Industry Leaders Forum: Bronwyn Capanna, Executive Director, Accord

How was 2020 for Accord? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

As for everyone, it’s been a year of unforeseen disruption, rapid change and much uncertainty for Accord. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the global upheaval and economic recession it’s caused, has dominated our industry and our activities this year.

Along with the impacts on our members’ businesses via border closures, social distancing and the general uncertainty around the pandemic, one of the key challenges our industry faced was the massive supply chain disruptions, resulting in shortages of key ingredients and packaging for our Members’ products.

Despite all of this, there have been a number of highlights this year. Our industry has remained resilient, rising to the occasion by managing to increase supply of essential hygiene products.

Our industry’s products have played a huge and direct role in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. This has resulted in a raised profile and an amplified voice with government and other stakeholders, demonstrating the indispensable nature of our products.

How did Accord adjust to the impact of the pandemic?

Assisting members to confront new and emerging issues has been our paramount task, and we quickly mobilised to redirect our resources.

Firstly, our communications shifted to a crisis-footing, becoming more intensified and targeted to keep Members fully informed. We also pivoted to delivering training and events online—our Insight Hours and Regulatory Bites remain extremely popular!

We proactively engaged with government and key stakeholders to promote our industry’s capabilities. We compiled industry-wide data on business-impacts to share with decision makers, and we engaged with regulators to streamline rules for disinfectants and sanitisers.

A key achievement was our successful negotiation with the TGA on testing regimes for disinfectants against COVID-19. As a result, there are now over 100 products available with TGA approved claims against the virus!

We worked hard to ensure ongoing supply of essential products, taking an active leadership role on the Department of Industry’s Hand Sanitiser Roundtable, convened by Karen Andrews MP. And in response to urgent product demand, we developed new networks to solve critical supply and logistics issues.

We also shared our expertise to ensure ongoing product safety and quality. We offered input into government COVID-19 guidance material and developed two publicly available documents: the ‘Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitiser Manufacturing & Transport Information Sheet’ and the ‘Hand Sanitiser Industry Benchmark for non-therapeutic products’.

How would you rate the industry’s response to the pandemic?

Outstanding! The cleaning products industry has really stepped up to meet the increased demand for hygiene products. In doing so, they’ve kept Australians safe, despite massive supply chain disruptions, changed business operations and the general uncertainty of the pandemic.

We found there was very much a sense of coming together for the greater good from the industry, and Accord has been proud to act as a central point of contact for members to raise their shared challenges, so that we could tackle common issues on their behalf.

What will be the immediate focus for Accord in 2021?

Accord’s number one focus every year is to deliver indispensable services to our member companies. This won’t change in 2021, and we’ll be adding to our existing services to provide ongoing value-add in an ever-changing business environment.

For example, one of our key focuses in early 2021 will be to establish a benchmark for the industry on packaging usage and policy, to inform our advocacy and specific initiatives to aid in packaging waste reduction.

And off the back of the success of our online offerings in 2020, we will be growing our suite of Member-exclusive training, webinars, and resources. 2021 will see sessions on a range of topics including Dangerous Goods requirements, New Zealand regulations, disinfectant rules, product category trends, market insights and more.

We will also be actively encouraging greater collaboration across the host of players that assist our Member companies, including sister organisations locally and internationally such as the International Network of Cleaning Products (INCPA) – of which Accord is a proud member – and also important trade organisations such as lSSA.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the wider industry over the next 12 months?

The most obvious challenge is the ongoing uncertainty relating to the pandemic, which is still having massive impacts in many countries, as well as the continuing restrictions to global travel.

We will also have to contend with the impacts from any local case clusters – we’ve already seen how quickly some states react when it comes to shutting their borders, often with little to no notice!

A key opportunity will be continuing to make the most of the heightened general awareness of the importance of cleaning and hygiene products, and to leverage our industry’s relevance and current high profile.

There will also be challenges as we continue to navigate the new Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS), and other regulations focused on health and environmental impacts.

But there is also opportunity for industry to have meaningful input into the federal government’s proposed deregulation agenda, to achieve more efficient and internationally aligned regulations, which would encourage greater local investment and exports.

And of course, there are opportunities to build upon the new ways of working we have all had to adopt—such as increased flexibility – to keep all of our invaluable teams happy and motivated.

Looking at the future – both short and long term – what do you see, as far as changes and adjustments, that the global cleaning industry must embrace?

Being flexible and nimble is the key – if the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that business-as-usual is gone.

In particular, the industry must focus on the lessons from the challenges at the beginning and height of the pandemic, to mitigate the risks for any future resurgence. For instance, options will need to be entrenched within systems for greater supply chain resilience.

The pandemic isn’t over and, while Australia finds itself in an enviable position compared to other countries, given the global nature of many of our supply chains we must be ready to face new and emerging issues.

Innovation and sustainability go hand in hand and will be even more so in the coming years. Companies will need to take advantage of technology developments across manufacturing and inputs, for optimal formulation to deliver improved cleaning and hygiene products.

This is why our formal Innovation Partnership with Monash University, and other academic institutions, is important in facilitating our Members’ dialogue on issues such as green chemistry.

How has the pandemic shifted attitude and behaviour in respect to hygiene and cleaning standards? Do you expect this to continue post-COVID?

The pandemic has propelled our industry into the spotlight as the message on the importance of cleaning and hand hygiene has been front and centre around the world.

Based on our data collected from member feedback, there has been increased frequency of cleaning and continued strong sales of products. We anticipate this will continue for some time and it is up to all of us to continue to promote the ongoing importance of good hygiene, even in a post-COVID world.

Interestingly, according to research commissioned by the Australian Food Safety Information Council and co-sponsored by Accord, there has not been a pronounced increase in community handwashing, despite increased messaging. This could be explained by an increase in hand sanitiser use, rather than traditional soap and water.

What is one issue the industry should urgently address in 2021?

Sustainability. And in the first instance packaging, especially plastic packaging. There is a lot of government focus on packaging at the moment, and Accord is coordinating an extensive industry data-gathering and analysis exercise to benchmark current practice and inform our advocacy and future actions in this area.

Accord has a proud history of implementing effective, voluntary industry initiatives to achieve positive sustainability outcomes for our sector. These include the Recognised® ecolabel for environmentally preferable cleaning products, and BeadRecede to coordinate the phase-out of solid plastic microbeads, including in industrial cleaning products.

We look forward to capitalising on the success of these past initiatives to work closely with government on industry-led programs to tackle emerging issues.

What additional advice do you have for the cleaning community?

If you are not already a member, join your relevant industry association! For manufacturers and suppliers of formulated cleaning and hygiene products, that’s Accord.

The benefits, especially during a crisis such as COVID-19, are innumerable and invaluable. Providing targeted information, training, sustainability and innovation programs, representation of your concerns to decision-makers, and additional resources and tools, are just some of those benefits.

With Accord, you have a specialist expert team just a phone call away ready to help with any issues your company might be facing.

This article first appeared in the January/February issue of INCLEAN magazine

Read the original article here.

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