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Environment: conflict, change, and the balance of interests.

Environment: Conflict, Change, and the Balance of Interests

"We're more valuable to members now than 15 years ago, and I attribute that to environmental issues," says Red Cavaney, president of the American Paper Institute (API), New York City. "Industry is cyclical, in tune with the economy. The association has continuity through good times and bad. While a company doesn't always have that luxury, it always has a presence through the association."

Industry no longer makes decisions based solely on economic loss or gain: Environmental impact is much, much bigger than a buzzword. As API has adjusted programs and priorities over 15 years, "the environmental area has had the lion's share of increases," Cavaney says.

Environmental issues have remade association government affairs departments, refocused member involvement, even created new associations. A chorus of association executives reads the score:

* "I spend 75 percent of my time lobbying on the environment. Five years ago I spent none," says Ben Cooper, senior vice president of government affairs, Printing Industries of America, Alexandria, Virginia. * "We're literally running," admits H. Richard Seibert, vice president of resources and environment, National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C. "There's been an explosion in the last 10 years of laws and regulations, and we have the same staff [of three]." * And Thomas J. Donegan, vice president and general counsel, Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, Washington, D.C., says, "When I came on four years ago, I spent 10 percent of my time on environmental issues. Now it's 50-60 percent, and we've hired in the legal and legislative areas."

Associations tackle related member needs as they would any other: with lobbying campaigns, research, and member education. But environmental programs necessarily take on unusual proportions. As Anne Giesecke, the new director of environmental activities at the American Bakers Association, Washington, D.C., points out, "It's a moral issue."

Meanwhile, industry experiences an uncomfortable pressure in the checkbook as the federal government has laid on environmental legislation from the first Clean Air Act of 1963 to the 1,000-plus-page rewrite of 1990. Regulation, as Lewis Freeman, vice president of government affairs at the Society of the Plastics Industry, Washington, D.C., notes, "has a decided impact on the way products are made, used, disposed of--even if they're made at all."

"It's not just industry groups that are unhappy," remarks Michael Shapiro, deputy assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Air and Radiation. "EPA usually manages to upset everybody." Shapiro is thinking about the Herculean task of writing regulations this year and next for the new Clean Air Act, which his staff will produce. But no problem has a solution that pleases all. "If it were easy," says Shapiro, "it wouldn't have taken 13 years to pass the new Clean Air Act."

Clearing the air

Last year's culminating wrangle over the revised Clean Air Act produced hundreds of reams of paper and hours of testimony. At the Printing Industries of America (PIA), Ben Cooper teamed up with two other small-business associations. "We chose to develop and lobby for our own amendment to the act," he says.

Initially at stake for PIA and numerous other groups is the cost of retooling plants to reduce emissions of hazardous chemicals and the cost of state permit fees per ton of waste emitted annually.

"We're typical in our ability to respond," Cooper thinks. "We have no environmental staff and no technical expertise. We have a perceived ability to lobby and figure out the regs. Smaller groups are not taken as seriously, though, so we wanted NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business, Washington, D.C.] in the coalition because they're big and they have more staff. We had to do as much lobbying to get them involved as we did with Congress," Cooper recalls with humor.

PIA member problems with the Clean Air Act have "less to do with compliance and the desire to do what it takes than not understanding the law and compliance regulations." The coalition amendment--which did pass in Congress--requires state and federal agencies to set up compliance information programs for small businesses; map a simpler path to permits; and establish a state compliance audit program so that companies can call in an auditor before regulatory action is taken. "The Wall Street Journal called it a no-fault audit system," Cooper says.

Such an assistance program--which Cooper notes the coalition was careful not to call a small-business exemption--will be required in every state's clean air implementation plan. EPA, for its part, must set up an information base for the states to draw on. Cooper is not optimistic on that score.

PIA's amendment doesn't fit into EPA's structure. They don't like anything that requires them to do something," Cooper says. EPA had nine months to write the regulations on the amendment, "but no money was appropriated in the '91 budget for the program. They may be required to do it," Cooper explains, "but they don't really have to--it's all on paper."

The coalition presses on, working with EPA's small-business office and asking House sponsors for continued support encouraging EPA to come through. Cooper may find his spring appointment to EPA's Clean Air Act Advisory Committee a boon as well.

"My gut feeling is that many states are doing something like what we want anyway," Cooper remarks. "State regulators don't want to punish small business, so they'd like a program to assist with noncompliance."

Size and influence

A group with the clout of the National Association of Manufacturers gets taken seriously. NAM Vice President Dick Seibert has a member task force for every major issue. Those include clean air, clean water, resource conservation and recovery, superfund (a 1980 act that forces responsible parties to clean up toxic contaminants), and environmental crimes. On the Clean Air Act, Seibert focuses on rules for obtaining emissions permits, "because that affects all our members. We're working with EPA to develop regulations. We want something workable, something that allows for protection of the environment as well as economic growth."

Seibert says NAM grows more proactive on environmental issues. "In years past, we "just said no' to everything. Now we still draw the line when it's appropriate to do so, but we're not opposed to environmental legislation."

Manufacturers, too, are coming along. "Ten years ago, many companies thought they weren't affected by environmental issues," Seibert notes. He sees members working through five stages: ignorance of the law, ignoring the law, compliance, pollution prevention, and forward-looking environmental excellence. "Most are up to compliance, some are at prevention, and a few are moving on to excellence."

Small and smug

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are almost completely responsible for one association's move to Washington, D.C. The three-year-old Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) has 20 members. Highly efficient polyiso insulation conserves energy, but it's made using CFCs, which most scientists agree is a primary agent destroying the protective stratospheric ozone layer. The association served only technical needs such as standard setting until 1989 when Congress passed a tax to discourage CFC use.

Within a year PIMA had hired its first full-time president, Jared O. Blum, and parked its office in the capital. The Clean Air Act requires complete phase-out of the production and sale of CFCs by 2000. "Federal initiatives got our attention," Blum says. "The tax would have been a survival issue. But there was a silver lining: It caused us to pull together and analyze our product's role in the market."

Happily for PIMA, its product "is so good" in contributing to energy-efficient construction that Congress exempted the industry from the tax regulation for a year and in the Clean Air Act agreed to a slow phaseout of CFCs.

By 1994 polyiso insulation manufacturers will no longer use CFCs. PIMA is working with chemical companies, EPA, and the Department of Energy to develop a new product using a CFC substitute.

PIMA members avoided the public fire some groups attracted as substances like CFCs and dioxin became common parlance. "Look at your product," Blum recommends. "What is it doing? Does it have benefits socially, economically, environmentally?" Insulation's energy boon "made it easier to take on controversy. We're fortunate in having a good story to tell." With the help of an outside public relations firm, Blum is spreading that story to industry and trade press. "We're getting identified as a group that cares about conservation."

Blum also says PIMA is "not a traditional association" in the degree to which it supports environmental legislation. The Clean Air Act "is quite an excellent piece of legislation, considering the number of issues and conflicts. We would have preferred [the ozone protection portion] to preempt state and local laws because of differences in dates. We're now going to the local level to propose 1994 as the CFC phaseout." PIMA's battle hymn: Don't penalize your citizens by banning this product.

EPA's macromanagement

Established in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency is charged with setting standards, measuring, and enforcing regulations for air quality, water quality and protection, hazardous waste disposal, chemicals, pesticides, radioactive waste, and noise levels. In its chapter on EPA, Congressional Quarterly's Federal Regulatory Directory quotes former administrator Russell Train: "Many of EPA's difficulties over the years can be traced to the fact that Congress loaded the agency with far more statutory responsibilities within a brief period of time than perhaps any agency could effectively perform."

In the Office of Air and Radiation, Michael Shapiro sees EPA as "a facilitator--we should not be micromanaging industry decisions. Our goal is to give maximum latitude to industry to achieve [compliance]. Sometimes we have to be more prescriptive."

With the Clean Air Act, Shapiro describes "a new approach to writing regulations: We have an active dialogue with industry and others very early on, before the formal rule-making process. We get the advantage of a reality check and data industry can provide, and up until the end of the process we'll hear how our plans would affect them," he says.

"What's new is our being more open in discussion before the formal rule making. We put trade associations in the same room with environmental groups and state and local officials, and everybody gets to hear the others' views. It promotes problem solving." Not to paint this new picture too rosy, Shapiro adds, "You have to be realistic: It's a better procedure than in the past, but these are tough issues and there will be some tough trade-offs."

Change is "driven by a set of cultural values," Shapiro thinks. "The environment is important to American citizens, industry, and government. You can't separate them; they're mutually reinforcing."

For example, Shapiro says, "Industry is holding to a much higher standard than a few years ago. The public is watching, and industry knows it. That helps EPA make tough regulations. Industry also realizes that responsible environmental behavior is good for it," he says. "If EPA doesn't hold a company's competitors to tough standards, that company's good actions could be undercut. By acting aggressively, we help companies not be penalized in the marketplace."

A government pantheon

EPA may carry Zeus's share of environmental thunderbolts, but other government bodies share the power. At the Aluminum Association, Washington, D.C., Barry Meyer, vice president for government and international affairs, touts member recycling programs at the departments of state, commerce, and the interior, and the Office of Management and Budget. The Food and Drug Administration and the individual states take most of Tom Donegan's time at the Cosmetic. Toiletry, and Fragrance Association.

California keeps CTFA particularly busy. "I don't deny regulation is necessary," says Donegan, "but where there is a case for regulation, we try to get reasonable limits set. For example, in California the state wanted a 40 percent limit of VOCs [emission of volatile organic compounds], which is a problem because [many of these products] rely heavily on alcohol. We negotiated it to 80 percent to take effect in 1993. They want to shoot for 55 percent in the long run, which the association is contesting."

Uniformity is a thorny issue for CTFA and most national groups. Products meeting various federal standards in one state may not be saleable in another when federal law does not preempt local law. "It's an increasing problem because the states are so active," Donegan remarks. "Our strategy is to try to get the states to back off and let the national process take its course. In California there's even a regional uniformity problem. In 1994 some areas will no longer be constrained to keep local regulation in agreement with the state regs," he says in exasperation. "Los Angeles could have its own Clean Air Act."

Environmental product labeling by personal care, food, and other grocery manufacturers raises a different uniformity imbroglio. As consumers pay more attention to claims like "recyclable," "organically grown," and "cruelty-free," producers respond with a range of claims. Two California nonprofit groups--Green Seal, Inc., in Palo Alto, and Green Cross in Oakland--want to sell their approval and are arguing over appropriate definitions of a "green label" for consumer products.

At NAM, Seibert says he "tries to stay out of that competition. We're concerned about what standard they'll use. We support voluntary standards based on science, not personal feelings about the companies in question." Associations want the Federal Trade Commission to step in. In February, the National Food Processors Association, Washington, D.C., and more than 30 other trade associations petitioned FTC to issue environmental marketing guidelines. CTFA and the Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association, Washington, D.C., followed with another petition in April.

The recycling campaign

Among the really big environmental legislation packages is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The 1976 act and 1984 reauthorization brought the management and disposal of hazardous waste under EPA's rule. This year's reauthorization is expected to tackle the handling of municipal solid waste.

Of the four preferred solid waste management approaches--source reduction, recycling, waste-to-energy incineration, and landfilling--recycling probably gets most consumer attention. Industry gives recycling mixed reviews.

Last fall, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Washington, D.C., singled out "solid waste and packaging as a tremendous problem for the industry," says Jeffrey Nedelman, vice president of communications. GMA joined forces with the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, D.C., and allied food groups "to forge a grocery industry lobby approach for state and federal government."

Packaging represents 31.6 percent of the solid waste stream, according to a 1988 EPA assessment. "But this is the first place people look to solve the situation," Nedelman laments. "Our first job was to put our responsibility and solution in context. No one who has studied solid waste believes recycling can solve the problem alone. We need an integrated approach. The problem in the political context is that local and state officials are loathe to site landfills, so packaging is a convenient point of attack.

"The industry has done a tremendous job," Nedelman continues. "It doesn't need a kick in the pants from government." Nedelman faults a lack of infrastructure for separation and collection of recyclables. "If consumers want to support products packaged in recycled or recyclable materials, they buy them. But if the packaging ends up in a landfill, the system's not working."

Plastic solutions

At the Society of the Plastics Industry, Lewis Freeman expects legislation on plastics and packaging in all 50 states this year. RCRA amendments, too, will set new standards. SPI's answer since 1988 has been the Council for Solid Waste Solutions, a self-funded group of larger corporate members. Sharing SPI staff, the council took over all lobbying, communication, and technical work on solid waste issues.

The council "works with local communities to enhance the ability of plastics to be recycled and develop markets for recycled products," Freeman says. First results of one effort are already in the supermarket: A number system to identify the type of plastic a product is made of roughly corresponds to the plastic's recyclability. When plastic recycling is more widely accessible by consumers, the system will make sorting easier.

The altered association

"The association is a forum for discussion and a catalyst to improve environmental issues," says Cavaney, at the American Paper Institute. "We don't have a long heritage of data and science, so we rely on the industry.

"When the press calls, we speak for the industry, we're responsive," Cavaney says. "But we don't always know what the answer is. Then the bad news is on page 1, and later you're exonerated on page 46; you can play catch-up baseball for years.

"It's hard to stay abreast of emerging environmental issues," he owns. "The key is to catch something early, to understand it before it's in the public spotlight. That takes research and collateral programs that individual companies can't manage." "Environmental issues are particularly suitable for the association function," agrees Barry Meyer, at the Aluminum Association. "Policy can be based on good science and good technology or on the lowest common denominator. The members decide that. There has been a change in significant industries toward [working for] the greater good," Meyer believes. "We're still going to argue with the government when they don't know enough about an issue, but your political clout is only as good as the quality of your information."

"Associations must be missionaries. You've got to tell members, |You don't see what's coming down the track, but I do,'" says SPI's Freeman. "Given the magnitude" of public attention and government response to environmental concerns, Freeman says SPI has been "immensely successful. But we never declare victory."

Kristin Staroba is senior editor of Association Management.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; part 1
Author:Staroba, Kristin
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Words:2915
Previous Article:Proceed with caution.
Next Article:Environment: truth, outrage, and the American way.
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