. Today, NACD U offers nearly 350 courses focusing on areas such as transportation, facility process safety, business skills, environmental and waste disposal management, chemical product safety, international regulations, security, and more. These courses can be accessed and completed at the office, at home or while traveling, and are offered at low cost to NACD members and nonmembers alike.

During the coronavirus pandemic, NACD members were particularly well positioned to continue supporting the health and safety of their workers while continuing to operate as essential businesses by providing needed products to the sanitation and cleaning industry, and others. This was in large part due to the members’ mandatory participation in Responsible Distribution. Thanks to this program, chemical distributors already had important tenets in place such as training protocols to respond to new hires or employees being asked to cover job functions they may not normally hold due to absence or illness; communications plans and decision trees ensuring emergency contacts and roles and responsibilities were in place when workplaces had to transfer quickly to a work-from-home model wherever possible; and others.

Thanks to the fact that they could continue critical industry education remotely through NACD U, companies could continue important Responsible Distribution training and more. In non-pandemic times, the virtual courses offered through NACD U provide a system to improve the skills, knowledge and professional development of workers throughout the chemical distribution industry on their own schedules while avoiding the time and expense of travel.


Advancing Leadership Abilities at All Levels

NACD also offers several targeted programs aimed at raising the leadership abilities of chemical distribution employees and management teams. These include the Duke University Executive Education Programs and our Emerging Leaders Program.

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business is a top-tiered university producing some of the best and most capable business school graduates in the country. We believe there is no better way to strengthen your business, and develop and retain an effective workforce than by ensuring current and up-and-coming leaders understand how to be effective and to inspire excellence and innovation among their teams. Through a special collaboration with NACD, member and affiliate businesses of all sizes have access to Duke’s Executive Education Programs at a fraction of the normal costs.

Duke’s abbreviated programs are the ideal option for busy teams that can’t be away for extended periods. Current programs include “Women Leaders: Elevating Influence and Impact”, “Business Negotiations Skills”, “Business Leadership Program”, and “Financial Analysis for Non-Finance Leaders.” Interactive learning experiences versus a traditional lecture-driven format provide students an opportunity to find strengths and weaknesses in the skills they bring to the sessions and then hone them with insights from Duke’s expert course leaders.


Cultivating Emerging Leaders

NACD's Emerging Leaders program is designed to cultivate the next generation of company and industry leaders, helping to prepare current young leaders to step up and take their businesses to the next level. The two-year program helps to grow and develop the next generation of leadership by enabling emerging leaders to identify and tackle key aspects of leading a team and company, including leadership, effective relationship development, problem solving, critical thinking influence and persuasion skill development, and many other aspects.

When I think of emerging leaders for the NACD, it's the fertile soil. There's a huge investment that the participants put into it, and that the association puts into it. And, you don't know what fruits are going to yield, but when they do yield, you have a stronger, more committed association. And, what you don't see are the roots that are going down into the fertile soil as it's growing as well. So, you get that longevity, too. So, Emerging Leaders is the fertile soil of NACD, for sure.” — NACD Member

Emerging Leaders is a pinnacle of peer-to-peer learning that fosters growth for all stages of careers and all types of responsibilities. Since its launch in 2013, the Emerging Leaders program has helped prepare more than 60 talented young leaders for a career in chemical distribution. Many of those participants have gone on to hold key roles within their companies and to represent the wider industry by taking on leadership roles within NACD.

The last year-and-a-half has thrown us all curve balls personally and professionally. The fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic — like the challenges resulting from ocean cargo delays and extreme shortages of chemicals — continues to emerge. NACD looks forward to supporting the chemical distribution supply chain — and the paint and coatings industry — through hard times and boom times for the next 50 years and more. By engaging the up and comers of the industry in programs like Emerging Leaders and Duke Executive Education, and by continuing to serve those already in leadership positions and throughout the workforce with NACD U, we will continue to enable the leaders of tomorrow to succeed.


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