The global cleaning industry is robust with new ingredients, formulas and packaging concepts, all making their way on to store shelves on a weekly basis. But to keep the innovations flowing, the industry, like so many others, is relying on meaningful reform to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was passed in 1976 and hasn’t been updated in 38 years. The American Cleaning Institute (ACI), whose members make up the bulk of the manufacturers and suppliers in the US laundry detergent and household cleaning industry, has been out in front of the TSCA reform issue for years and has worked closely with congressmen on Capitol Hill to bring about real change.
That closeness was evident at the ACI Annual Convention and Industry Meeting, when Senator David Vitter (R-LA) addressed attendees during a special session on TSCA Reform. Sen. Vitter along with the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) sponsored the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013, which would overhaul TSCA. Sen. Vitter recalled how a year ago, a meaningful TSCA Reform Bill seemed out of reach, yet following lengthy meetings in the Spring, Senators Vitter and Lautenberg were able to hammer out their differences and introduce a comprehensive bill that received initial support from eight Democrats and eight Republicans in the Senate.
“It was pleasure working with Frank Lautenberg,” recalled Vitter. “(The Bill) was built on sound science—not New York Times science!”
Now, Sen. Vitter has a new ally across the aisle in Tom Udall (D-NM). Together, they are listening to proposals from everyone and will issue a new draft to get even more support than the 25 Senators who have signed on as co-sponsors. Any changes to the legislation much keep confidential business information measures intact, while ensuring that new chemicals can get to market quickly.
He insisted that the 1976 legislation is not workable; that the US cannot remain an innovation leader without meaningful TSCA reform—but reform that doesn’t mirror REACH regulations in any way.
“TSCA is not a Public-Right-To-Know law; our bill reflects that,” said Vitter. “It is critical to get this right. It makes sense and the details are right.”
The Senator conceded that the legislation faces roadblocks in the Senate from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who has warned that any TSCA legislation that comes out of the House of Representatives will be far to the right. Sen. Vitter denied those accusations and insisted that his team has been working with Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) to make sure that the House Bill is very similar to what is already in the Senate.
But whatever happens, whether in the House or the Senate, Sen. Vitter’s on the clock. In January, he announced his candidacy for Governor of Louisiana to succeed term-limited Bobby Jindal in the 2015 gubernatorial election.
“I’m running for Governor, but I want to get this done,” he assured the audience.
A Big Crowd
Appearances by key players such as Sen. Vitter are one reason why the ACI 2014 Annual Meeting & Industry Convention attracted nearly 900 attendees. According to chairman Catherine Ehrenberger of Amway, ACI also now has more member companies (138) than it did when it left New York City more than a decade ago. Many of these member companies were in attendance when three leading industry executives, Joy Atkinson of Firmenich, Kevin Gallagher of Croda and Michael Heinz of BASF, took the stage to discuss the issues of the day with Lou Dobbs of Fox Business Network. First question: what are your biggest challenges?
For Atkinson, that means making sure that the customers’ needs are getting met and that her company is delivering on its promises. Part of that, she noted, is helping consumers enjoy their day via flavors and fragrances.
“Fragrance has the ability to take consumers back to a special moment or even a special person, like a grandparent,” she reminded the audience. “We are glad to be a part of that.”
For Gallagher, sustainability is the challenge of the day, but not just the issue itself, it’s the very definition that can be so bedeviling.
“Sustainability is defined so differently by all of our customers,” he explained. “That’s why we joined the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).”
Heinz grimly, yet astutely, noted “what doesn’t grow, dies.” With the global population expected to reach 8.3 billion or 9 billion in the coming years, it will be a major challenge to meet growing consumption.
“Chemistry can help save the planet, but it can’t do it alone,” he pointed out. “We need to grow correctly.”
From the Right
Throughout the presentation, Dobbs tried his best to turn the discussion into a pro-business, anti-Government rant. But the panelists wouldn’t have it. Atkinson noted that her company and industry are working with the Environmental Protection Agency through its Design for the Environment (DfE) program in an effort to enlighten regulators and show them that household and personal care products can have a minimal impact on the environment.
When Dobbs insisted that regulations are rising and that there’s a “war” going on over the environment, Gallagher quickly returned the conversation back to reality.
“If it’s a ‘war’ it’s unfortunate, because the aims of industry and government are aligned,” he noted. “We’ve embraced TSCA reform. And many of our aims are basically the same.”
Heinz added that consumers have the right to transparency, but insisted that credible regulations must be driven by science and not emotion—something that is easier said than done in a European Union with 28 member states, many of which have very different opinions. He pointed out that nearly 40 years ago, Monsanto created a very successful, problem-free biotechnology program that has led to the development of many products, none of which are available in Europe due to misguided efforts of NGOs, as well as the industry’s poor PR efforts.
“Industry has done a poor job of educating people about the benefits of chemistry,” he lamented.
That education, added Atkinson, must start in grade school, which is why Firmenich is a proponent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs to get school children interested in these fields.
Gallagher also reminded the moderator that the rest of the US is not as polarized on issues as much as those within the Beltway would like to believe. He noted for example, that immigration reform is necessary to ensure that the population keeps growing.
When Dobbs added that the US birth rate has been declining since 2007, Heinz reminded all those in attendance that the German birth rate peaked in 1964.
“Last year, we had more people leaving Germany than entering it,” he added.
A diverse, vibrant workforce, agreed Atkinson, is imperative for a multinational company.
“We can’t be stuck in old ways. We must try new things and have a youthful mindset,” she insisted.
Change is good, agreed Gallagher, noting that 10 years ago, being in research and development often meant being in the US or Europe. Today, R&D centers can be found around the world in diverse places such as São Paulo, South Africa, China and Singapore.
Looking ahead, Heinz warned that Asia would no longer be growing at a double-digit annual pace. Instead, marketers, suppliers and investors will have to be content with 7% growth rates. With a lower growth rate and currency crisis, Latin America is not as strong as it once was, either, added Heinz, who warned that the global economy will continue to grow slowly in 2014—provided there are no geopolitical issues.
Slow growth or not, Atkinson reminded the audience that consumers still wash clothes regardless of the economy, although they often trade down when money gets tight.
And while Gallagher said he remained cautiously optimistic about 2014, he warned that the continued decline in labor force participation couldn’t continue.
All the speakers agreed that one of the keys to their company’s success is staying close to the consumer.
“You can’t shrink your way to greatness,” warned Gallagher. “Innovation that gives a consumer a better product is the way forward for all of us.”
Charter for Sustainable Cleaning
In an effort to show NGOs, regulators and consumers that the industry is moving forward, ACI launched the Charter for Sustainable Cleaning, a voluntary initiative to promote and demonstrate continual improvement in the cleaning products industry’s sustainability profile. The Charter, which is designed to go beyond basic legal requirements, provides a framework for driving the industry toward common sustainability goals. It requires companies to have systems in place for continual assessment, review, and improvement of sustainability performance, including raw material selection, resource use, and occupational health and safety, at every important stage of the product lifecycle.
“By participating in the Charter, companies will have a means of demonstrating their commitment to continuous improvement in key aspects of sustainability relative to the cleaning product supply chain,” said Ernie Rosenberg, president and CEO, ACI.
The Charter, available at www.cleaninginstitute.org/charter, exists as a guideline for best practices in sustainability and consists of three required components:
- Charter companies must formally commit to the ACI Principles for Sustainability;
- Charter companies must participate in ACI’s Sustainability Metrics Program; and
- Charter companies must work toward implementing a set of Essential Sustainability Procedures and Activities (SPAs), which apply to the design, raw material use, manufacture, consumer use, and disposal of products and packaging, to become members of the Charter.
The ACI Charter is based in part on the A.I.S.E Charter for Sustainable Cleaning, a voluntary initiative of the European soaps, detergents and maintenance products industry developed by ACI’s sister trade association, A.I.S.E (the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products).
“In developing the ACI Charter over the past two years, we wanted to make sure it addressed the needs of both cleaning product manufacturers and chemical suppliers, which make up the bulk of ACI’s membership,” added Sansoni.
“Leaders throughout the cleaning product supply chain recognize that operating sustainably needs to be a part of the company’s DNA. More and more companies are seeing sustainability-related questions and issues raised by their stakeholders, including their customers and employees, retailers, consumers, investors, policymakers and other interest groups.
“We hope that ACI’s Charter for Sustainable Cleaning can help drive sustainability performance improvements across the cleaning products industry. “
What came first? A strong and vibrant ACI or a strong and vibrant membership? It doesn’t really matter, as both were evident throughout the week in Orlando, especially during an issues briefing session, when key committee members gave convention attendees an update on key issues impacting all of them.
Michael Heltzer of BASF opened the session with information on government affairs activities, with a focus on TSCA reform. He noted that all allied associations, including Consumer Specialty Products Association and the American Chemical Council, want a strong Federal program that is risk-based, efficient and enables industry to create innovative products in a timely fashion.
In 2013, ACI launched the KEY Pledge consumer safety education campaign to alert consumers about the proper usage, storage and handling of single-load liquid laundry packets. KEY is an acronym for:
- Keep single-load liquid laundry packets out of the reach of children;
- Educate your family and friends about the safe use and storage of these new laundry products; and
- You serve a key role in laundry safety.
Also last year, ACI’s Healthy Schools, Healthy People site to encourage proper hygiene, attracted 3.6 million page views, up from 2.6 million in 2012.
Kathryn Corbally of Sun Products and the Communications Committee, noted that ACI was mentioned in more than 3,000 news articles during the year, which resulted in more than 2 billion impressions.
Martin Wolff of Seventh Generation and the Sustainability Committee, said the Association has made great strides in the area of sustainability.
“Ten years ago, sustainability was considered a four-letter word in the industry,” he recalled. “Eight years ago, it became part of the industry’s message and now it is one of the industry’s pillars.”
To that end, he urged attendees to look closely at ACI’s Charter for Sustainable Cleaning, explaining that it creates a framework for companies that have not yet embarked on the sustainability journey. To help companies get started, ACI will offer more sustainability webinars in 2014, he added.
And to help members get a better understanding of the legislation that impacts their business, ACI holds a monthly Friday Forum at its headquarters in Washington DC. Most recently attendees heard from Bob Perciasepe, deputy administrator, Environmental Protection Agency, noted ACI Legal Committee Chair Brian Del Buono of Sun Products.
AkzoNobel’s Dale Steichen of the oleochemical committee told attendees that attaining equitable access to tallow markets remains a key priority. He noted that ACI is calling for the elimination of the phrase “animal fats” from both EPA’s renewable fuel standard and from biodiesel tax credits. The good news is that biodiesel producer credits expired on Jan. 1.
Not so lucky, according to International Committee chair Catharine de Lacy of Clorox, is the increasing regulatory focus on consumer products containing targeted chemicals rather than the chemicals themselves. She noted that as ACI monitors the situation, it would continue to forge alliances with other associations and organizations to work for real change.
• Robert Hamilton of Amway Corporation received the Elva Walker Spillane Distinguished Service Award during the American Cleaning Institute’s Annual Meeting & Industry Convention. The award honors an individual for extensive or exceptional service to ACI, who promoted the growth and interests of the Institute and the industries it represents.
Hamilton has been a key member of the consumer products industry for more than 40 years, with the past 37 years at Amway. He has taken an active role in shaping science-based public policy and, since 2000, he has been regulatory policy director for Amway.
Hamilton has filled key roles at ACI for 25 years—serving on the Research, Technology and Regulation Committee, Consumer Affairs & Outreach Committee and the Strategic Advisory Committee. The Institute noted that all his efforts have contributed greatly to ACI’s technical programs, science-based public policies, and consumer outreach and education materials. Specifically, his efforts were pivotal in winning exemptions for industry in California’s VOC requirements, as well as creating the industry voluntary ingredient disclosure policy and ACI’s product fact sheets.