Richard Doyle understands the need for the Vinyl Institute to be more proactive, to engage its members and industry stakeholders as well as its critics, and to raise the voice of a group that represents four of the top-five vinyl resin producers in the U.S.
Fostering open communication is at the top of Doyle's to-do list. “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,” he said.
To that end, VI can do a better job of communicating with its members, potential members, the general public and downstream sectors like pipe, window and flooring manufacturers, said Doyle — who already has met with representatives from three VI member firms and reached out to groups like the Vinyl Siding Institute.
He said the group needs to be able to get information to those parties “when they want and need it, as opposed to when we want to put it out.”
“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.”
He pointed to the Nov. 20 decision by the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency in northern California to replace 100 fabric seats with vinyl-covered seats. In announcing its decision, BART said it had not used vinyl seat material in the past because the material did not meet smoke, fire and toxicity standards. But the technology for vinyl seats has improved dramatically and such seats are now fire-resistant and durable, BART said.
“That is a great win for the industry,” Doyle said.
Identifying impediments to growing the market is as important as determining where the opportunities lie, Doyle said. He noted the need to talk 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 like the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation.
“It never hurts to have a dialogue,” he 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.”
Such dialogue will include working with parties from retail, and from government — both federal and state — and building standards groups such as the U.S. Green Building Council to “explain the vital role of vinyl in energy efficiency and reducing the environmental footprint.” At the state level, VI will work “to position PVC pipe as the replacement of choice for a deteriorating infrastructure,” he said.
Housing and construction make up 70 percent of vinyl sales. Doyle also pointed to the role PVC plays in pipes that provide clean water, blood bags and flexible tubing that provide safe medical care.
An uninformed consumer can represent a danger to the industry and to growth: “If consumers are not educated, they can easily be swayed by others,” Doyle said.
“We need to get our voice out when misperceptions have been raised, and before misperceptions are raised.”
Doyle said he thinks the entire plastics industry — not just VI — must become more politically involved in promoting a better understanding of vinyl's benefits: “We need to nurture relationships with public officials that will pay dividends long-term.”
He said VI will come out with a scorecard twice a year that will demonstrate to members what the group has done to meet its goals.
“We need to be hooked at the hip, and arm members with information they can point to [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.
Doyle replaced Greg Bocchi, who stepped down as VI president and CEO in February and had similar goals when he took that post three years ago.
Established in 1982, the Alexandria, Va.-based VI represents manufacturers of vinyl, vinyl chloride monomer, vinyl additives and modifiers, and vinyl packaging materials. It has four fulltime members — all of them resin manufacturers — and eight supporting members.
Vinyl is the third-largest plastic produced in North America by volume.