It's a lovely thought: that an SPI, CPIA and ACC “Alliance aims to help North American plastics industry speak with one voice” [PlasticsNews.com, July 6].
It's an improperly focused dream: “It will be easier for our stakeholders to understand who we are, what we're doing and what we care about and it will be easier for us to communicate in a clear, crisp way.” It's a vision statement that completely ignores the challenge: The American consumer is the customer of the plastics industry, not the stakeholder.
The plastics industry “stakeholders” are its basic material suppliers (the chemical companies that source the hydrocarbons, either oil or gas), the interim material producers (the resin companies), the processors and converters that turn resins into flexible and rigid materials and products — and that's it.
All those stakeholders understand who the industry is.
The finished-product distribution companies, the bricks-and-mortar retailers and e-tailers, and American consumers do not believe they have any “stake” in the operation, vitality or success of the plastics industry. They can — and have — switched back to paper, board, metal and glass. Nor are the news media, government or educational institutions this industry's “stakeholders.” That entire group does not care one whit about the plastics industry's visions, missions and objectives.
At the start of this umpteenth plastics industry effort to fend off attacks and become loved by consumers (see the Plastics News archives for the last 20 years), the industry's decision-makers — the ones with the gelt — don't really get it. Here's why.
First, those decision-makers are so removed from what happens on the retail street they don't really know the scope of the problem.
Second, to “solve” the problems they've heard about, they play hands-off and assign middle-management underlings to be the council, committee and association members and tell them, “You solve the problem.” These underlings have no idea of the fundamental problems and rely on the overpriced fees of K Street and other public relations firms for advice … and those folks have even less understanding of the issues. As one who was forced by the decision-makers to work with those firms, I saw it first-hand and was amazed.
Third, the decision-makers then go back to their short-term, quarterly financial objectives and focus almost exclusively on their company's short-term financial performance and how that rolls up into annual personal-performance bonuses, stock options and promotions.
Fourth, the decision-makers completely ignore that the new alliance's antagonists have been singularly focused for the last 40 years to bring down and replace plastics in the marketplace by forcing the plastics and chemicals industry to spend a combined billions of dollars over those decades on wasteful warm-fuzzy, feel-good, PR-based asset and personnel expenditures (instead of new-product and material innovation), while the antagonists just continued to make their successes, attack by attack and lie by lie, which are seen so unquestionably every day in stores, in law and in the news.
To the plastics industry's decision-makers and underlings, these “issues” are just part of their job. To the plastics industry's non-commercial adversaries, these issues are a major part of their religion and devotion. When the industry decision-makers and new alliance heads think there is some benefit to come from a completely erroneously defined but “more consistent advocacy message,” it makes completely understandable the lunacy of their other rationale that “the three associations [SPI, CPIA and ACC] did not approach [creating] the alliance because of any particular ‘burning issue.' ”
Gentlemen and ladies, the barn has burned down, the horses have fled, and you have no idea how to make saddles and bridles, even if you caught up to those powerful equines running against you.
George A. Makrauer
The Villages, Fla.