For those who may be new here, I am the president of the Indie Beauty Network, a trade organization representing small manufacturers of soaps, cosmetics, candles, fragrances and aromatherapy products. IBN members also make confectionery products and jewelry, and many members provide services to the companies that make products. I am an attorney (though not practicing one at the moment). I am not a lobbyist. I am an award-winning advocate for small businesses, most particularly very small businesses that are bootstrapping incredible companies in industries across the economic spectrum in this country. I follow business issues closely, especially as they pertain to the tiniest ventures in cities and towns nationwide.
This morning, I shared the following commentary at Stacy Malkan’s blog in response to her post about the defeat earlier this week of the Colorado Safe Personal Care Products Act. My comment is now awaiting moderation. After I submitted my comment, I realized that the information I was sharing was so important that it should be at my blog, so I could share it with you directly. If you are a small business owner in any industry, pay close attention. You too must fully embrace your legislative advocacy power.
1. In response to a comment at the blog from someone who said “small businesses (crafters, Etsy.com folk, etc) were totally freaked out” by the Consumer Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), I said this:
Small and independent business owners were not a part of the Congressional debate where CPSIA was concerned. We found out about it after it became law, and so all of the activity on their part took place after the fact, at the agency level. You describe CPSIA as imposing safety standards, and you are correct. However, it imposed one-size-fits-all safety standards that are not appropriate or desirable for an entire industry.
CPSIA was triggered in large part by the actions of multi-billion dollar companies importing toys manufactured in other countries with little to no meaningful lead-based standards. Small and independent companies were not causing the problem that CPSIA sought to alleviate, yet they were treated in the same way as the huge companies.
The law may be the same, but the impact is not. CPSIA was not and is not carefully tailored to deal with the problem it is supposed to be dealing with. It is a broad brush that did lots of things, some of them good. But it is not without its flaws, and one of them is that tiny companies that were not contributing to the problem were pushed out of the entrepreneurial and small business landscape for no good reason.
2. In response to a comment that said that the small business owners who testified at the Colorado hearings earlier this week were “pathetic-seeming,” I said this:
The small and independent business owners I see every day are not “pathetic-seeming.” Instead, they are men and women, mothers and fathers and people just like the rest of us. They are seeking to responsibly provide for themselves and their families, as all of us must do, and they are doing their part to make the world and their communities better places by creating and making available for sale products that enhance millions of people’s live every day.
Follow members of IBN on Twitter, and instead of pathetic, you’ll see courage, tenacity, purpose, style and the American dream in action. There is nothing pathetic about that. (I added that last part later.)
3. In response to the comment that the statement that, “small businesses will suffer” is a “line,” I said this:
Small businesses will suffer is not a line. It is the truth. That fact alone does not mean that new laws are unnecessary or that a new law should not go into effect simply because small businesses on the whole will be adversely impacted financially. That’s only part of the reality.
It is not unreasonable for the impact of a proposed law on all interested parties to be considered before that law goes into effect. No bill should become law behind a smokescreen. The process should be transparent, and it should give all parties, even the ones you and I disagree with, a chance to be heard. That is what a democracy is all about and those are the principles upon which this nation was founded.
Small and independent business owners want to produce the best possible products. That means, among other things, that they want to create products that are safe for their customers to use, reasonably priced, aesthetically pleasing and profitable. They want, and rightly so, to be able to do so on a level playing field where everyone has a chance to compete based on his or her own personal and product-based merit and resources.
Based on the voices that spoke on Monday, it is clear that Colorado made the right choice. Perhaps you come to a different assessment after listening to six hours of hearings, but that is my conclusion. I listened to the entire hearing from start to finish to make sure my comments were fully informed. I applaud the State of Colorado and any other legislature that makes accommodation for all sides of an issue to have a voice.
I also commented on statements in the blog post itself, as follows:
1. On loose use of the phrase, “cancer causing,” I said this:
You say “cancer causing” sort of like it is a suitable catch-all phrase for the efforts behind this bill. While the testimony was clear that some substances may cause harm somewhere and somehow, it was far from clear that the amounts used specifically in cosmetics used by humans rise to that level. Susan Roll of the Colorado Women’s Lobby said this:
“I wish I could say that there was an abundance of science linking this. … There is a little bit of science. We don’t have an abundance of science. I wish we had it.”
What that means is there are reasons to be concerned. What it doesn’t mean is that I should be able to pull a cosmetic off the shelf and without even buying it or opening the jar, have a cause of action against the company that made it. That’s one of the things the bill would have allowed me (if I lived in Colorado) to do.
2. With regard to scientific testimony presented at Monday’s hearing, I said this:
Dr. Richard Adamson, one of the scientists who testified, said that a woman would have to eat, “3 or 4 tubes of lipstick a day for 70 years before it could become potentially harmful.” Dr. Adamson also said of 1,4-dioxane (which can be used as a foaming agent in cosmetics), one of the substances that would have triggered the law, that a person would have to take 700 baths a day for 70 years in order for the substance to become potentially harmful. One obvious flaw in the science, he said, is that much of the science is based on tests conducted on animals — tests that expose the animals to large amounts of the substances and often through oral ingestion, which of course does not happen with cosmetics.
More testimony posited that many “natural” (which can also be defined in many ways as we all know) ingredients do in fact contain trace elements of some of the substances targeted by the bill. While a last minute amendment limited the bill to only a handful of substances, instead of a potentially unlimited number as the original bill did, the scientists who testified still said that the science is not there to say that all of them pose a particular hazard in a particular quantity, when used like cosmetics are used.
I am not a scientist so I will leave the details to the record of the proceedings, but it is very clear that the lawmakers were very uncomfortable with the notion that a person could sue a company and get thousands of dollars in damages based on science that was not there, and also without showing that they were injured by the product at issue.
These are a few examples of the facts that were brought forth during the over 6-hour hearing. A law must be based on something besides emotion, fear and panic. All of those things are fleeting — they pass from one day to the next. A law must instead be based on the best available facts everyone can collectively find at a given point in time. Those facts are what this entire process is seeking to uncover — so a law based on tangible facts can be passed, not a law based on broad brush strokes that sweep everything under the umbrella of “safe.”
3. On the roll of the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics, I said this:
During her testimony, Susan Roll, vice chair of Women’s Lobby of Colorado, testified that she is a founding member of the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics. Her relationship was not further defined in her testimony and no one asked for clarification. However, the fact that she is a founding member of the Campaign does indicate the presence of a relationship and possibly a very close one.
Professional relationships do not have to be defined by traditional pay checks or consulting fees in order for them to be relevant. I think it is disingenuous to say that it was the Colorado Women’s Lobby who sponsored the bill, and behave sort of like the Campaign is a disinterested party just standing by letting the chips fall where they may.
On the FDA, I said this:
You and everyone else in the universe is correct that FDA is under-funded. They admit it and we know it. However, it is Congress that gives them the authority (or not) to do what they do, and it is Congress that appropriates funds so they can carry out their mission.
As you know, pending now in the House Energy & Commerce Committee is the FDA Globalization Act of 2009, which if passed, will change how cosmetics are regulated in this country. We all know that that bill is going to change dramatically in its next revision, and more revisions can be suggested going forward to cover issues not covered in that bill. It seems odd to me that the Colorado lawmakers didn’t seem to know that the federal bill exists. It also seems odd that any advocacy group would seek to change 50 separate state laws rather than change a federal one that would apply equally to all parties.
Cosmetics are sold all over this country. If I make lip balm in South Carolina, does it make sense that I should have to comply with 50 laws and a federal one too, in order to sell that product to customers nationwide? By that logic, I’d have to keep a changing list of substances for 50 states, probably change my labeling on each tube 50 times and maybe be subject to 50 different types of lawsuits by millions of people in all of the United States every time I sold a $6.00 one-quarter ounce tube of lip balm made with olive oil and beeswax.
No industry can operate in such a stifling environment, and consumers would not be able to buy the products they enjoy if that became the state of the law. I say all this to say, why not continue to work diligently and in a public way (as is being done with states) with Congress, and encourage states to work with Congress, to pass new laws that would apply nationwide?
In closing, I said this:
In closing, I would like to say that I am encouraged to read your comments at a former Compact signer’s blog that you see some common ground for small companies and the Campaign to pursue. It is my hope that that common ground exists, and that we can uncover and capitalize on it for the benefit of consumers and cosmetics companies nationwide. I look forward to working with you to do that.
The dialog continues.