Big Changes at SDA

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | March 9, 2010

Change was in the air at the Soap and Detergent Association's annual meeting in January. After all, Orlando, FL represented a new venue for the annual event and the Association unveiled its new name, The American Cleaning Institute.

Change, the old saying goes, takes change. And at the conclusion of the annual meeting of the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), no one could accuse the organization of not embracing change…or a challenge.

After all, the Association had changed its meeting venue, changed its name and dramatically expanded its consumer outreach programs. With so many changes taking place, it’s no wonder that the 2010 annual meeting attracted 600 attendees, a slight increase over the previous year’s meeting, according to SDA.
First and foremost, the SDA used the annual meeting to announce it will become the American Cleaning Institute in June 2010.

“SDA’s evolution into the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) better reflects who we represent: the cleaning product industry at-large,” explained Ernie Rosenberg, president and chief executive officer, SDA. “We are providing the leaders of the cleaning products industry with increasing business value, science-based advocacy and critical information. SDA—soon to be American Cleaning Institute—is embracing change and strengthening our foundations to help us do what we do well, even better.”

The name change coincides with a major redesign and launch of the Association’s website, www.cleaning101.com.
“Since 1926, SDA has been a leader in demonstrating the safe, proper and beneficial use of cleaning products,” said 2009 SDA board vice chair Jane Hutterly, who is executive vice president of worldwide corporate and environmental affairs, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. “SDA’s transformation to the American Cleaning Institute will make our information easier to access, more consumer friendly, and more relevant in the digital age.”

SDA Board Vice Chair Jane Hutterly, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., at SDA’s Executive Issues Briefing.
“Since 1926, SDA has been a leader in demonstrating the safe, proper and beneficial use of cleaning products,” said 2009 SDA board vice chair Jane Hutterly, who is executive vice president of worldwide corporate and environmental affairs, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. “SDA’s transformation to the American Cleaning Institute will make our information easier to access, more consumer friendly, and more relevant in the digital age.”

According to Hutterly, ACI’s tagline, “For Better Living,” represents what the association stands for.

“It’s what our products and ingredients are all about, describing how the cleaning products industry contributes positively to society,” she explained.
Rosenberg noted that ACI will still reflect the organization’s vision: to enhance health and the quality of life through sustainable cleaning products and practices.
Ernie Rosenberg, president and CEO, SDA
“The Institute will continue to support the sustainability of the cleaning products industry through research, education, outreach and science-based advocacy,” he said.
The name change may have been the biggest news that came out of the annual meeting, but after decades in Boca Raton,FL, the move to Orlando represented another big change for the group, too.

“This is a shakedown cruise for SDA,” noted Rosenberg. “But the Grande Lakes staff is doing whatever it takes,” he said about the hotel facility’s personnel.

Attendees that Happi spoke with agreed that the Grande Lakes staff was going the extra mile to make sure the annual event ran smoothly.

SDA President and Chief Executive Officer Ernie Rosenberg at the SDA Executive Issues Briefing

A Busy Year in Washington

While the Association is making the moves necessary to keep moving forward in the new decade, the staff faces many long-time challenges in Washington.

“Our staff has worked hard and has succeeded in your interests,” observed Rosenberg.

That hard work was evident during the issues briefing session held during the annual meeting. The Association unveiled its new priorities as part of its Strategy 2013 initiative. These priorities include:
• Be a leader in sustainability;
• Increase its influence on chemical policy; and
• Enhance outreach to consumers by better leveraging online communication (via the relaunch of the Association’s website).
Walmart Has a Powerful Message on Sustainability
Afew years ago, Walmart told its vendors that it was taking action against 20 “chemicals of concern,” a move that took the consumer products industry by surprise and put more than a few marketers on notice that the world’s biggest retailer was deadly serious about sustainability. Since then, the company has dropped that heavy-handed approach and is working closely with its suppliers to improve Walmart’s sustainability profile.

Alberto Luis Dominguez, Walmart’s vice president-divisional merchandise manager, household paper goods and chemicals, told attendees at the 2010 SDA annual meeting that the retailer is eager to collaborate even more with its 100,000 suppliers to service the 200 million customers who visit its stores every week.

“Sustainability is about leveraging our human and enterprise capital to create value and make the world a better place,” explained Dominguez. “We never used the word organic or said we would ban all ‘bad’ chemicals.”

Instead, former Walmart chief executive officer Lee Scott took a page from James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1996 article, “Building Your Company's Vision” to create Big Hairy Audacious Goals or BHAGS for Walmart. Regarding sustainability, these BHAGS include:
• Relying on 100% renewable energy;
• Creating zero waste; and
• Selling sustainable products.

In its quest to rely on renewable energy, Walmart is reducing greenhouse gases, erecting sustainable buildings, fine-tuning global logistics and developing alternative fuels for its trucking fleet.

The war on waste is being fought on two fronts—eliminating it from
stores and from products.

“A lot of packaging goes into our products, and sometimes the only
reason why is because that’s the way it’s always been done,” observed Dominguez. Some out-of-the-box thinking by the Walmart that has reduced packaging in its stores includes eliminating antiperspirant and deodorant cartons, doing away with clamshell packaging and downsizing the airspace found in cereal boxes.

Helping Walmart

Renewable energy and reducing waste are critical, but when Dominguez turned his attention to selling sustainable products, he certainly had the audience’s attention. Some of Walmart’s efforts are focused on sustainable textiles, energy-efficient electronics, sustainable agriculture and seafood, recycled or recyclable wood and paper products, ethically-sourced jewelry and perhaps most importantly, “chemical intensive” products.

Dominguez told the audience that transparency is necessary since consumers have a growing interest in product ingredients and noted that Walmart’s Sustainability Index can give consumers the transparency that they crave.

“We don’t have the answers—help us!” he asserted. “If the customer demands transparency, let’s build it together so that we don’t have something dictated to us. We want your feedback and suggestions.”

During the ensuing question and answer period, Martin Wolf of Seventh Generation noted that while marketers are churning out recycled and recyclable product packaging, reports show that just 17% of the plastic produced is recycled and asked how the industry can improve on that percentage.

“Ideally, never make the bottle!” said Dominguez. “We’re trying to create solutions where the bottle is never created.”

That may be a lofty goal, but one that should get the industry and its retail customers brainstorming and working toward solutions.
“We realize that in order to be successful we must focus our resources more on the priority issues of the members,” explained SDA chairman Frank Sherman of Akzo Nobel.

According to Rich Sedlak, senior vice president, technical and international affairs, SDA, the Association is a key participant in policy discussions regarding TSCA reform, having coordinated efforts with other trade groups, reaching out to members of the House and Senate and non-government organizations such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Such efforts are necessary as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Barack Obama looks to strengthen TSCA. But even a stronger TSCA won’t completely eliminate individual state chemical management policy.

“If we get a good Federal system, some states may dampen their own activity,” said Sedlak, noting that 13 states are staking a claim to chemical management, even as tighter budgets are impacting these states’ abilities to enact programs of their own.

But, then there’s California. Its Safer Alternatives Regulations Bill (A.B. 1879) includes cleaning products among its product categories. More specifically, the bill would target chemicals of concern such as carcinogens, and developmental and reproductive toxicants.

“You may have to do an assessment of alternative products, which would be a huge burden on industry,” warned Sedlak.

A formal proposal is expected in June with a final rule by the end of 2010. According to Sedlak, SDA will continue to be involved in talks regarding the bill and will work with the Green Chemistry Alliance.

Dennis Griesing, vice president, government affairs for SDA, provided an update on tallow and phosphate issues. For the past several years, SDA has argued that government biodiesel subsidies threaten the oleochemical industry’s access to tallow and other animal fats. Griesing reiterated the Association’s demand for a restoration of equitable access to raw materials for oleochemicals. He noted, too, that EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) mandated increased use of biofuels. However, the Association has submitted comments with EPA and the rule has not yet been published.

Regarding phosphates in automatic dishwashing detergents (ADD), the SDA model—which calls for a maximum 0.5% phosphorous in household ADDs by July 1, 2010—is law in 16 states, but several marketers have already introduced products that comply with the law. Griesing warned, however, that phosphate levels in commercial ADD formulas are now under scrutiny.

Proactive Efforts

To help the industry respond effectively to the threat of increased regulations, SDA, along with the Consumer Specialty Products Association and the Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association, unveiled its Ingredient Communication Initiative on Jan. 1 in the U.S. and Canada. According to Michelle Radecki, SDA general counsel, 99% of SDA member cleaning products are in compliance with the initiative. At the same time, SDA introduced its Ingredient Central website at www.cleaning101.com/IngredientCentral. The site lists companies participating in the initiative, provides links to company websites and where to find ingredient information, and includes information about the initiative. SDA has aggressively promoted the site to the media, consumers and stakeholders and has received positive feedback, according to the Association.

F. Quinn Stepan Wins Spillane Award
Whether it was serving as the Association’s chairperson or hosting those legendary parties on the 26th floor of the Boca Tower, F. Quinn Stepan has been a driving force in the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) for decades, so it was no surprise when the chairman of Stepan Company was presented with The Elva Walker Spillane Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes extensive or exceptional service to SDA and the exercise of outstanding leadership within the Association that promoted the growth and interests of the SDA and the industries it represents.

Quinn Stepan Sr. (left) receives the Elva Walker Spillane award from SDA Chair Frank Sherman, AkzoNobel; and SDA President/CEO Ernie Rosenberg during the annual meeting of the SDA.
Stepan has worked for the company founded by his father, Alfred C. Stepan, Jr., since 1961, serving in various executive leadership roles as director, president and chief executive officer, and currently as the chairman of the board. Under his leadership, Stepan Company has grown to a $1.5 billion enterprise, with 1,500 employees and 14 manufacturing facilities around the world. Based in Northfield, IL, it is one of the largest global manufacturers of surfactants and polyester polyols.

In accepting the award, Stepan noted that over the years, the Association has grown from a U.S.-based group to a global organization where people come to discuss problems and opportunities.

“People get a great value from the SDA,” he asserted.

Stepan is a former chairman of SDA’s board and served on the board for seven years. Besides SDA, he took active roles in a number of industry organizations, including the American Chemistry Council, the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois and the Illinois Business Roundtable.

“[SDA] has been a great part of my life, I’ve gotten a lot out of it,” he added.

Finally, Stepan thanked his associates for their hard work throughout his career.

Also, during the morning session, the association recognized the hard work that outgoing chairman Frank Sherman put in during his two-year term.

“We appreciate his candor during challenging times,” observed in-coming SDA chairperson Jane Hutterly of S.C. Johnson & Son.

“It’s been a real pleasure (to serve),” said Sherman. “It takes time, but so much comes back to you in so many ways. This has been a very committed board. I benefited from it and my company benefited from it.”
In other moves, SDA published a fact sheet last year that was designed to educate consumers about cleaning labels and its initiative, and reached out to private label manufacturers to join its efforts. These steps should help stave legislation from House Representative Steve Israel and Senator Al Franken. That legislation (H.R. 3057 and S. 1697), or “Household Product Labeling Act,” calls for disclosure of all ingredients, including fragrances, dyes and preservatives on product labels, and could become part of TSCA reform legislation, according to Radecki.

Elsewhere, in California, SDA successfully delayed legislation until the voluntary program was initiated. Now, the Association is sitting down with legislators and other stakeholders in the state to work with State Senator Joe Simitian, who intends to introduce new legislation in 2010.

With labeling a hot topic at the federal and state levels, SDA is working to ensure that there is adequate protection of confidential business information—a key component of product innovation, Radecki noted.

In conclusion, Radecki said SDA is committed to expanding participation in the voluntary program and will continue to coordinate its efforts with other associations such as CSPA, Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association, Fragrance Manufacturers Association and Personal Care Product Council. Of course, the Association will remain proactive at the state (especially California) and federal levels.

A Leader on Sustainability

As it maintains its presence in Washington D.C. and state capitals around the country, SDA is determined to move the association to the forefront of all discussions on sustainability. Brian Sansoni, vice president, communications, provided details on how the SDA is moving forward to achieve that goal. It has established a sustainability committee to develop a definition of sustainability.

“We want SDA recognized as the authority on cleaning product sustainability,” explained Sansoni. “But we need a consensus on a relevant definition of sustainability for industry and we must develop meaningful industry metrics to show progress and where we need to make improvements.”

The Sustainability Consortium includes formulators, retailers and academics working to establish scientific standards to measure consumer product sustainability that is credible, transparent and user-friendly, according to Sansoni. One of the Consortium’s first projects is a life cycle analysis of liquid laundry detergents that, at press time, was to be completed in the next couple of months.

To get closer to consumers, SDA undertook several initiatives, including presentations at the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences Conference, and serving as a credible information source for newspapers such as the Washington Post and news programs such as“Good Morning America,”“Fox News” and “Today.”

“Consumer outreach is at the heart of what we do,” explained Nancy Bock, vice president, education and meetings.

Are You in a Relationship
With Your Customer?

American business folks in general, and sales reps, in particular, have a tendency to meeta customer and automatically ask for an order. Sort of, “Hi, nice to meet you. Wanna buy something?

But David Nour, author of “Relationship Economics,” insisted that the sale should be the furthest thing from the sales rep’s mind when meeting a customer. He told the SDA audience that the rest of the world builds relationships first, followed by business.

“Your portfolio of relationships is your biggest asset,” he insisted. “Are you just collecting business cards or are you building relationships?”

But building successful relationships means setting priorities, since Nour noted that most people can only successfully manage 150-200 relationships.

According to Nour, there are three kinds of relationships: Givers, Takers and Investors. The successful relationship-builder takes the time (investment) to get to know his customer, his customer’s family life and his customer’s goals and desires. Only after making this investment, can one reap the rewards that come from building successful relationships.

The formula is simple, according to Nour: “Like me, know me, trust me, pay me.”
To connect with consumers, the Association has a proactive public outreach program with key decision makers and thought leaders. It communicates the positive contributions of the industry to advance the understanding of the benefits of cleaning products and mobilize third parties to carry that message via programs such as its cold and flu webinar, a custodial awards program and social media efforts including Twitter, LinkedIn and SchoolTube.

These moves are intended to stave off a “tsunami” of misinformation that is only a mouse click away. For example, when Bock searched the internet for the term “make your own cleaning products,” Google returned 23.4 million results.

A key component of the outreach program is the Association’s new website, which will debut later this year, observed Bock. The new interactive site will boast a new brand and reach a broader audience, she promised.

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