Bronwyn Capanna, Executive Director, Accord Australasia
How was 2021 for Accord? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?
The sheer busyness of 2021 was a major challenge. When the 2021 pandemic lockdowns hit, we mobilised to provide critical information to help our member businesses.
Additional to interpreting and sharing details regarding the ever-evolving restrictions were new concerns about heavily disrupted supply chains. The Accord team quickly came to grips with an array of new topics too, from rapid antigen testing, vaccination requirements and state roadmaps.
Another challenge was navigating the transition of the industrial chemicals’ regulator from NICNAS to AICIS. One highlight was an interactive workshop with AICIS; our members could ask questions about the new system, with issues raised given further active consideration and clarification.
We engaged in the development of the forthcoming Industrial Chemicals Environmental Management Standard (IChEMS), seeing these fees for industry delayed by 12+ months.
Disinfectants, hygiene claims, and TGA requirements remained an advocacy focus too. Of course, the absence of face-to-face contact imposed across the industry was felt by all. To fill the void and maintain networking, Accord hosted a record number of online events – more than 25 – on many topics, including packaging sustainability, economic updates, and emerging markets.
What will be the key areas of focus for Accord in 2022?
Helping our industry address key sustainability issues such as packaging waste and plastics. In 2021 we laid the groundwork, completing two extensive industry-wide packaging-use surveys and established our Packaging and Waste Steering Group.
Our particular focus for the commercial hygiene sector is HDPE drums as these have been identified as an area ripe for an industry-led solution.
We will also build on the supply chain optimisation work commenced in 2020/21 to help our members address supply challenges, reliably source imports of packaging and raw materials and hopefully gain greater flexibility and certainty in shipping times and costs.
With so many regulatory changes impacting the industry, we will continue our member training and interface with key agencies such as AICIS and the TGA, plus assist member companies with further expert guidance as needed.
And for those in the food hygiene space, look out for our ‘food safe’ auditor guidance to support companies in demonstrating that their products are suitable for food use.
What challenges and opportunities do you see for the industry in 2022?
Our industry has many strengths. Our products and services provide a hygienic environment to protect human health and wellbeing. And our resilient local manufacturing base makes us a major contributor to the Australian economy and employment whilst enabling us to provide tailored, innovative solutions for local needs.
But with these strengths come some challenges. The pandemic has highlighted Australia’s supply chain vulnerabilities. Companies that are informed, agile and prepared stand in good stead to weather whatever challenges lie ahead – and the information, connections and support provided by Accord have proved vital.
There is also a major opportunity for companies to stand out in sustainability by effectively implementing and communicating their initiatives in this space – Accord promotes examples from members whether in packaging, recycling, climate impacts, or other areas.
What sustainability trends will have the biggest impact on the cleaning industry in 2022?
Packaging! Particularly plastics. The focus in this area from governments will only intensify as the 2025 date for the National Packaging Targets draws nearer. This issue is also squarely on the global agenda, where a new UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution and Marine Litter is under discussion. This could have significant impacts.
And there is the ever-present reality of climate change.
Considerations around greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint will increasingly impact and Accord is exploring further options to support our members to build capacity in these areas.
Our connectivity with global cleaning product organisations, such as AISE (Europe), ACI (North America) and the International Network of Cleaning Products Associations (INCPA), will be instrumental.
What steps can companies in the cleaning industry take to be more sustainable in 2022?
Wherever your company is at, aim for small steps forward. Sustainability is so broad that it can be daunting. But if you prioritise one or two key areas, map out what progress would look like and implement the first steps, tangible outcomes will be achieved. As mentioned above, key areas could be packaging, recycling, the circular economy and climate impacts.
And our members often raise the issue of unsubstantiated ‘greenwashing’ claims. We’ve got this covered via our Recognised ecolabel – the Australian ecolabel specifically developed to cover the material impacts of commercial cleaning and hygiene products and endorsed by an expert panel of toxicologists.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to promote your actions as this is great for your business, your customers and motivates others. We have a session by an expert on this very topic, ‘Standing out on sustainability’ at our Packaging Challenge seminar at the ISSA Expo.
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