A conversation with Steve Caldeira

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

AEROSOL EUROPE: Mr. Caldeira, how has your experience with the virtual conference been so far?

Steve Caldeira: The staff has been doing a tremendous job. In March we had to make a decision about our April Mid-Year Meeting when the pandemic first hit, and the staff pivoted very quickly and effectively to put on a successful virtual conference. It is a different environment, and you need to make sure that you continue to provide the content, the quality, and a media platform and keep everything running smoothly in this virtual environment. Cathy LaRussa and the staff have done a great job. We have over 300 registrants, which is pretty good for a virtual environment. Every comment and all the feedback that I received has been very positive. Again, this is not the same as an in-person meeting, but we are doing the best we can in the environment we have to navigate.

AEROSOL EUROPE: Covid-19 is present now as before. How big is the impact of the pandemic on our industry, in short?

Steve Caldeira: Obviously, our industry has been working overtime to manufacture products, the cleaning products and disinfectants that consumers and workers need to help battle and kill Covid-19. As I said in my opening speech, a lot of these manufacturers closed down product lines and converted them to meet demand for these types of products -- whether it was more cleaning products, disinfectant products, hand sanitizers or face masks -- or other things that a lot of our great members manufacture. So from that standpoint, our industry has been very busy. And I also think that because of the pandemic, there is now a greater appreciation and respect for these products, which maybe in the past we just took for granted. Now we realize the important role that they have played and are playing with regard to Covid. We will continue moving forward because this pandemic will change the way people look at hygiene and cleaning, whether in the home or commercial environment. That being said, everyone says to me here in Washington, “Steve, your industry is doing really really well.” Most, if not all trade associations here in Washington and wherever they may be located, are losing revenue from meetings and conferences and trade shows. It has affected all of us. So we had to manage expenses and we have had to rework what  a meeting looks like. We switched from an in-person to a virtual platform while we still delivering the content and value that our members expect and deserve from an in-person meeting. That being said, I will say that I do think there is something that is lost in a virtual meeting, namelythe interaction, the networking that goes on, the business-to-business opportunities. The personal interaction: seeing people and talking to people is an important part of such a meeting.

AEROSOL EUROPE: Despite Covid-19, of which successes in 2020 are you especially proud?

Steve Caldeira: First and foremost, we are working very closely with our members and allied trade associations to have our industry, our industry‘s workers declared essential by the US Department of Homeland Security. Getting that distinction for our industry and our workers so they could continue to manufacture and distribute these products was critically important. Equally important, however, we work with the EPA in Washington to expand the N list, which is the list of approved EPA disinfectants. That process to review and expedite products went from what was traditionally 90 days down to 14 days for review and approval. So we are very proud of the work we have done with the EPA. The other piece is from a communication standpoint: making sure that our consumers, the media here in Washington, and the trade media see proactive efforts to make sure that people understand that our industry is working hard, is working overtime to produce these products and get them in hands of consumers and workers each and every day. So more proactive communications to tout the virtues of our products and the difference they make and the role they are playing, is something that we are proud of.. We are grateful for the response that we have received and I think that has been appreciated as well. Pivoting to continue to work not just on Covid-related issues, but on other issues with ingredient communication: 1.4 dioxane, whether it is in New York, or dealing with the CARB and VOC limits in California. All these different issues, ingredient communications, VOCs, universal recycling for aerosols, all these issues continue to be addressed.

AEROSOL EUROPE: Which are currently the most important topics  for the US aerosol industry?

Steve Caldeira: We are trying to expand recycling and make it universal and all the states are working with the EPA in that regard. I think we can more do to advance and promote the importance of aerosol-related products and the manufacturers of these products, including their suppliers of aerosol-related parts and cans and components. Again I think, their efforts have been underappreciated, and they should be part of our communications going forward. We want to make sure that folks understand the important role that aerosol companies and all the companies that comprise that vertical supply chain have been playing and will continue to play. It is really about protecting the industry against negative legislation and regulation, whether it is at the federal, state or local level, and also promulgating good policy on behalf of the aerosol industry, which has been working overtime as part of this COVID-19 effort.

AEROSOL EUROPE: What will be the impact of the US election on our industry?

Steve Caldeira: I think part of our job here in Washington is to always to nurture bipartisan relationships and that is what we have done in the four years that I have been here. We have a strong history of working with both Republicans and Democrats and a reputation for collaborating with unique stakeholders. I think the approach to working with the Capitol Hill and statehouses is going to change. We brought on additional resources internally and externally from an advocacy standpoint to help us strengthen relationships with the Biden administration. We are going to continue to advocate for our members’ positions in a bipartisan, respectful, and collaborative way, just as we have been doing all along.

AEROSOL EUROPE: CARB is always a topic. What is the current state of affairs here?

Steve Caldeira: Conversations are still going on, we are engaged. From a staff standpoint, Joe Yost leads the charge. We continue to provide comments and a few points to consider, in order to make whatever final regulations come out of California workable. What we are trying to do is to make it feasible for industry to support CARB’s goal, but also we need to make it workable for industry and so we hope that our comments will have an impact.

AEROSOL EUROPE: Despite COVID-19, production is running on a very high level in Europe. What is the situation in the US?

Steve Caldeira: I think it is running the same. It is running ahead of where we were last year. Everyone is working overtime to produce the parts and the components and all the elements that make up aerosol-related products. So I know the numbers continue to be strong and vibrant. I don’t see that changing in the immediate future.

AEROSOL EUROPE: Can you provide latest production figures?

Steve Caldeira: To be provided.

AEROSOL EUROPE: What goals have you set for yourself in the near future?        

Steve Caldeira: My goals are clear from year to year. That is, to ensure that I help our staff in a way that best represents our members, advocates on their behalf, communicates on their behalf both at the federal level and at the state level. My job is to be an advocate. A spokesperson who speaks to and on behalf of our industry and works with other key leaders and stakeholders across multiple areas. This  includes members of Congress, administrators and various government agencies, CEOs of other trade associations, and NGOs: in short, all the stakeholders that make up our industry.

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

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