Washington — SC Johnson & Son Inc. is leaving the Plastics Industry Association, the latest large consumer products maker to exit the business group in a dispute over environmental policies.
Greenpeace USA said in a Sept. 24 news release that Racine, Wis.-based SC Johnson told the environmental group it left the plastics association. That follows Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. in July saying they had either left or were planning to leave the Washington-based plastics group, departures that were also initially disclosed by Greenpeace and later confirmed by the companies.
Greenpeace and other environmental groups and activist investor organizations have been pressuring consumer product companies to leave the plastics association.
They are pushing to end support in some quarters of the industry for campaigns in favor of state laws that prevent cities from passing local bans or other restrictions on plastic and other packaging, a policy sometimes called preemption.
SC Johnson did not respond to a request for comment, but Greenpeace said the company told it that "SCJ concluded a review of its [plastics association] membership and decided to withdraw. We strongly believe that governments should be able to democratically have bans if that is what their citizens want."
The American Progressive Bag Alliance, a self-funded unit of the plastics association, has supported preemption policies, or uniformity, as APBA calls it. APBA has argued that supporters of statewide plastics bans also prevent cities from adopting local laws that conflict with state bans, suggesting that amounts to a double standard.
But Greenpeace said it believed pressure would build on companies.
"This should be a wake-up call for the plastics industry," said Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar. "SC Johnson, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have all recognized that standing alongside a group working to strip away the rights of communities to reduce our reliance on dangerous plastics is not good for business."
It's become a hot political topic for the industry. The Plastics Industry Association told Plastics News in August — after association member and packaging maker Berry Global Group Inc. released a nuanced statement opposing preemption — that the association does not have a formal position on it.
In a Sept. 24 statement, Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of the association, criticized Greenpeace's campaign of "relentlessly" pressuring consumer brand companies to leave.
"While these actions may make for successful fundraising tactics, the results are unfortunately counterproductive, by inhibiting our efforts to unite representatives from the full supply chain to work on meaningful advances," he said, giving recycling innovations and infrastructure modernization as examples.
SC Johnson's thinking on membership has apparently changed in recent months. In January, it wrote to the Sierra Club saying that it would remain in the plastics association, although it said at the time it felt bans were sometimes an effective public policy.
APBA released a statement that making these decisions at a statewide level is better than having a patchwork of many different local laws.