Profils pays - France
02 Dec 2014

Summary: France is a Republic, a unitary semi-presidential republic, governed by both a President and Parliament. Most of France’s territory and population are located in Western Europe but it also comprises several overseas regions and territories around the world. The capital is Paris, the official language is French and the currency the Euro. The national motto is “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. The national flag comprises three vertical stripes in blue, white and red respectively. The national anthem is called the Marseillaise. France’s guiding principle is government of the people, by the people and for the people.

fr.jpgAn old country, formed in the Late Middle Ages, France had a vast colonial empire from the early 17th Century until the first half of the 20th Century. It was a founder member of the European Union, in the 1950s. As a nuclear nation, France is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. France has always played an important role in world history due to the influence of its culture, language and democratic, secular and republican values.

In 2012, France was ranked 5th worldwide in terms of GDP. It has a capitalist economy that enjoys fairly strong State support and is a world leader in agrifood, aeronautics, automotive, luxury goods, tourism and nuclear energy. With a population of 65.8 million at January 1st 2013, France is a developed country with a very high human development index.

  • Contact point
  • Name
  • Yves Lenain
  • Organisation
  • UIC
  • Position
  • Energy & climate change expert
  • Phone
  • +33 1 46 53 11 12
  • E-mail
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

At January 1st 2013, continental France had a total installed electricity capacity of 126.1GW. This is broken down by energy resource as shown below.

France's energy strategy is two-fold: to develop renewables to lower the share of nuclear in the energy mix and to manage energy requirements to curb rising energy costs.


The chemical industry in France plays an active role in the country's economy. It is the 6th largest worldwide and 2nd largest in Europe, behind Germany.

It accounted for sales of €88.9 billion and an added-value of €18.7 billion in 2012, which according to INSEE estimates, accounted for 8.5% of manufacturing added-value in 2010 and 0.9% of GDP in 2011. It also contributes in no small way to exports since the balance of trade is €4.4 billion.

Of the 3 350 companies that form the French chemical industry, 94% are very small, small or medium sized enterprises. Furthermore, over half of the 155 740 people employed by the industry work for companies that employ no more than 250 people. The industry provided vocational training for 19 705 employees and 2 015 apprenticeships.

In addition to the social and economic benefits it provides, the chemical industry also manufactures products that serve numerous different purposes. According to the INSEE, 44% of the products manufactured were used by industry in 2009, and over of half of these were used to transform plastics, or in agriculture, forestry and fishing.

After a first quarter of growth, chemical industry output fell in France by 1.4% during the second quarter of 2014.
The green shoots observed during the summer of 2013 are having trouble getting off the ground and average annual production has slowed to 3.7% for the first half of the year (versus +4.9% for the first quarter).

However, the number of people employed by the chemical industry in France has remained stable: 158 000 employees in 2013, which accounts for 5.6% of manufacturing and 600 000 (direct or indirect) jobs. In addition, 9 000 new employees were taken on and 2/3 of employees received training.




Chemical industry companies are playing a major role in the energy transition on two levels. Firstly, it is the largest industrial user of energy in France and secondly, it supplies others sectors with products and services that help them to reduce their environmental and climate footprints.

The chemical sector needs long-term secure access to competitively priced energy. Upstream chemical applications, or base chemical production, are energy intensive. They need steam generated by gas and/or electricity to power processes. Energy accounts for up to 61.7% of sector 1's added value. It's a crucial competitive factor.

The chemical industry makes intensive use of hydrocarbons. They are used for many different purposes in addition to heat generation. For example, many hydrocarbons are used as a raw material:

• Natural gas is used to manufacture nitrogen based products (ammonia, nitric acid, nitrogen based fertilisers),
• Large quantities of naphtha are used to produce ethylene, propylene, styrene and plastics,
• Heavy fuel is used to produce black carbon (used in car tyres for example).

The chemical industry in France uses around 24% of the country's industrial energy consumption (all energies combined). This includes up to 40% of natural gas. On average, energy costs for upstream applications (mineral and organic chemistry) represent 15% to 20% of the cost price.

The chemical industry in France has taken a number of measures to reduce its energy consumption. Under the Grenelle Environmental agreements, the UIC undertook to compile carbon and/or energy efficiency audits for all its chemical sites. So far, 200 have been completed. In addition, chemical manufacturers have invested in cogeneration, a technology for generating both heat and electricity. Cogeneration has helped to lower the industry's impact on the environment since plants equipped with cogeneration units generate less CO2 emissions than plants equipped with separate electricity and steam generation units. In 2008 cogeneration accounted for an installed capacity of 1.35GW. This technology will help the chemical industry to successfully embrace the energy transition.

Between 1990 and 2012, the chemical industry in France reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 54% and is the leading industrial sector in France when it comes to fighting climate change.




Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) play a dominant role in France, accounting for 94% of chemical industry companies.

The chemical industry's SMEs also generate added value. They not only provide employment - 50% of chemical industry employees work for an SME – but they also drive innovation as they tend to focus on specialist fields.

In fact, these SMEs form a web that covers specific specialist fields, in which they are leaders and innovators and some of the highest achieving companies even lead the way on international markets.

Chemical industry SMEs are great exporters, creating a more open market. They are undeniably a source of added value.


Source: OPIC

A specific, sustainable yet global approach

The objective of this approach is for the chemical industry to implement the concept of sustainable development by improving performance in fields such as health, safety and environmental protection.
Launched by the chemical industry in Canada in 1985, and adopted in France by the UIC in 1990 under the name "Engagement de Progrès" (Commitment to Progress), this programme has now been adopted by 57 national and regional federations.

A Global Charter
A global charter for Responsible Care® was officially introduced in 2006. It expands on the original programme elements to address the new challenges facing the industry.

This Charter puts the emphasis on:
- "Product Stewardship",
- Strengthening dialogue with stakeholders,
- The need to check how the Responsible Care Programme is implemented
- The role of Responsible Care® in promoting sustainable development.

By focusing on these key principles, best practices and management systems, this individual and joint approach allows the chemical industry to consolidate its reputation in a world where chemical products are regarded as potential hazards rather than as contributing to wellbeing. Since any action in this direction will produce benefits, the Responsible Care® programme generates added-value in the same way as do management systems.

"Product Stewardship" is the part of the Responsible Care® programme that concerns product health, safety and environmental aspects throughout their entire lifecycles, from design through to disposal. It is wide ranging and involves all the downstream parties – manufacturers as well as transportation, distribution, clients and more generally anyone who uses, handles or transforms these products. "Product Stewardship" is also the subject of an international professional initiative called Global Product Strategy.

Dialogue with stakeholders
The success of the Responsible Care® programme rests on taking time to listen and discuss issues with staff, the public and the authorities. Measures and procedures are all the more effective when they are designed and defined in consultation with all the parties concerned (often referred to as "stakeholders").

A joint initiative, an individual commitment
Company management sign up to Responsible Care® and call on staff to change their behaviour and improve their performance. It clearly helps to improve the public's perception of the chemical industry.

The 9 Responsible Care® programme principles
UIC member companies and Responsible Care® signatories undertake to find ways to improve safety, health and protect the environment.

These principles are accompanied by a "Code of Conduct" that requires signatories to:
➢ Adopt the entire approach,
➢ Respond to surveys launched by the UIC,
➢ Use the logo.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) have been developed to assess progress. These indicators cover waste emissions (water and atmospheric), waste production, process safety, energy consumption, etc.

The UIC has introduced two major initiatives, as part of its voluntary agreements, to improve energy efficiency:
1. The Strategic Industry Committee (CSF) covers the entire chemical industry, cardboard manufacturers and the transformation of plastics and rubber. It has five working groups: The circular economy and recycling; Employment and expertise; Industrial and logistics infrastructures, energy; Industry dynamics- relations between SME/Medium Sized Businesses and large corporations; Innovation - chemistry and sustainable materials

The committee's key challenges are to:

➢ Restore competitiveness and re-establish France's appeal to encourage sustainable investments in the country
➢ Maintain its role as a finder of innovative solutions for the manufacturing industry's key sectors
➢ Meet sustainable development challenges

The CSF has introduced a number of measures. Its strategic roadmap comprises recommendations and outlines 71 proposals developed with the authorities. An industry agreement was established and approved in February 2013 outlining the 10 most important objectives.

Its energy objective involves training 300 companies in ways to improve energy efficiency measures over a 4-year period. In addition, the CSF focuses strongly on the energy transition pushing for:

➢ Energy efficiency
➢ A status for companies with intensive energy requirements
➢ Promoting curtailment
➢ Developing biomass and waste recycling
➢ Supporting cogeneration

2. In 2012, the UIC and ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency) signed a 4-year agreement. The two organisations have shared objectives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing energy efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of the chemical industry's industrial activities. They have developed a shared action plan based on their complementary approaches.

The objective of this agreement is to implement measures that will help the chemical industry in France to enhance, promote and deploy environmental approaches and also to provide them with the tools they require to handle the energy transition.

It covers all of the UIC's sectors, from vocational training and bio-based chemistry to industrial ecology or eco-design as well as more traditional approaches such as reducing consumption, emissions and a range of other impacts.

The key measures developed around energy-related and greenhouse gas emission topics under this agreement include:

➢ Publication of an energy efficiency guide
➢ Publication of a sector guide on greenhouse gas emissions by the chemical industry
➢ Launch of joint measures to provide chemical industry manufacturers with energy management support.


Other EU member countries

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