Images can be fleeting, reputations difficult to establish and hard to clean up.
So companies involved in PVC production within Europe have worked together to polish the material's image, reasoning that as a unit they can address issues related to production and recycling.
``You need only one big incident somewhere, and the decision can turn against you,'' said Arjen Sevenster, manager of technical and environmental affairs for the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers. ``This is what perception is made of.''
But the European Union is about to change, adding 10 mostly Eastern European nations to the existing, 15-member group next year. So even as politicians prepare for the expansion, so is Brussels-based ECVM - courting manufacturers in the new member nations to continue the industry's united front.
In 2004, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia will join the union.
There are four PVC producers in that region. Two of them - Spolana AS of Neratovice, Czech Republic, and Nov cke Chemicke Z vody AS of Nov ky, Slovakia, already are members of ECVM. Two others, Anwil SA of Wloclawek, Poland, and BorsodChem RT of Kazincbarcika, Hungary, are being courted to join.
In addition to the material suppliers, a range of processors are moving into Eastern Europe in search of new customers and a less-expensive labor force, noted Martyn Griffiths, spokesman for ECVM and its Vinyl 2010 voluntary environmental initiative.
``You're going to see a huge move of investments in Eastern Europe, which makes it even more important that if we're going to have the sectors that use our products working there, we need to develop the total outlook,'' he said.
ECVM will seek to establish Vinyl 2010's initiatives in the region. It also will try to mentor those businesses on everything from EU safety initiatives to open communications standards that may not be familiar to businesses founded during the Soviet era.
``They're going to have a big transfer in terms of the legislation they'll have to adopt,'' Griffiths said. ``Nothing works in isolation.''