CSPA Rises to the Challenge
Last year may have ended on a low note and 2009 may be fraught with challenges,
but leaders of the association are prepared to navigate through choppy waters.
Y THE TIME
Specialty Products Association (CSPA) held its annual
meeting in Fort Lauderdale,
FL, Dec. 7-11, the U.S. recession was deepening, retail
sales were falling and consumer optimism was
absent. Still, the industry
put its best foot forward as attendance
remained even with 2007.
“The Association has been around
since 1914 and CSPA has shown that it
has the ability to adapt,” noted CSPA
chairman Kelly Semrau of S.C. Johnson
& Son, Inc. “We’re reaching across the
aisle even with NGOs (non-government
organizations) to build strategic relationships.”
Strong relationships with historically
strange bedfellows were more important than ever in 2008, according to Ms.
Semrau, who called 2008 an “amazing
year” with a full agenda of working with
regulators on a host of issues.
In his state of the industry address,
CSPA president Chris Cathcart
acknowledged that the economy is
weak, but he urged the audience to
maintain composure, stick to its convictions and sharpen its vision in 2009.
“When things get rough and turbulent, look on past experiences, know
what your convictions are and stick by
them,” he insisted.
In looking back at 2008, Mr. Cathcart
noted that Product Care, the association’s stewardship program for the consumer and institutional specialty products industry, now has 91 companies.
According to CSPA, these firms have
agreed to go beyond government regulations in emphasizing health, safety
and environmental concerns by carefully designing products, purchasing raw
materials and packaging, operating safe
manufacturing facilities, promoting
safe storage and distribution, providing
useful product information, answering
consumers’ questions and anticipating
product disposal needs.
Product Care provides a framework
for companies to identify and commit to
stewardship principles, share ideas and
information and benchmark better performance.
“Product Care is for your good and the
public’s good,” Mr. Cathcart told the
Another CSPA program that has successfully served consumers and member companies is the Alliance for
Consumer Education (ACE), which promotes responsible and beneficial use of
products to ensure a safer, healthier,
and cleaner environment in homes,
businesses and the community.
Inhalant abuse prevention is ACE’s
“Through your efforts, ACE is saving
lives,” Mr. Cathcart maintained.
Mr. Cathcart also praised the efforts of
the Consumer Aerosol Product Council
(CAPCO), the aerosol division’s program to educate the public about the
safety of aerosols; CSI, consumer specialties insurance; and Consumer
Product Ingredient Communication
Initiative, which was launched by
CSPA, the Canadian Consumer
Specialty Product Association and the
Soap and Detergent Association to provide consumers with information about
the ingredients in products in four
major categories: air care, automotive
care, cleaning and polishes and floor
Outside the Association, Mr. Cathcart
said CSPA was able to limit damages to
industry from the Consumer Product
Safety Improvement Act, a bill that was
signed into law in August, 2008. Now
CSPA is working to keep TOSCA risk-based, rather than hazard-based. Mr.
Cathcart noted that the Association
supports the Environmental Protection
Agency’s Design for the Environment
(DfE) program, which aims to reduce
risk to people and the environment by
Looking ahead, CSPA is keeping close
tabs on issues such as green chemistry
and bittering agents. Mr. Cathcart also
warned that more regulations at the
state level may be on the way.
“States are looking for new ways to
tax products in an effort to boost revenues.”
What does it take to lead the U.S. in a
time of great uncertainty? Keynote
speaker Jon Meacham, editor of
Newsweek and author of “American
Lion,” a biography of Andrew Jackson,
offered some insight based on past presidents, as well as the new President.
Mr. Meacham noted, for instance, that
Barack Obama was the first candidate
to win the U.S. presidency with a clear
majority in 20 years. But at the same
time, his inauguration marks the first
wartime transition since 1968 and it
comes at a time when the economy has
been its worst since 1980. Still, Mr.
Meacham remained optimistic.
“This man hasn’t made a mistake
since he came on the national stage,”
observed Mr. Meacham. “He’s a cool customer; he’s the Cal Ripken (Baltimore
Orioles’ Hall of Fame shortstop) of composure.”
Composure aside, Mr. Meacham
explained that effective presidents have
• Cooperation; and
Great presidents, he noted, have the
courage to do what’s right, but also
leave room to maneuver as the situation warrants it. Mr. Meacham recalled
that Ronald Reagan went from calling
the Soviet Union an “evil empire” to
kissing babies in Red Square.
He expects President Obama, a liberal
on many issues as a U.S. senator, will
move to the middle as president.