WASHINGTON (Nov. 28, 1 p.m. ET) — Richard Doyle understands the need for the Vinyl Institute to be more pro-active, to engage members, industry stakeholders and industry detractors, and to raise the voice of the association, which represents four of the top five vinyl resin producers in the U.S.
“It is important for us to raise our volume and to provide information on the value proposition of vinyl to both enhance lives and to save lives,” Doyle said in a Nov. 21 interview, his first since becoming head of VI in late October.
“We also need to focus on what's win-win to grow the market for vinyl resin manufacturers and our other downstream members,” Doyle said. “And we need to do a better job communicating with members, potential members, the general public and downstream sectors.
“We need to be positioned to get information to them when they want and need it, as opposed to when we want to put it out.
“We also need to get our voice out when misperceptions have been raised, and before misperceptions are raised,” he said. “When we've got a good story to tell, based on research and science, we should not be afraid to reach out and speak out about the value vinyl has in saving lives and improving lives.”
Doyle pointed to the decision Nov. 20 by the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency in northern California to replace 100 fabric seats with seats that will be vinyl-covered. In announcing its decision, BART said that it had not used vinyl seat material in the past because the material did not meet smoke, fire and toxicity standards.
But BART said the technology for vinyl seats has improved dramatically and such seats are now fire-resistant and durable.
“That is a great win for the industry,” said Doyle, who replaced Greg Bocchi, who stepped down as president and CEO of the VI in February, and who had similar goals when he was placed in charge of the VI three years ago.
Doyle also fully understands that an important part of his job as head of the association will be dealing with industry's critics.
And he is fully aware of the critical need to engage in a dialogue with industry detractors—something he has done at other associations, in particular at the American Chemistry Council where he spent nearly 20 years and worked from time-to-time with groups such as the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Council.
“We need to be pro-active and engage external stakeholders in that process” even when there is disagreement on the issues, Doyle said.
In particular, one group, the Center for Environmental Health and Justice, based in Falls Church, Va., has engaged in numerous campaigns aimed at eliminating PVC at hospitals, in schools, from school supplies, from packaging and from children's toys and other products such as lunch boxes, children's utensils, coolers, baby bibs, infant changing tables and shower curtains and shower liners.
“We have to establish a dialogue with other stakeholders, engage them and listen,” Doyle said. “You don't do yourself any favors if you don't listen, and when you listen, even if you disagree, you can take pro-active action to address some of the concerns being raised.
“It never hurts to have a dialogue,” Doyle said. “You're not going to see eye-to-eye all the time. There will be a time to put the gloves on, and a time to take the gloves off. Sometimes you will come out bruised, but you will come out bruised even more if you don't listen.”
Doyle also is determined make sure the VI is always working on the top priorities of its key members and providing value to its members.
With that in mind, he's already met with three of the four vinyl resin manufacturers that are VI members, and reached out to the Vinyl Siding Institute and other groups representing other downstream sectors.
“We need to find out where the impediments are to growing the market, and where the opportunities for growing the market are,” Doyle said. “This is where we can step to the plate.”
He also intends to work with retail groups, government groups and building standards group such as the U.S. Green Building Council to reinforce the benefits of vinyl, which is the third-largest volume plastic produced in North America. Housing and construction account for 70 percent of vinyl sales.
“I intend to take the proper steps to reach out to appropriate groups to explain the value of PVC products,” he said.
For example, he plans to work with state governments “to position PVC pipe as the replacement of choice for a deteriorating infrastructure. We have a perfect solution from a life-cycle standpoint.” And he plans to do the same with the federal government, focusing on the infrastructure and government buildings.
And with both state and federal governments and the Green Building Council, he plans to “explain the vital role of vinyl in energy efficiency and reducing the environmental footprint,” he said.
Doyle also said the industry needs to point out the value of PVC products in other markets—such as the critical role PVC pipe plays in providing clean water, how PVC blood bags and flexible tubing provide safe medical care and how other PVC products contribute to the reduction of infections in hospitals.
“We are a solution,” not a problem, in many markets, Doyle said.
Doyle also understands the importance of educating consumers on the benefits of vinyl —-and the danger that uninformed consumers represent.
“If consumers are not educated, they can easily be swayed by others,” Doyle said. “We have a lot of work to do. That is an important element of our communications that needs to be put in place.”
Doyle also believes it is necessary for the industry—and not just the VI—to become more involved politically.
“I'd like to see the industry becomes more politically engaged and for us to continue to grow the political involvement of our industry leaders,” Doyle said. “We need to nurture relationships with public officials that will pay dividends long-term” because of an increased understanding of the benefits of vinyl.
“We need to involve resin producers and downstream groups such as pipe manufacturers, window manufacturers and flooring manufacturers,” Doyle said. “We need to get the drum beat going and keep beating it,” he said.
“I want to touch base with all the key stakeholders to move the industry forward,” he said. “It is the only way you are going to learn what the priorities are that you need to address.”
He also said that VI will come out with a scorecard twice a year for members that will demonstrate “what we've done. We need to be hooked at the hip, and arm members with information they can point to demonstrate what we've done,” Doyle said.
Doyle spent nearly 20 years at the ACC, leading its Responsible Care initiative, managing the Federation of State Chemical Councils at ACC and helping to form state chemical associations.
He also served as president and CEO of the International Sleep Products Association for eight years.
Established in 1982, the Alexandria, Va.-based VI represents manufacturers of vinyl, vinyl chloride monomer, vinyl additives and modifiers, and vinyl packaging materials.
The VI has four fulltime members—all of whom are resin manufacturers, and eight supporting members.