British Coatings Federation elects first female President in 111-year history at the 2023 Annual Conference

26 May 2023

Over 150 senior business leaders and decision-makers from the UK’s paints, coatings and printing ink sectors gathered in Derby for the 2023 British Coatings Federation (BCF) Annual Conference. The conference also marked the close of current BCF President Guy Williams’ two-year tenure, with the baton being passed to incoming President, Sharon Harte of Dacrylate Paints.

Sharon becomes the first female President of the BCF – or its predecessor organisations – in its 111-year history.

Speaking of his time as President, Guy thanked the Board and said it had been an honour to serve the industry.

“BCF has developed considerably over the last 10 years, and I have no doubt it will continue to grow and thrive. Looking back, I take immense pride in the achievements of BCF in recent years. Starting with the new HQ in Coventry, we’ve seen the Federation strengthen significantly and has twice been named Trade Association of the Year. Financially we are on a very sound footing now and Corporate Governance is exemplary, ratified with the Trade Association’s Good Governance Award in February this year, with high engagement at Board Level and a clear strategy for the years ahead.”

Commenting on her appointment, Sharon Harte said that she was looking forward to serving the for the next two years and supporting the BCF team.

“I would like to personally thank Guy for his fantastic leadership throughout his presidency which must be one of the most turbulent periods in the industry’s history. Looking forward, the BCF, like many others, will face significant challenges ahead. However, the BCF is continuing to punch above its weight on key issues such as UK REACH, Net Zero, and changes to packaging and building regulations.”

Tom Bowtell, CEO of BCF, added:

“We are all looking forward to working with Sharon in her new role as President. She is a great servant of, and advocate for the industry. We know we have so much more to do in terms of addressing diversity issues in our industry but this marks another step in the right direction. We have more female BCF Board members than ever before too and we have, collectively, pledged to do more to prioritise further progress in terms of diversity and inclusion across the sector as a whole.”

man giving woman a boxed medal
Guy Williams handing the BCF Presidential gong to Sharon Harte
Annual Conference Discusses Key Sector Issues

The opening session heard from industry experts on the UK political and economic outlook. Starting the day was Oxford Economics, who outlined the sombre outlook for the short to medium-term global economy, following the three major shocks that hit us all between 2020 and 2022: Covid, inflation and war. Next, the delegates heard from the Shadow Minister for Business and Industrial Strategy, Bill Esterton MP, who looked back on the last 12 months of UK politics, and what support Government should be giving to businesses. The Bank of England reported the latest economic forecasts for the UK.

The next theme was the road to Net Zero, and the industry’s progress since the BCF Board of Directors’ commitment to Net Zero by 2050. The conference heard from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science on the scientific basis of the causes of climate change, followed by Green Alliance, who provided insights from their recent analysis and report on the UK chemicals industry.

This was followed by a constructive panel discussion highlighting the importance of creating a more diverse workforce in the UK coatings and printing ink sector, featuring BCF members who are working on ED&I strategies in their companies as well as specialists from external organisations. Chaired by Tom Bowtell, the panel session also highlighted the work of BCF’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which drafted a statement of commitment to the subject for BCF’s Board of Directors, which was received with unanimous support in February, and is working to create a long-term strategy to provide ED&I support for BCF members in the future.

five people sat on chairs on stage using microphone
ED&I panel session, from left to right: Sharon Harte, Dacrylate; Natalie Wong, BASF; Emma Stark, Sherwin Williams Consumer Brands Group; Darren Sharpe, Bluewater Consultancy; Justine Fosh, Cogent Skills

The keynote speaker, Stacey Copeland, told her inspiring story of how she represented her country in two sports, football and boxing. As a footballer, Stacey represented England U18s, and played in the English women’s premier league. As a boxer, Stacey won a European silver medal before turning professional and making history in 2018 when she became the first-ever British woman to win the Commonwealth title. The Conference closed with BCF CEO, Tom Bowtell, taking to the stage to outline BCF’s highlights of the last year, and the challenges facing the sector.

The event ended with the BCF annual evening dinner, with entertainment from comedian Patrick Monahan.

The event also raised over £2000 for the event’s charity partner, Community Heartbeat Trust, which has installed over 750 lifesaving defibrillator stations in red phone boxes across the UK, with paint provided by BCF member companies.

BCF would like to thank lead sponsor Microban, and event sponsors Fenton Packaging, LKAB, Nordmann and IMCD for their generous support.