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Case study: How BIC is promoting product safety

As a world leader in stationery, lighters, shavers and promotional products – with 46 million products sold every day worldwide and 85% of all BIC products manufactured by the Group in its own factories –, making sure that its products are always safe is a crucial priority for BIC  Tweet This!.

This case study is based on the 2014 Sustainable Development Report by BIC published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate that CSR/ sustainability reporting done responsibly is achieved by identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment and stakeholders and by measuring, managing and changing.

Layout 1Abstract

Every day, in more than 160 countries around the world, consumers and corporations buy 23 million BIC stationery products, 7 million BIC lighters, 12 million BIC shavers and 4 million BIC Graphic Advertising and Promotional Products. Guaranteeing the safety of its products is, thus, a top priority for BIC. After measuring and setting targets, BIC took action to promote product safety through its Product Safety Policy, safeguard the quality and safety of BIC lighters through seven specific commitments, promote the safety of customers and consumers through dedicated full-time product safety teams, meet safety requirements at the product design stage, conduct safety qualification tests and, also, comply with the European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation.

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2014 Sustainable Development Report BIC identified a range of material issues, such as economic performance, governance, purchases, subcontractors and suppliers, compliance with regulations, energy and climate change. Among these, with 46 million products sold every day worldwide, promoting product safety stands out as a key material issue for BIC.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups BIC engages with:

Stakeholder Group
Employees
Customers
Investors
Shareholders
Suppliers and subcontractors
Communities and civil society
Regulatory and control authorities

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

In 2014, BIC performed a study to review its stakes and their relative importance, through a materiality matrix. This study aimed in particular at:

  • updating its knowledge of the stakes considered to be the most important by its stakeholders;
  • identifying any “subtle signals” of emerging topics that could represent a risk or an opportunity in the short or medium term;
  • focusing on the most important stakes that required special attention by the Group;
  • ensuring that the Group’s perception was consistent with that of its stakeholders.

This evaluation, conducted by an external consultant, was based on a documentary analysis (as for example, client questionnaires, mapping of extra-financial risks, results of employee surveys) and interviews with the Group’s internal and external stakeholders (suppliers, customers, NGOs, investors, General Management of the BIC Group, etc.).

All seven of the Group’s key stakeholders categories were mobilized (employees, customers, investors, Shareholders, suppliers and subcontractors, communities and civil society, regulatory and control authorities). This materiality analysis confirmed the overall balance between the perception of BIC stakes by the Group and by the stakeholders.

What actions were taken by BIC to promote product safety?

In its 2014 Sustainable Development Report BIC set the following targets for promoting product safety, based on the company’s approach to materiality – on taking action on what matters, where it matters:

  • Promoting product safety through the Product Safety Policy

The Product Safety Policy, introduced in 2001, specifies the ten commitments adopted to make sure that the products developed and manufactured by BIC are safe for human health and the environment. They include: a systematic program of pre-market product testing, a commitment by both BIC and its suppliers to comply with national and international safety standards, incorporating safety considerations from the earliest stages of product design, active technical and regulatory monitoring on these topics, innovation to improve safety, client awareness, conducting in-depth studies and implementing appropriate measures in the case of an incident.

  • Safeguarding the quality and safety of BIC lighters through seven specific commitments

BIC has adopted seven specific commitments to ensure the quality and safety of its lighters:

  • All BIC lighter plants are ISO 9001 certified production plants. BIC lighter products meet or exceed the ISO 9994 international safety standard requirements;
  • BIC is an active member of various organizations (such as the European Federation of Lighter Manufacturers, ISO, CEN, AFNOR, etc.) in order to provide the latest and most reliable quality and safety information to its customers;
  • Each BIC lighter undergoes more than 50 separate automatic quality checks. Additionally, BIC conducts regular post-market product tests of its lighters;
  • BIC continuously develops exclusive technology to ensure the quality and safety of all BIC lighters, including factors like flame height and stability, extinction time and a reservoir that can resist extreme drop tests and exposure to elevated temperatures;
  • BIC has an integrated production process, designs and develops much of its own machinery and uses all the latest manufacturing technologies, from basic materials right down to the packaged product;
  • BIC employees are all guided by three principles: Method-Precision-Discipline. Each employee in the lighter plants spends nearly 25% of his or her time checking product conformity and proper operation of the control equipment;
  • BIC has been committed to sustainable, long-term safety programs for over 30 years.
  • Promoting the safety of customers and consumers through dedicated full-time product safety teams

In order to promote the safety of its customers and consumers, BIC Group has implemented stringent organization and processes in its factories. In addition, the Group has dedicated full-time product safety teams that follow and implement industry standards, regulations and internal rules. For example, there are five employees assigned to safety for stationery products and two for BIC Graphic. Each year these teams’ activities evolve depending on regulatory developments and the growing need to provide stakeholders with precise information on safety.

  • Meeting safety requirements at the product design stage

Starting with its design, each BIC product meets all the national safety requirements for its target market and often international requirements as well. As a result, BIC products often exceed local safety requirements. For example, a pen sold in France complies with French and European regulations as well as Brazilian standards and the requirements of the U.S. market. It can be sold anywhere in the world and meets the most demanding safety standards.

  • Conducting safety qualification tests

Before they arrive on the market, all BIC products, including modified products, must pass a full program of safety qualification tests. These tests assess potential hazards, including physical, chemical and inflammability risks. For example, all of the inks used in BIC pens are analyzed by an independent toxicologist who evaluates their potential hazards and tests are conducted for the identification of the chemical substances present, to evaluate their risk level, verify compliance with standards and identify substitute ingredients with the aim of reducing risks. In addition, BIC writing products comply with the various safety requirements in force around the world concerning heavy metals.

  • Complying with the European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation

The European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation establishes the regulatory framework for chemical substances and places responsibility on manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of the chemicals they use. To address these requirements, BIC created a dedicated organization to allow the integration of the REACH topics. At a Group level, an expert administrator was appointed who, with the support of specialized firms, monitors the regulation, evaluates the impacts for the company and creates the administrative files. This person is the contact person for all entities on this topic. Since 2008, in response to REACH, BIC has in particular preregistered 70 substances for five of its legal entities. The registration of these substances with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) comprises two phases: the first deadline came in 2013 and the second is scheduled for 2018. BIC complied with the 2013 deadline for the three substances that needed to be registered at that time and the company has begun preparing for the registration of the remaining substances by 2018.

Which GRI indicators/Standards have been addressed?

The GRI indicator addressed in this case is: G4-PR1: Percentage of significant product and service categories for which health and safety impacts are assessed for improvement and the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 416-1 Assessment of the health and safety impacts of product and service categories

 

References:

1) This case study is based on published information by BIC, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) http://www.fbrh.co.uk/en/global-reporting-initiative-gri-g4-guidelines-download-page

3) https://g4.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx

4) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

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