(May 2, 2008) — I'm one of those industry leaders you wrote about in your editorial [“Industry needs clout to get message out,” April 21, Page 6], albeit from another country.
The situation is no different on our side of the border, and Bill Carteaux is bang on when he talks about the clout of activist groups and their well-organized global communications.
The reason is simple. While industry deals with fact, science and well-reasoned arguments, our detractors routinely use factoids, pseudo-science and fear mongering, all of which are easier to report and to understand for the lay person. Industry doesn't have the luxury of using those tactics, not if we want to hang on to our credibility and our political capital. Fighting innuendo and dis-information is like pinning Jell-O to the wall; you can try, but you're bound to get slimed.
As an environmental activist, I could spend a casual evening online at home and post any number of unsubstantiated assertions about plastics and chemicals. They would be read by millions within hours. They might even get reported in the media. In fact, they might even encourage a politician to draft a private bill.
Our partners at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and American Chemistry Council, along with Plastics Europe and numerous associations around the world, routinely work together to create responses and messaging that are clear, rational and credible. They are always aimed at the large group of consumers open to sound arguments.
There is little value in doing battle with the radical extremes who play fast and loose with the facts. As well, there is no upside to playing political hardball with politicians, certainly on our side of the border at any rate.
You end your editorial by suggesting that SPI and ACC need help. I would suggest that they do, as we do also. What we need, however, are the resources and dollars that an engaged and involved industry can give us.
At the same time that we are grappling with wave upon wave of attacks on plastics, every plastics industry association on the planet is working with smaller and smaller budgets as our members rationalize their expenses.
There is no great mystery in successfully protecting the plastics brand. We've been doing it for years, with more success than failure. But it takes consistent effort, it takes time, and it takes money.
Serge Lavoie is president and CEO of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association in Mississauga, Ontario.