Last week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida over 500 people from 200 organizations enjoyed a 2014 Consumer Specialty Products Association Annual Meeting experience unlike any other.
They were wowed by an exciting futurist describing the disruptive changes occurring in retail. They were awed by the passionate CEO of a leading consumer products company.
They sat at the table with top leaders of the EPA and with a Commissioner from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They tore the roof off a Habitat for Humanity house. They partied with Cirque du Soleil acrobats. There were discussions, presentations, awards and so much more at “Thank You for 100 Years” – a blockbuster event capping CSPA’s 100 years of representing household and institutional products.
On Monday December 8, association President & CEO Chris Cathcart challenged attendees to spend their conference time focusing on what lies ahead for the industry and the association. “After 100 years of acceleration — now more than ever – the consumer packaged goods and industrial and institutional products industries are at a pivotal point,” he said. “Customers have new expectations that are influencing everything – from ingredients, to formulations, to packaging to point of sale and disposal. Your companies are facing a decade where everything about your businesses will change dramatically. And CSPA will too.” He assured the attendees that CSPA is well positioned to serve as an essential business partner in ensuring a future for sustainable formulated products.
“We are adapting the traditional trade association advocacy model to one that is much more collaborative,” Cathcart explained. “We are meeting increased transparency demands from all stakeholders by aggressively reaching out to retailers, allied trade associations, NGOs, Congress, state legislators, and regulatory agencies. We have found that when we extend ourselves as an industry, we get very positive results.”
Keynote speaker Doug Stephens, founder of the Retail Prophet consultancy, had the audience taking notes with a data-driven description of the lightning-fast pace of change in the retail industry that he says will dramatically affect all businesses and consumers. He predicted that marketing as we know it will increasingly become less relevant as shopping decisions will be made through assisted technologies that use data to make routine decisions. In his view, “to succeed companies must constantly find a way to undermine their own business or industry model before someone else does. If your company isn’t already masterful at innovating, you need to become so, fast,” he advised.
A Tuesday morning panel discussion on the Future of Sustainability in the Supply Chain provided practical examples of how two companies – BASF and Scott’s – are adapting their business models to adjust to market demands for more sustainable products. BASF’s Denise Peterson said her company analyzed 50,000 products under its Sustainable Solutions program and categorized them in four buckets on various attributes. Dr. Jeff Pinkham of The Scotts Company described Miracle-Gro’s pillars of sustainability and the progress the company is making in establishing 1,000 new green spaces in the United States (they are halfway there!).
Wednesday, Dr. Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson, provided a passionate defense of the science behind the products his company sells. He discussed the many communication challenges facing companies that use chemicals in consumer products and he advocated four steps to address them. They include:
• Elevating the standard of safety and subjecting the standards to outside scrutiny;
• Increasing ingredient transparency;
• No greenwashing;
• Advocating for better chemical regulation.
Thursday, Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, talked candidly with CSPA board members at the Dec. 11 on EDF priorities.
The week wrapped up with a gala 100-Year Celebration featuring dining, dancing and Cirque du Soleil performers. The association honored its past chairs, who were guests of the association for the annual meeting, with an elegant oceanfront dinner which 19 former leaders of the organization and their spouses attended. And for the first time, some 45 CSPA conference participants partnered with Habitat for Humanity on a demolition project at a local home. So much to do last week, not enough time. Look for a storyboard showing what happened at the CSPA 2014 Annual Meeting and Anniversary Celebration and more detailed division reports in January!