Associated Octel, once labelled Britain’s most polluting company, has cleaned up and its employees have pulled together to help. As the world’s leading producer of lead additives for petrol, it has seen a gushing business much reduced by campaigns and legislation both here and in America.
In 1999, its factory in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, was named and shamed by Friends of the Earth for its 1996 emission of more than 5,000 tons of toxic waste including lead, ammonia and mercury.
The firm, owned by Octel Corp of New Jersey and with worldwide revenues of £300m, decided to reinvent its business. It switched its focus to manufacturing chemicals used in bodycare products, pulp and paper and petrol additives to improve car performance — although 71% of revenue is still from leaded petrol. It has cut gas emissions by more than three-quarters in the past five years, leading the UK Environment Agency to rank Octel, whose headquarters are in Manchester, as the most improved chemical site in 1999.
One employee told us: “Everyone within the organisation has responded and risen to the challenge, often in difficult circumstances, and it is testament to the skill of management and the support and dedication of the employees that the tide has been turned in creating a new and successful company.”
There have been 988 redundancies in the past five years, but Octel gave staff extra training to help them find other jobs. Octel’s business may have been widely criticised but 78% of workers think it is a great company to work for.
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