Industry Leaders Forum: Bronwyn Capanna, Executive Director, Accord Australasia

“2023 was all about clamping down on greenwashing by increased transparency and this will continue into 2024. We will be developing practical industry guidance on greenwashing to ensure our industry stays on the right side of consumer law.”

How was 2023 for Accord? What were the highlights?

2023 was bustling with activity for Accord! 

In late 2022 our board reviewed the framework that guides our association and in 2023 we launched our refreshed strategic plan. This plan is guided by four key pillars: Industry Productivity & Innovation, Advocacy & Partnerships, Social & Environmental Sustainability and Member Value.

2023 has been defined by the proactive implementation of this new plan to ensure we continue to be an indispensable resource for our members and to help lead our industry towards a future that is not just promising but purpose driven.  

This wasn’t our only launch in 2023. We released several useful resources for members including the well-received information paper, ‘Climate Change: Information Paper & the Case for Action’, resulting benchmarking survey, and four new profiling infographics including a case study on the sanitisers, disinfectants, and cleaning products sector.

Face-to-face events in the post-COVID era are always a highlight. We held several successful events including our Sustainability Seminar and three industry leaders’ networking dinners with special guests ranging from the outgoing and incoming TGA Heads and the Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing, Senator Tim Ayres. 

Our annual Canberra Day seminar was the best attended yet. Each year, Canberra Day brings together government and industry for valuable updates on the policy-regulatory reform landscape affecting our industry.

This year we also included our inaugural industry showcase, where industry leaders demonstrated to our government colleagues our sector’s sustainability and innovation credentials, the value of local manufacturing and investment, as well as insights into challenges and opportunities facing our industry. Collaboration and partnerships will be essential to meeting the challenges facing us all and these can only flourish when both industry and government gain a better mutual understanding.

What are Accord’s main priorities for 2024?

With our strategic plan as our roadmap, we have many exciting activities planned for 2024.

Industry-specific training is something members can’t get enough of, so we’re bringing back our highly popular Regulatory Basics course.

Staying connected with our members and delivering on our commitment to expanding services and information through events, networking and site visits are always top priorities. As is promoting the essential nature of our industry’s products and the collective achievements of our members on pressing sustainability challenges.

Waste reduction remains firmly on the agenda, with Accord and our members committed to responsible action and leadership in addressing the packaging challenge for our sector. We’ll explore options to increase the reuse/recycling of I&I cleaning product packaging, as well as communicating Member achievements via a new Infographic. We will also support members to progress on climate action.

What’s the biggest challenge facing leaders in the cleaning industry?

During our 2023 Canberra Day Industry Leaders’ Panel, we asked, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ From the horse’s mouth, the biggest challenges facing leaders in our industry include the rising cost of doing business, distilling the relevant sustainability priorities and practical responses for their businesses, and the regulatory burden arising from unique Australian requirements. Members spend huge amounts of time, effort, and dollars to ensure they are compliant. For many leaders, the small size of the Australian market makes this difficult to justify. Related to this, non-compliant/anti-competitive products on the market was another issue raised by our panel.

Accord will continue to leverage the positive working relationships we’ve cultivated with government colleagues, many of whom were in the audience for Canberra Day, to find workable solutions to address these concerns on behalf of our industry.  

What do you expect to be the big sustainability trends of 2024?

2023 was all about clamping down on greenwashing by increased transparency and this will continue into 2024. We will be developing practical industry guidance on greenwashing to ensure our industry stays on the right side of consumer law. 

Closely related, disclosure will be another big sustainability trend. In the EU and the US, mandatory sustainability reporting is already a reality for many businesses and Australia is set to follow suit.

While the proposals for mandatory reporting indicate size thresholds will apply, all businesses from SMEs to multinationals should be taking steps to track their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) data.

We’ve seen before with modern slavery reporting, for example, that SMEs not obligated to report have been asked by larger customers about their supply chains, as part of that customer’s obligations to mitigate risks across their value chain.

The commercial reality is that it’s not enough to say ‘the requirements don’t apply to me’, particularly where ESG is concerned. We’ll provide information and guidance to our Members on these contemporary expectations of businesses.

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