A conversation with Steve Caldeira

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

AEROSOL EUROPE: Mr. Caldeira, you have been in office for more than two years now. A lot has happened. Can you put it in a nutshell for us?

Steve Caldeira: It has been a very exciting and active 3 years. In 2017 we had a discussion with our board of directors about rebranding the trade association. The name CSPA just simply didn’t work. Somehow, we were consumer-related, and by the way what is a specialty product? So no one really knew who we were. So we needed to clarify that. We did focus groups and we did our due diligence. We ultimately aligned on the name of HCPA with the tag line innovative products for home, work, life. We believe this new name and tagline gives our key stakeholders, consumers, the media, legislators, regulators a much better idea of who we are as a trade association, who we represent, what our issues might be. That has been very successful. Also in 2017: When you go to Capitol Hill or statehouses across the country, you need to have economic data to really tell your story to have an impact. How many jobs do we have in the state of California, how many jobs do we represent nationwide, what percent of GDP do we represent? And so we commissioned economic data from our colleagues at the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington. Now we can better tell our story, if you will, and promote the impact of who we are in terms of job creation and economic contributions to the US economy. We also had an organizational reset in 2017. That brought fresh thinking and a more proactive mindset to our legislative and regulatory issues, not just nationally but federally. We also engaged and collaborated with the state of California on the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act that was passed in October 2017 and signed into law on October 15 by then-Governor Jerry Brown. That was an eleven-month collaboration between industry and NGOs and is now considered a landmark law in the USA on ingredient communication. We hope to take that law and make that the basis for national standards, so we can circumvent and/or preempt other states. New York is trying to create a very unworkable, unmanageable, unreasonable, if you will, proposal by their New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Because we felt it was so unreasonable and unmanageable, we and our colleagues at the American Cleaning Institute sued the State of New York, litigated against the State of New York, and in September, the New York State Supreme Court invalidated the state’s guidance from their Department of Environmental Conservation. That was a very successful effort, but we know they will come back again in 2020 with a new rule-making process. This will be a legislative process, not a regulatory event. So we will need to continue to be proactive and strategic in how we interact, engage, and advocate on that issue and educate policymakers who will ultimately make the decision. The Governor’s office will ultimately have to sign any potential bill into law. That law that was passed in California is a critical linchpin in these efforts moving forward. We officially moved into 2018 with a focus on strengthening our Annual Meeting in Fort Lauderdale as well as our Mid-Year Meeting in Washington in terms of the Florida meeting. We needed to expand the content – member-driven content – for all of our general sessions and be a little bit more strategic. Last year we had the highest attendance. We also expanded our Mid-Year Meeting and added a legislative Hill Day to that. Our members go to the Hill to meet  with the legislators and both chambers of Congress, which have jurisdiction over our issues. That has been very successful. We had record attendance at that meeting this past May. And again, content is king. The other piece that we have brought in is a trade association CEO panel where we bring together trade associations’ CEOs and our membership to engage in dialogue at the highest level so our members can see that there is a true commitment to working together and collaborating to achieve successful results. The focus will continue to be how do we continue to protect and advocate on behalf of our industry. How do we continue to be more aggressive and strategic in our communications efforts to provide the air cover for these legislative and regulatory issues? It is the advocacy, it is the communication and how do we continue to be better at the B2B component at these meetings that our members are asking for. It will never be the main core. It will always be the legislative and regulatory focus, but we are making slow but steady strikes in increasing the effectiveness of the B2B program. We have a very engaged voluntary board that we work with and all of our issues are member-driven, as you know. At the end of the day it is one thing to have a strategic plan that we redid in 2018. But it is another thing to execute that strategic plan. For that you need a very talented staff, and we have a very lean and mean staff, as I like to say - one that fights. We are more visible and engaged and respected by our peers in Washington as an emerging player in our space and the overall business community. For that I personally am very grateful for and proud of the team for its efforts on behalf of all seven of our product divisions, including aerosols, which is our largest. 

AEROSOL EUROPE: The name change from CSPA to HCPA was a drumbeat. From your point of view, how do you think has it been received?

Steve Caldeira: Very well received inside the industry. Again, I think, it provides more clarity about who we are as a trade association. People didn’t have a clue who we were prior to that. My CEO colleagues in Washington tell me that they really like the name change, they love the tagline. It just provides a clearer picture of who we are as a trade association, who our members might be, what our issues might be. So, to me that is a parameter of success. I want to thank the board for their support and helping us to push that over the finish line. It has been a very positive achievement.

AEROSOL EUROPE: The topic “harmonization” runs like a red thread through all negotiations. What is the current status?

Steve Caldeira: Obviously our members like any business vertical, whether it is the specialty chemical space or other industries. Businesses thrive on uncertainty. That is when they innovate or invest. It is very important that they know what their law or regulation is going to be in one state, is it the same in another state? which is why we talked earlier about the need for a federal solution to ingredient communications. Based on the California law so we do not have one office like New York doing something different where our members have to do something different and they may have to do something different with retailers to try to work of that California law. Nicholas Georges has been all over the world the last 3 years since he joined our trade association. I just spoke in Brussels; I spoke in Paris at ADF. Nicholas Georges will be in Lisbon this year, he was in London, he was in Leeds, he just got back from Tokyo, he was in Munich. We represent a lot of companies here in the US that are increasingly doing business around the world. This is a smaller, more interconnected global economy when it has ever been. Technology is a big driver of that. We are going to continue to stay engaged increasingly internationally which I think is important. Harmonization domestically and internationally is important for our member companies and for the trade associations around the world that represent our member companies. 

AEROSOL EUROPE: What will be the focus of your activities in the next year?

Steve Caldeira: We as a trade association are here to protect and advocate on behalf of our members move the industry forward. We are going to continue to be focused on issues like ingredient communication, VOC discussions in California, 1,4 dioxin engagement around the country increasingly that issue is coming to the forefront. So, there is no lack of issues. Our efforts around retail engagement, how do we get the retailers to try to incorporate the genesis of the California law into all the decisions they make. Our businesses, our members have consistency when they sell into these retailers. They are playing off the same ground rules that we are playing off in California. Our focus will continue to be on issues that we were dealing with in 2019. One of the things we are most proud of about in 2019 was the fact that we got president Trump to sign into law the authorization oft he Pesticide registration improvement act which will give our members the certainty around how their products are reviewed and approved through fiscal year to September 2023. You need to keep playing the groundwork to make sure that we keep these issues top of mind in those committees of jurisdiction. The other thing we will continue to do is we will grow our political action committee so that we can continue to support bipartisan candidates in both chambers of congress, the House of Representatives and the US Senate. So we can have more deeper, broader and sustain conversations with the legislators that have jurisdiction over our issues. How do we continue to grow attendance and revenue so we can fund these critical legislator and regulatory initiatives on behalf of our industry to protect our industry, to advance our industry? How do we continue to promote all the great things what our member companies are doing. Product sustainability, creating cleaner and greener chemistry, innovation to meet the demands of consumers and workers as relates to our products. We are excited about what the future holds. We are continuing to expand the content to give the members the value proposition and ROI that they are expecting and quite frankly deserve. 

AEROSOL EUROPE: 2019 was a year full of aerosol congresses and exhibitions: We had the Indian Aerosol Congress in February in Mumbai, the ADF/PCD in Shanghai, the ADF/PCD in New York, the Latin American Aerosol Congress in Sao Paulo, the BAMA Meeting in mid-October in Leeds, and AEROTECH/METALTECH in Shanghai, not to mention the meeting of the HCPA in Fort Lauderdale. In your opinion, isn’t this a little much?

Steve Caldeira: I think it is great that the aerosol industry gets together around the world at various conferences to discuss and collaborate and align on issues that are most important to the industry. What I know is good is that we are engaging in dialogue with all the trade associations, both domestically and internationally, and the members have a forum in which to share, learn and collaborate. The number of meetings, I guess, would have to be determined, if it is too much, by the folks who actually attend. One thing I can say is I am not sure that every trade association I work with or am aware of or/and a company has endless amounts of financial resources to send one or multiple people to a conference every 3 or 4 weeks. That might be a stretch, but again, I think that decision needs to be made by the individuals in the companies that attend these conferences and meetings around the world. But the one thing I would say is that I am appreciative of the fact that the aerosol industry is very focused on how to continue discussing the issues, aligning on the issues and finding a path forward to make sure that we are successful in advocating on their behalf.

AEROSOL EUROPE: From your point of view, what topics will be especially important for our industry in the near future?

Steve Caldeira: I think the aerosol industry needs to continue to meet, to collaborate and to align on the issues that are most important today. What consumers want in their products is more transparency, they want cleaner and greener chemistry, cleaner and greener products that are more sustainable and that are better for the environment. And the aerosol industry is taking steps to move in that direction. Continuing to stay on that path and being proactive and engaged with legislative and regulatory bodies around the world will never be more important that it is today.  

AEROSOL EUROPE: What will be the challenges for our industry in the medium term?

Steve Caldeira: We need to be focused on the right issues today. Innovation is the fuel of growth. Companies need to continue to innovate and they need to continue to listen to their customers. The one great thing I will tell you about our trade association and member companies is they are willing to collaborate. Not every trade association around the globe has that mindset. That is one of the unique core strengths of our trade association HCPA and what we are known and respected for. That is why we are able to get things done and get bills passed and find a common-sense balance on regulations: because we continue to sustain that reputation by being collaborative and flexible, and willing to educate and be a good listener when it comes to some of these well-intended but not always workable initiatives. 

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