A conversation with Stephen J. Caldeira

President and CEO, Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA) Washington, DC (USA)

AEROSOL EUROPE: Mr. Caldeira, could you describe for our readers in which areas the CSPA has been able to achieve significant things for our industry in 2017?

Stephen J. Caldeira: Clearly, CSPA was not a trade association that was broken, but we also knew we had some opportunities that we could capitalize on moving forward to strengthen and enhance our visibility and credibility on behalf of our membership. So, a lot of the points that I made in my presentation at the Annual Meeting in terms of how we can achieve and execute some of those ideas were very important.

We knew we needed to collect economic data specific to our member companies and the verticals that we represent, so we did that, so we can better tell our story to policy makers at all levels of government. We also knew we needed to fully understand what our members thought, which is why we conducted an extensive membership survey. We also knew that our name didn’t work and that we needed to do research with focus groups to get to the right place. As you can imagine, with 7 divisions you are never going to get one name that’s perfect. We really had to find a name solution that wasn’t so vague, and at least gave our key stakeholders and constituencies some idea as to who we represented through the new name, tag line and, of course, a new logo that would bring a more modern feel to the association.

So, it was about collecting economic data. It was about how do we get a name that works better for us. It was about understanding what our members need and why. We needed to reset the table somewhat, with the staff, to make sure we had the right people with respect to skill sets and experience in certain areas – and I think we have done that, with the board’s full support.

It was also a year where as the new CEO, I needed to get out there and engage with, and listen to, the membership, starting with the Board of Directors – we have 29 Board of Director companies – and I have visited a vast majority of them. I think it was very important to set the tone, to be visible, and to be perceived as a good listener. We could then take what we have learned and bring this back to our staff, so that they could understand why we needed to reinforce the importance of those issues as they relate directly to our strategic plan.

We also had the biggest legislative threat to our industry in quite some time. The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017 was introduced in California and as originally drafted, the bill would have been very burdensome and extremely costly to our members. Fortunately, with the assistance of a very diverse stakeholder group of over 100 environmental and public health groups, including our Government Relations team and member companies, we were able to mitigate the ingredient communication bill to a place that our members may not have loved it, but ultimately, they could live with it. Both sides compromised after numerous, intense discussions, a clear sign of a successful negotiation. But everyone won something in California: a law that provides meaningful and understandable information to consumers and workers, while also protecting significant financial investments that companies have made in product innovation.

We will take that momentum and try to build on those relationships (including allied trade associations) to successfully leverage them for future legislative and regulatory issues, at all levels of government.

There are still issues at the federal level that we are dealing with, including with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that are extremely important to us – for example, ensuring that the Toxic Substances Control Act, amended by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2016, as part of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act), continues to be implemented efficiently and effectively.

It has been a very positive and informative year, and it has surely been a year of change and disruption, and not just for our association or the industry that we represent. Clearly, there is a new political dynamic in Washington, and we are all trying to figure out how to best navigate these uncharted waters, and how this may impact our industry and the members we represent, moving forward. But I am excited about 2018 because while there will always be challenges, there will also be opportunities to make a positive impact for our members.

AEROSOL EUROPE: How did the name change come about?

Stephen J. Caldeira: The name change was derived from a conversation that I initiated during the executive search committee process to obtain this position. This issue was exacerbated for me when I was in and around Washington meeting with various organizations and business executives that I know, as well as getting out within the membership. So, it was a combination of the fact that initially I just felt the name didn’t work (since I am a communications person at the core), because it didn’t convey who we were, what we do, who we represent and what our issues might be. If you cannot get beyond the name, if you always have to explain the name, then that is a problem. So, we needed to push that to the side. The new name may not be perfect, but it’s at least much more in focus in terms of who we represent and what our public policy issues are. The board of directors deserves tremendous credit for being open-minded.

AEROSOL EUROPE: In a globalized world, the cooperation of national associations is enormously important. Can you give our readers a rough “update” on this?

Stephen J. Caldeira: We are going to continue to build on that excellent point. Increasingly, the world is smaller, and through advancing technologies and the globalization of businesses, the consolidation of businesses, etc., we must stay out in front of the global issues that could impact our members by working closer and in concert with pertinent international trade associations and regulatory bodies.

AEROSOL EUROPE: The big issue is always harmonization in Europe/America. Can you give us an update?

Stephen J. Caldeira: As an example, there are various aerosol-related groups and trade associations, etc. to whom we are talking with because some of our members are also members of these organizations, and therefore global harmonization of issues will always be critically-important, for myriad reasons.

AEROSOL EUROPE: In your presentation at the Annual Meeting, you have mentioned that CSPA, now Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA), will engage in more digital communication.

Stephen J. Caldeira: Today you are not sending out press releases as often anymore, given that you can now post something on Facebook or you can tweet or retweet something and it is out there immediately. When you represent member companies that engage in digital communications and social media, as many of us do personally, it just reflects the way the world is going. If you don’t stay ahead of the curve, then I think it is to your detriment as an association and certainly you are not serving your members well.

At HCPA, we will always strive to find the appropriate mix of traditional media and digital communications to be effective, and we are 100% committed to achieving and sustaining that goal.

AEROSOL EUROPE: What will be the main focus in the medium-term for you as the president of the association?

Stephen J. Caldeira: The primary focus must always be to passionately and strategically advocate on behalf of your members. To protect them against unnecessary regulatory overreach and or ill-advised legislative proposals. We must always be focused on promoting our industry as a significant force within the US economy. We must always employ a strong and vibrant communications program to provide the air cover in support of our advocacy efforts.

We also need to do a better job of marketing, not just for existing products and services, but for new and innovative products and services to strengthen the value-proposition for the membership. There are certainly times that we will need to be reactive, but the mindset now will be more proactive and aggressive. Clearly, we are not going to move away from our collaborative spirit with diverse stakeholders at HCPA. However, we must also proactively build and sustain effective relationships with other like-minded trade associations, and business-related coalitions to maximize our overall advocacy effectiveness.

AEROSOL EUROPE: Is it easier to work with the new US-government?

Stephen J. Caldeira: No matter who is president, or what party they may happen to represent, the fact of the matter is that we must figure out ways to work effectively with the President and his administration. President Trump, as we all know, has a very different and unique style, and an approach unlike most other presidents.

To best advocate on behalf of our members, we will continue to adapt to this new administration, and strategically navigate as best we can any potential changes to our industry’s legislative and regulatory environment.

AEROSOL EUROPE: A few words about your background…

Stephen J. Caldeira: Most recently, I represented the franchise industry for nearly five and a half years. And the specialty chemicals products industry, not unlike the franchise industry, would welcome a less burdensome and costly legislative and regulatory environment that further enables job creation and economic growth, as opposed to stifling it.

AEROSOL EUROPE: What do you think about the European aerosol industry when you think of the discussions surrounding BREXIT?

Stephen J. Caldeira: Britain is still trying to figure out with the EU what BREXIT will mean and how the exit strategy will play out over the long-term. We of course will continue to monitor that situation, but again, despite BREXIT, I don’t think this changes the fact that we must continue to work with both Britain and the EU, moving forward. We’ll have to adapt to whatever that unfolding situation may look like, but at the end of the day, our job is to clear the way for our companies to grow, both domestically, and internationally (where appropriate).

AEROSOL EUROPE: How many members do you have at the moment? And what do you do to attract new members?

Stephen J. Caldeira: We have approximately 220 members. You will see a ramped-up effort in 2018 with respect to membership recruitment and retention. We are going to try to re-visit with many of the companies that left (for whatever the reason/reasons) over the last few years and try to share with them the value-add and return on investment that we believe we are starting to consistently deliver. We are also going to continue to search for new members whom we believe can benefit from our enhanced products and services, and a very unique and proven advocacy focus.

AEROSOL EUROPE: Mr. Caldeira, we thank you for this conversation.

Stephen J. Caldeira: It has been a distinct pleasure and my deep gratitude to Aerosol Europe for this wonderful opportunity to communicate with your readers on the most pressing issues of the day.

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